Launching a boat with little practice is extremely intimidating. It is also one of the most entertaining things to watch as a bystander. Ultimately, it is a process that is dangerous if done incorrectly. Do you find yourself asking "How do I launch a boat?" or "How do I launch a boat better?". If so, here are some tips and tricks to save you some embarrassment and cost of damages.
- Use the staging area to check your drain plug is in, your key is in the boat, and the boat is prepped to be backed into the water. This includes removing any straps you may have in place for travel.
- Load your gear prior to launching. This will save you many trips up and down the ramp.
- Attach your fenders if you desire to remove any more possible steps prior to docking. You can also get your bow and stern lines ready to be tied.
- Detach your trailer lights. This is a commonly overlooked step that can damage your trailer in colder waters. When hot trailer lights meet cold water, they can easily break.
- Back your boat down the ramp. Go slow if needed. No one is watching you saying "Woah that person is so cool because they backed down so fast." Take your time and do it right.
- Back your boat into the water until you see the rear (or stern) of your boat begin to float.
- Put your vehicle in park and put the parking brake on. We are going to repeat that so you have to read it again. Put your vehicle in park and put the parking brake on. Don't be that person who leaves their truck/SUV in gear and lets it roll into the water. You will be laughed at and immediately posted on The Qualified Captain.
- Unhook the bow and release the winch.
- If you're with a buddy, have them back the boat off or give it a shove. If you're by yourself, use the bow line to hold onto your boat as it floats away from the trailer. Walk it over to the dock and tie it up.
As mentioned before, launching a boat can be quite entertaining. As long as you are not hurt in any way, chances are someone will find humor in your self-lead misfortune. Here are some common points of failure to avoid.
Taking forever getting down the ramp.
If you are not very comfortable backing a boat down a ramp, It may be best to go on a week day and give it some practice. Maybe even take a few laps at your local Walmart parking lot. Being comfortable with your towing setup is essential. If you aren't confident or comfortable, you will probably be recorded and laughed at.
Forgetting Your Drain Plug
This is by far the easiest way to sink you boat. It only takes a few minutes to fill most hulls and you likely wont make it away from the dock. Don't be this person. Always check that your drain plug is in before putting your boat in the water. If it isn't, you will probably be laughed at as you come hurling in to beach your vessel.
Forgetting your boat is still strapped down.
This one is easy. Definitely the least costly and embarrassing as well. Before you hit the water, just remember to unstrap your boat from the trailer. If you don't and your trailer starts floating around, you will probably be laughed at.
Accidently letting your boat float away.
This one is golden. If you're launching on your own, make sure you have a line attached to your boat to walk it to the dock, or guarantee you can make it onto the bow before it drifts away. You don't want to ask someone to get it for you. You might even end up going for a swim. Like the others, you will probably be laughed at.
Forgetting to set your parking brake.
We won't even dive into this one. Set your brake or else your tow vehicle will be soggy.
Launching a boat is a rudimentary part of vessel ownership and operation. And don't be intimidated by people getting enjoyment from your suffering. It's part of the culture at this point. Just remember to take your time and be safe!