How to Trailer and Launch Your Boat

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The ability to tow your boat allows you to explore our nations waterways. Trailering your boat takes practice and preparation – are you prepared?


Always review the following tips before using your trailer.

  • Verify the towing capacity of your vehicle by checking your vehicle’s owners manual. Never tow a boat that exceeds your towing capacity. Keep in mind, that the weight of the fully loaded boat/trailer be no more than 85% of the tow capacity to allow a reasonable payload in the truck. Check tow capacity.
  • Connect and check the trailer lights, check the air pressure in the tires of the tow vehicle and trailer, and adjust all side mirrors of the tow vehicle.
  • Verify the ball and hitch are securely attached. Cross the two safety chains underneath the hitch and hook them into place. Raise and secure tongue jack before towing.
  • Confirm that the winch securing the boat to the trailer is secure and in the locked position, and all tie down straps are tightened.
  • Secure any items loaded onto the boat. All boating gear should be stowed during transit.


Safety should always be your #1 priority when towing a boat.

  • When towing a trailered boat, double (or triple) the car lengths necessary to come to a complete stop. Drive the tow vehicle with plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • It is advised to travel in the right lane, especially on the highway and interstate.
  • Accelerating will take significantly longer, so change lanes with caution.
  • Because your vehicle is now close to double its regular length you will need to make wider turns and use your side-view mirrors to check the clearance of the trailer.


Upon arrival at the launch ramp, prep your boat before getting into line at the ramp.

  • Remove all tie-downs and lines (but not the winch hook, or the boat could slide off the trailer prematurely).
  • Add a tending line to the boat to the bow and stern cleats that is at least the length of the boat so you can secure it at the pier once it’s off the trailer.
  • Load any gear hauled in your tow vehicle into the boat.
  • Put in the drain plug. Let me say that again…put in the drain plug!
  • Prior to launching, physically check the ramp for marine growth that can be extremely slippery and for the angle and length of the ramp into the water before backing the boat on to the boat ramp.
  • When backing, submerge the trailer deep enough to that the boat becomes slightly buoyant. If putting the tow vehicle into park, always use the emergency brake.
  • Have a helper hold the tending line. Back off the tension from the winch, remove the winch cable hook and the safety chain. Communicate with the person holding the tending line and give the boat a push off the trailer. Have the person with the tending line pull the boat to the dock and secure the line.
  • Park your vehicle and trailer.
  • When starting the engine, ensure the lower unit is deep enough in the water and check that water is circulating to the engine.


Loading your boat back on to the trailer after a day on the water can be tricky.

  • When it’s your turn to retrieve, tie up your boat to the dock using lines attached to both a bow and stern cleat. Raise the engine or sterndrive!. All passengers should disembark.
  • Back the trailer down deep enough into the water that you can float the boat most of the way onto the trailer.
  • Using the lines, guide the boat onto the trailer as you walk down the dock.
  • Once the boat is centered over the trailer, hop down, attach the winch hook to the trailer eye bolt on the bow and winch to pull the boat securely to the front of the trailer. Attach the winch safety chain.
  • Slowly drive forward pulling the boat and trailer out of the water to an area well clear of the ramp.
  • Reattach all tie-downs, check for and remove all Aquatic Nuisance Species, remove drain plug and secure all loose items from the boat.

Remember to always wear your life jacket and for more boating safety tips, please visit