You’ve just arrived at the boat launch after driving for hours, anticipating your next adventure on the water. Here’s a few things to think of as you get ready to launch. This is best done with two people.

  1. Let things cool off. The trailer bearings may be a bit warm from the drive. Immediately dunking them in cold water can be hard on them.
  2. Get yourself into the queue, when you are ready (giving yourself enough time to do the following).

As you are waiting in the queue, or preparing the boat, before going down the ramp.

  1. Unlock and open up the boat.
  2. Setup dock bumpers and place on appropriate side (thinking ahead of where you are going to put the boat right after it’s in the water).
  3. Setup dock lines and place on appropriate side. Put one dock line on bow and then drape over trailer ladder. This is used if something goes wrong to pull you back onto the trailer. Also can be used if helper can walk out with you along dock to keep boat pulled into dock.
  4. Open ballast vent at front of boat, close ballast gate at back. Don’t fill the ballast right now, but be ready to fill once you are out.
  5. Connect fuel line to the motor, prime the line, making sure it’s sealed correctly.
  6. Turn battery to #1
  7. Attach key to pedestal, just so you know where it is later on.
  8. Raise seat so you have easier access to motor while initially starting it
  9. Flip transport lock bar on motor over to allow you to lower it later.
  10. Walk around and inspect the boat, looking for any damage, lines that could get snagged on the trailer, or anything that would impede the boat from sliding off the trailer in the water. Double check that the swing keel line is securely locked, you don’t want it to drop down as you are backing up.
  11. Prepare the trailer, ensure the crank connecting the line to the front of the boat is able to release. I usually let it out just a few clicks so the line can be unclipped easier, later on. Might want to disconnect electrical line, I don’t, but not sure if you want power going to the lights while they are under water.
  12. Walk around and inspect where you are going to place the boat after its in the water. Double check your dock bumpers and lines are on the correct side. Have a plan of where you are going to go, and what you will do if things don’t go as expected.
  13. Inspect the ramp and visualize where the trailer and the boat is going to go. Take a note of the wind direction and strength. Watch others and see if there’s any rocks or holes to avoid. How far out is the ramp paved, a lot of times there will be a big hole right where the pavement ends (from boaters using their motors to push themselves up on to their trailers.
  14. Prepare safety gear. Have your life jacket ready, paddle, anchor, whistle, … Again, always good to think about all the things that could go wrong now and have plans in mind rather than reacting later on.
  15. Prepare your helper, confirm hand signals for directing the trailer and show them how to operate the trailer pulley and clip for the front of the boat. Agree on when they are to unclip the boat and what they should do next.

Now you are ready to occupy the ramp and quickly launch the boat.

  1. Back trailer into water. Windows rolled down and stereo off, one person at the side of the vehicle, keeping an eye out and guiding you. Slowly back the trailer into the water. Keep going until boat starts to float and lift from trailer. (see notes below)
  2. Secure the vehicle! Can’t stress this enough, there’s plenty of Youtube videos out there showing you what happens when you don’t. I use the parking break, turn off the vehicle and leave it in first gear (manual transmission). At times I’ve also put in wheel chocks on the front wheels. Just because I’m paranoid.
  3. Climb aboard the boat. This is what the metal ladder is for at the front of the trailer. I step across my rear wheel, onto the truck bumper, then onto the trailer and my feet stay dry.
  4. Confirm boat is deep enough. The boat should be a little wobbly as you get on, the front may still be touching the trailer but the rear should be floating. Check the depth by the motor to make sure there’s enough room to lower it into the water.
  5. Lower and start the motor. With the keys on the pedestal, step 7 above, insert key and turn to the on position (don’t start yet). Use the buttons on the throttle to lower the motor into the water. Start the motor and let it warm up (just a few mins, until it’s idling properly).
  6. Release the boat. Your helper should be at the bow of the boat, standing on the trailer arm. When you signal them, they can now reel out the line enough, just a few inches, so that the clip can be released from the bow. They can also push up on the bow of the boat to help guide it back.
  7. Reverse and move to dock as the boat is being released, the motor should be idling in reverse slowly pulling the boat off the trailer. You may want to lower one of the rudders and drop the swing keel slightly to give yourself some more control of the boat. Also consider filling the ballast (see notes below).
  8. After you have successfully moved the boat from the trailer, you, or your helper, can move the vehicle off the ramp and park it. Giving a quick bow to the large audience that has gathered clapping wildly at your amazing skills.

 

How far do I back into the water?

For me, I stop when the water touches the rear wheels of our Xterra. But it’s more about the boat just starting to lift from the trailer. And this will change depending on the wheelbase of your vehicle and the slope of the ramp. Too shallow and the boat won’t slide off the trailer. Too deep and you may get the trailer stuck in a hole.

Filling the water ballast

The front air vent should be open, pull up on the aluminum T-bar handle at the stern of the boat to open the ballast gate. Water will start filling the ballast and you should hear air being pushed out of the air vent in the v-birth at the front of the boat. After a few minutes, you can confirm the ballast is full by checking the air vent. No more air should be pushing out and you can see/feel water inside.

After the ballast is full, close the air vent and close the ballast gate.