Launching and Retrieving Boats

There are a couple of steps that will help ensure a smooth transition at the boat launch. The first is to prepare the boat away from the launch area. When each boater is ready to go when they get to the launch, no one is waiting, and everyone gets in the water quicker. 

Some of the things you’ll want to do before moving to the ramp include:

  • Remove all tie-downs and straps except the winch line.
  • Load all supplies and equipment into the boat.
  • Insert the drain plug and disconnect the trailer lights.
  • If using a motor travel support, make sure it is removed.
  • Raise the trim to prevent hitting the prop when launching.

If you are launching a boat by yourself, attaching a line to the bow will help steady the boat upon release. If more than one person is launching the boat, it can be steadied with one person staying in the boat.

Launching Your Boat

The following steps will help you launch your boat successfully.

  1. Approach the boat ramp.
  2. Back your trailer into the water so that your back tires are in the water but their axle bearings remain out of the water. The cooling water intake holes on the lower unit of the engine should be submerged.
  3. Once your vehicle is in place, apply the parking brake on the towing vehicle—keeping the wheels of the towing vehicle out of the water, if possible.
  4. Gradually release the winch line as you carefully guide the boat off of the trailer and into the water.
  5. Secure the boat to the dock.
  6. Drive your vehicle and attached trailer away from the launch.

If you anticipate engine problems, starting the engine and letting it warm up while the boat is still on the trailer is a good idea. Removing a dead boat from the water can be difficult.

Retrieving a Boat

Retrieving your boat can be done more efficiently with someone at the boat launch to “spot” for you. Attention should be paid to any pedestrians and boats in the area.

  • Get your towing vehicle and trailer ready, and then wait for your turn.
  • Remember, loading and unloading your boat should always be done away from the launch.

When it’s your turn to retrieve your boat:

  • Keep your towing vehicle’s wheels out of the water.
  • Attach the bowline to the boat to steady it.
  • Drive the boat close enough to attach the winch line.
  • Once the winch line is attached, turn the engine off and tilt it up.
  • Crank the winch line to slowly pull the boat onto the trailer—always stay out of the path of the winch line.
  • Once the boat is secure, tow the trailer out of the water and away from the ramp.

Now that your boat is out of the water, it is time to prepare for the road.

  • Remove your drain plug, drain the water out of the bilge, and drain the live wells or bait wells if you have them.
  • Make sure all items in the boat are secure.
  • Check state regulations regarding cleaning requirements to ensure you are not spreading aquatic species. Always remove all plant materials from your boat before leaving.