How to Launch a Boat by Yourself
Launching a boat can be one of the most difficult and stressful aspects of boating. This stress only gets worse if you're launching a boat without any other helpers. If you're like us, you know this process can be especially daunting when the weather is nice and the boat ramp is packed with eager boaters ready to start their day on the water. If you're not careful about your planning and execution, your day can take a turn for the worse in a matter of seconds. Luckily we've assembled the tips and tricks to start your day off right and to avoid doing any unnecessary harm to your boat or vehicle. Don't be this guy!
Step 1: Preparation is Key
As with all successful boat outings, it all starts with the preparation. This is especially important when you want to launch a boat alone.
Start your pre-launch checklist at home:
- Ensure your boat motor is in good operating shape. For added security, hook a garden hose up to your motor to make sure it runs as it should.
- Pack your gear and check it twice! This includes trailering equipment, boat gear, safety equipment, food and water, and any other necessities you might need on your trip.
- Ensure your boat plug is properly installed! Seriously, this is an important one.
Boat launch prep before getting onto the ramp:
- Find a staging area away from the ramp and begin your final pre-launch preparations.
- Fix your antenna to its upright position.
- Turn on your battery switches.
- Load your safety equipment.
- Load all other personal and essential gear for your trip.
- Tie on your boat fenders.
- Remove all safety straps and tie-downs. Leave the winch strap loosely connected.
- Double-check that your drain plug is installed properly.
Step 2: Approach the Boat Ramp
Now that you have all the tedious tasks behind you, you can focus on the last few steps required to safely launch your boat. Back your boat to the water's edge to begin to stage your launch. Set your parking brake and put the car in park. Before unhooking the bow of the boat from the winch cable, you need to tie a dock line from the bow of your boat to your tow vehicle. Measure the distance from your vehicle to your boat to ensure you have the appropriate length of rope. This rope will act as a substitute for having an additional person in the boat and will allow you to maneuver your boat safely to the dock once it is in the water. Tie one end to a bow cleat and the other securely to your vehicle.
Step 3: Launch the Boat
You are now ready to disconnect your winch cable from the bow of your boat. Check to make sure the dock line is securely tied to both ends then hop back in your vehicle for launch. Back your boat into the water until you see the boat start to float up from the trailer. Once the boat begins to float, give the brakes a firm press to help fully release the boat from the trailer. Once your boat has broken free, park the vehicle (making sure to set your parking brake) and untie the end of the dock line attached to your vehicle. Use the dock line to safely maneuver to the dock or other access point, and secure your boat to a dock cleat. Once the boat is clear, return to your vehicle to pull away and park. Voila!
Step 4: Enjoy the Day!
While preparation and planning go a long way to ensure a smooth departure, there are always factors that arise that could lead to potential issues. To minimize the risk of potential disaster, we recommend that you become as familiar as possible with your boat, trailering system, and your preparation process. To help you safely navigate this process, we've put together a printable Boat Trailering and Ramp Checklist to help avoid common mistakes. Print a few out for your vehicle and boat and you'll always be prepared to set off safely.