If you’re new to boating, you should know that there are a few unwritten rules. Several of them pertain to the way you put your boat into the water from a trailer and the way you take it out. They are time-tested and absolutely guaranteed to make sure you’re one of the “good guys” out of the hordes of Saturday fun-seekers lined up on the boat ramp trying to get out on the water.
• Start at home. Before you ever leave your driveway, make sure you check a few things before you leave. Make sure your trailer tires are inflated to the correct pressure. If you pulled out the drain plug for the ride home, now would be a great time to put it back in. Check the charge on your battery…it seems like someone always leaves the radio on with the volume turned all the way down! Know the sequence you’ll want to detach the boat from the trailer, leaving (of course) the bow hook on until you’re in the water.
• Try a trial run. This is the ultimate way to reduce stress before your first primetime boat launch. Trailer over to the ramp early one morning or evening during the middle of the week. You’ll have the place to yourself, and you can take your time backing down, correcting and dialing in your entry strategy. Take a few passes. If someone shows up, pull up and out of the way, and resume your practice run in peace. And if you have any questions about what you’re doing, now would be the time to ask a fellow boater.
• Park and load. You might be surprised by how many folks wait until they are at the end of the ramp to load up their coolers, floats, pets, and whatever else they’ve lugged to the lake on this beautiful Saturday. The better move is to go ahead and park (hey, that shady spot looks good) and take your time transferring your gear from the SUV to the boat. This might even give the kids time to inflate their tube, the dog to do his business and Mom time to feed the baby. That way everyone’s good to go and focused on the task at hand.
• Be polite. Everyone’s anxious to be out on the water enjoying their boat. It’s probably hot outside. There may be people who haven’t read this article and are struggling with, ummmm, efficiency of motion. Put a smile on your face. Give a nod or a wave to the other “good guys” and maybe even lend a hand to help move things along.
• Be deliberate. Think ahead about what ramp line feels more comfortable for you. Some folks like the left side, some folks like the right. Give everyone on your crew a job. Your buddy can be your guide on the ramp. Your kids can relay messages and let you know if you’re getting too close to the curb. Everyone can help undo the straps. Mom can pull the tow vehicle up and park while you pull the boat over to the temporary dock for passenger loading. Remember: hands at the bottom of the steering wheel while backing the trailer up…then push the direction you want the trailer to go. Best trailering tip ever.
Trailering your boat can be the perfect solution for you and your boating lifestyle. By taking a few minutes to master the “unwritten rules,” you can make launching and retrieving your boat almost as enjoyable as a day on the water. Almost.