Launching a boat can be challenging, especially for those anglers new on the scene. Here are some tips to make the exercise pain-free and less complicated.
It Starts at Home
There are a few steps to take before you hit the road that can ensure your trip to the boat ramp will be a safe and pleasant journey:
- Check the pressure on your trailer tires to make sure that they are inflated to an optimum level.
- Check for sufficient grease in the bearings and hubs. I learned this lesson the hard way one morning when my wheels seized up half way to the launch. A glance in my side view mirror alerted me to a shower of sparks flying in the morning air. Not a fun sight.
- Tie-down straps and safety chains should all be secure, as should the lock on the trailer hitch. Make sure your side and rear-view mirrors are set properly.
Once at the Boat Ramp
- Don't, and I repeat don't, park your rig in front of the ramp. This is a pet peeve among many anglers, as it causes line-ups and creates what I've coined "ramp rage" among others waiting to back in.
- Load your gear away from the ramp and unplug your trailer lights. Leaving your hot lights plugged in when submerging them in cold water can blow the bulb, which can get expensive and dangerous.
- Straps holding the boat down can be untied at this point if your boat is sitting on a bunk trailer. If you are using a roller trailer, then the best and wisest course is to leave the front strap attached until you have backed down into the water.
- The last step is to make sure that the plug is securely in the back of your boat. This is extremely important (for obvious reasons) but I can assure you that someone always forgets to check.
Backing the Boat
- Back the car or truck up in a slow and deliberate manner. This will make it easier to control, and will force you not to overcompensate with the steering. Another key is to make small movements with the steering wheel. The bigger the movement - the easier it is to lose control. I have found that it is easiest to grasp the steering wheel at the bottom and merely turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go. This, of course, must be done completely opposite if you hold the steering wheel at the top, which can become quite confusing at times. Try both techniques to find out which one works best for you.
- If you have a bunk trailer then the trick is to back the trailer in so the water covers the bunks, which enables the boat to float free. Roller trailers need not be backed in quite so far, as a boat can be pushed off one of these quite easily. If you are with someone, have him or her hold a rope attached to the bow while the boat is being taken off the trailer. If you are by yourself, then it is best to tie a rope to the bow and proceed to push the boat off.
- Before taking the boat off the trailer, always remember to engage the parking brake. All ramps are on an incline for a reason, and applying the parking brake will ensure that your car doesn't get launched with the boat.