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Why does the side of the bar facing the boat ramp always have more customers? Because it’s free entertainment! If you want to put on a great performance rather than an embarrassing one, here are some basic boat trailering tips to put into practice.

Speaking of which, the first thing you need to do is practice! No one is born knowing how to launch or retrieve a boat from a trailer, and it’s easy to overlook these skills with the anticipation of getting out on the water. Our tip: Find an empty parking lot, set up some cones and rehearse your moves.

You’ll notice that your turn radius is wider when towing a boat and trailer, so give obstacles ample space. Also, backing up can be tricky because the trailer will pivot in the opposite direction of your tow vehicle. Practice driving, turning and backing up while towing your boat until you can control your vehicle and trailer confidently.

Next, rehearse your launch and retrieval routine—those parts of it that can be done on dry land— and keep a checklist so you are always prepared when you get to the ramp. There are entire websites devoted to proper boat launch and retrieval techniques, and we’ll tackle these topics in detail in future blogs. For now, we want you to be safe and aware of what you need to know.

If you have guests with you, explain to them ahead of time what they are expected to do (and not do) once at the ramp. Remember, these folks may not know their aft from a hole in the ground, so be mindful and cautious when assigning responsibilities. Remind your guests not to get behind the boat or trailer, and to always stay in sight of the driver of the tow vehicle.

Make sure you have prepared your boat for launch or retrieval before you back your tow vehicle down the ramp. No one wants to wait while you try to figure out what you’re doing. It’s common courtesy to get on and off the ramp in good time, and planning ahead adds an additional safety factor.

Lastly, it’s a wise idea to always be nice to your fellow boat ramp users. They’re a great resource and may be able to help steer you away from a mishap, or save you from one if the worst happens.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Used Boats For Sale at Boat Browser or our new Lakes and Waterways’ Guide at Lake Browser. Check out our True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away – and share your fishing stories.

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5 Responses to Boat Trailering Basics

  1. Scott Barbara says:

    UMU, you forgot the most important rule of the launch ramp; MAKE SURE THE PLUG IS IN before backing your boat down the ramp and into the water! Bailing is no fun and it’s hard to get the boat back on to the trailer when it’s full of water.

  2. Great advice, and I would reiterate the need for a checklist. It’s easy to forget a step in the launch or recovery process in the frenzied environment of a boat ramp on a busy weekend. There aren’t any hilarious YouTube videos of skippers reading their checklists.

  3. paul clevenger says:

    Also, if it is at night and you are using the ramp, please keep your parking lights on but TURN OFF those headlights once you have safely backed into the ramp. You’re blinding the rest of us who are trying to maneuver in front of you.

    • Scott Barbara says:

      That’s good advice, as long as the tow vehicle allows for that to happen. The day-time running lights in my van can’t be overridden.

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