How to Trailer a Boat

Trailering a boat is more than just hooking it up to your vehicle and backing it into the water. You must take safety precautions such as checking the proper trailer weight capacity and the vehicle with the proper towing capacity. Check the specifications for both the trailer and vehicle. Trailering a boat is a straightforward process when you follow the steps.

Determine if your vehicle and trailer are able to safely tow the boat. The owner's manual for the vehicle contains its towing capacity and the boat manual lists the boat's dry weight. The trailer's weight capacity is normally identified by a sticker on the trailer. According to the BoatUS "Roll Your Boat" article, other weights need to be added to the boat's total weight. Allow for six pounds for each gallon of gasoline aboard and eight pounds for each gallon of water.

Perform a safety check before towing your boat. Check the trailer's wheel lugs, tire inflation, brake lights and turn signals. Check the grease in your trailer hubs. If you have a Bearing Buddy or comparable wheel bearing protector, it's easier than prying off your hubs. Check that the coupler and safety chains are properly fastened to the vehicle. Also, ensure the boat is properly tied down at the stern with a heavy-duty adjustable strap wrapped around the boat. Make sure the bow winch-line is properly fastened to the boat's eye hook and locked. Make sure you carry a spare and a trailer jack.

Always drive extra-cautiously while towing a boat, anticipating every turn and stop. Before you approach the ramp, unhook the straps. Raise your motor if necessary. Unplug your trailer lights. Make sure your boat plugs are in. Load your safety gear, boat papers and other equipment from your vehicle. Loosen your bow line and give a crew member the line so that she can guide the boat at the dock. Back the trailer into the water until it is deep enough for the boat to float. Apply the vehicle parking brake. Place a wheel block behind one of the vehicle's rear wheels. Leave the vehicle's engine running. (Having someone behind the wheel during this process is a big help.)

Unlock the winch and slowly start lowering the boat into the water, either manually or electrically, depending on the winch type. When the boat is fully in the water, tie a leash-line to the bow, preventing it from floating away. Wind the winch line, remove the wheel block and park the vehicle. If by yourself, have someone hold your boat, or find a spot to tie it down.


Load the boat onto the trailer by reversing the off-loading process. Check your boat bilge to make sure your boat is not overloaded with water. Back the trailer into the water deep enough for the boat. Do not back so far that your trailer rolls off the end of the ramp. You could get stuck. Set the vehicle parking brake. Place the wheel block behind the vehicle's tire. Bring the boat to the rear of the trailer, being sure to raise the outboard engine, if equipped. Loosen the winch line and attach it to the bow eye hook. Have a member of the crew guide your boat onto the trailer rollers or bunks. Make sure everything is clear before cranking the boat back onto the trailer. Stand to the side of your winch in case the line snaps. Re-fasten the stern adjustable strap, remove the wheel block and drive the trailer out of the water.