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Boat Launching Tips & Etiquette


It’s an exciting feeling having a successful first launch for any new boat owner. Our guide will walk you through the best way to launch a boat to ensure each step is done properly, and provide some tips on good boat ramp etiquette.

Prepping Your Boat Prior to Launch

If you are brand new to launching from a ramp it might be helpful to make your first attempt on a weekday or a least a day when the ramp is not going to be too busy just so you don’t feel pressured to do everything in a hurry. It can be helpful to park out of the way and walk down to get a look at the ramp and dock. This way you’ll know how steep the ramp is, how deep the water is, and the condition of the dock. You can also observe the flow of traffic around the ramp, and decide where to park the vehicle and trailer after you launch.

It’s etiquette at a public ramp to be as efficient as possible when launching. With that in mind, you want to prepare your boat to launch as soon as it touches the water. Walk the boat as far down the dock as possible to get out of the way of the next party waiting to launch. If your helper is able to operate the boat (or park the vehicle and trailer) an alternate plan is for one person to be in the boat as it’s backed down the ramp.

10 Steps for Launching a Boat

  1. In a staging area, check that the drain plug is installed and the key is in the ignition
  2. Load all your gear into the boat – coolers, fishing gear, life jackets, etc.
  3. Attach boat fenders to the dock side of the boat and remove the transom straps
  4. Attach dock lines to the bow and stern cleats
  5. Unplug the trailer lights from the tow vehicle to keep cold water from damaging hot bulbs
  6. Move your tow vehicle in position to back straight down the ramp if possible
  7. Reverse down the ramp slowly. This allows for more reaction time to correct the trailer if it starts to go crooked.
  8. Back down the ramp until you see the stern of the boat start to float
  9. Put your vehicle in park with the parking brake and release the trailer winch and safety chain
  10. Use a bow line and give the boat a little push, slide it slowly off the trailer to float in the water

Pro Tips:

  • As you check that your drain plug is installed and your key is in the ignition, this would be a good time to bump the key into the “start” position just to make sure you don’t have a dead battery. Better to find out now than after the boat is off the trailer. Don’t start the engine! You could damage the water pump.
  • A good trick is to place one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and then watch the trailer in your mirrors. If you want the trailer to go left in your mirror, move you hand to the left, or to the right to steer the trailer to the right in your mirror.
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