The procedure for launching a trailered boat for fishing, hunting and water sports starts before heading out towards the water. Inspect trailer axle hubs, tires, running lights, leaf springs and the receiver prior to every departure. Follow these guidelines when pulling any trailer:
Inspect Trailers Before Towing
Inspect trailer axle hubs, tires, running lights, leaf springs and the receiver for potential problems prior to every departure. Better yet, if you're new to trailer towing, regularly seek out a professional who assesses the road worthiness of a trailer. A qualified mechanic may also be required to help you bring the trailer up to code for travel, if you’re not fully experienced with the skills required to safely prepare the trailer for travel, legally, with respect to the states’ transportation codes in which you will be traveling in.
Acquire and Tow with Emergency Repair Equipment
Always travel with a properly inflated spare tire for the trailer, a cross-tie, a jack, work gloves, road flares and a charged head lamp for hands-free tire changing at night. Traveling with chocks to keep an unhitched trailer from rolling and a spare hub assembly are hallmarks of the experienced trailer hauler, too.
How to Hook to a trailer
Step 1: Attach trailer to towing vehicle
Back your vehicle into position to align the receiving end of the trailer tongue with the ball on the trailer hitch of the towing vehicle. Once the ball sits immediately under the trailer’s receiver, lower the trailer into position by lowering the trailer’s jack until the ball fully receives the entire weight of the trailer. Note that if the trailer doesn’t require a trailer jack due to its size and weight, the trailer may be able to be placed into position by hand. Individual users must use their own discretion or the discretion of a qualified professional to safely move a trailer by hand.
Most trailers have some form of an adjustable tongue that is released when attaching the trailer to the towing vehicle’s hitch and then is locked into place with a lock pin or similar-functioning item.
Step 2: Stow away the trailer jack
Once the trailer is properly attached to the towing vehicle, stow away the jack so that it is not at any risk of dragging the road in any way during travel. Trailer jacks vary in design. Some require cranking a lever enough to elevate the jack so that it is positioned so that it isn’t exposed to hit anything. Other trailer jacks can rotate or swivel 90 degrees so that they are positioned parallel to the trailer receiver, minimizing any risk of them being exposed enough to drag or hit any items during travel.
Step 3: Attach safety chains
In the U.S., safety chains are mandatory. The best method to attach them to the towing vehicle is to cross them to create a cradle, should the receiver coupling break or otherwise disengage.
Step 4: Attach the trailer lights
Attach the trailer’s light output to the towing vehicle’s trailer light input. Always test brake lights and blinkers at this time.
Step 5: Final Inspection
Before towing the trailer, give the prior steps one last look over. This helps reveal any final changes that need to be made. One thing to always check is to make sure trailer chalk blocks are removed from the trailer tires. Be sure to take them with you as you never know when you may need them when parking the trailer next.
Staging Area Prep for Launching Boats:
- When preparing the boat to be launched, always find a safe staging area to finalize any final steps prior to backing the boating down the launch ramp.
- Move all of the gear and items you will be taking with you on the water from the towing vehicle to the boat.
- Trim the motor up prior to backing down the ramp. (Remember to trim the motor up prior to pulling the boat out of the water.)
For trailers with carpeted, solid bunk runners supporting the boat, now is the time to detach the boat from the trailer at the bow and stern. You must leave the bow winch attached during the ramp back down maneuver if your trailer bunks are roller types or feature super slick pads.
Optimally, the driver will have room to maneuver the entire rig well forward of the target and align for a nearly straight into the space performance minimizing left and right adjustment. The key to successfully backing boat trailers is to use very deliberate actions at very slow speeds, which avoids the two very real problems in backing up with a trailer: jackknifing and inadvertent contact with obstacles.
To start the final back-in procedure of a boat trailer, steer from the bottom of the steering wheel. With that positioning, right steering moves the back of the trailer to the right and vice versa. Big corrections during this operation are best made by stopping the vehicle completely and turning the wheels of the vehicle to create the desired effect on the trailer and continuing slowly.
Fine Points of Launching Boats:
- Backing down steep ramps with a vehicle in neutral rather than in reverse gear is the safest and best method for this maneuver.
- With a seated boat operator acting as a spotter the two person launch is the easiest boat launching method.
- Setting the vehicle’s emergency brake at the point of launch takeoff is a critical step.
Every year, unmanned vehicles can and do disastrously pop out of parking gear as boats slide off trailers. The one person launch is best accomplished by closely positioning the boat and trailer next to a pier and utilizing a sturdy pre-measured bow rope and trailer guides for optimum boat alignment. Launching a boat properly, enjoying a day on the water, powering the boat back up onto the trailer and securing the boat appropriately for the ride home makes boating one of the most exciting and rewarding outdoors activities.