navigate a boat ramp

How to Safely Navigate a Boat Ramp

As the weather starts to warm and summer approaches, one of the best perks to owning a hitch and trailer is taking your boat out for a day on the water. However, as parks and beaches become more crowded, knowing how to safely navigate a boat ramp becomes more important than ever. Whether this is your first year boating or you have years of experience, here are some helpful tips to keep everyone safe this summer!

Preparing Your Boat for Launch

Depending on the day, there may be a line to launch your boat from the dock. Take time to inspect the dock before launching, especially if you’ve never been there before. Take note of the water depth, which side of the dock you want to launch from, and the traffic flow as more boaters back down to launch their own boats. 

These steps help ensure you are as quick and efficient as possible when it’s your turn to launch. You don’t want to rush, but you also don’t want your inexperience to hold up the line. Other tasks that can be completed when preparing your boat for launch include:

  • Paying the launch fee (if required)
  • Installing the drain plug in your boat
  • Inserting the key in the ignition (make sure your battery isn’t dead)
  • Loading your gear such as fishing equipment, coolers, tubes, etc. 
  • Attaching fenders to the dockside of your boat
  • Removing the transom tie-down straps and outboard motor brace (if applicable)
  • Attaching dock lines to your bow and stern cleats
  • Unplugging trailer lights to help keep your hot bulbs from being damaged by the cold water

Once you’ve prepared your boat and trailer for a safe launch, you can begin.

Launching Your Boat

Knowing how to safely navigate a boat ramp will help protect your boat, trailer, and towing vehicle. It will also help keep you and others around you safe from any potential accidents. Once you’ve prepared your boat for launch and it’s your turn to use the ramp, give everyone with you instructions on either how to help or how to stay out of the way. 

If possible, try to have someone who can drive the boat away from your trail once it’s in the water. Once everyone has been assigned their task, simply back your trailer down until your boat is sitting fully in the water, release it, then drive back up the ramp and park your truck and trailer in the designated parking area. 

Retrieving Your Boat

Putting your boat back in the trailer is essentially the opposite of dropping it off. Drop the truck driver and any other passengers off at the dock or launching area, and either tie your boat down or keep it out of the way while waiting for the trailer. Simply back the trailer down into the water, being sure to keep it straight, then have the boat driver slowly load the boat and secure it in place. 

Drive to a staging area before taking everything out of the boat and loading it into your towing vehicle. This will help reduce congestion at the dock and keep boats moving in and out of the water. 

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