5 Tricks that will help you look like a pro at the ramp and on the road.
You avoided having any boat trailering disasters on the way to the ramp, the livewell’s full, all the gear is stowed, and the motor fires up on the first crank – you’re ready to attack the fish. All that’s left to do is back the boat off the trailer, and as you sit at the helm your buddy ducks under the bow, promising to unclip it. Then you hear a “bloop,” and your buddy says “darn, I dropped it.” Dropped what? All he had to do was un-clip the hook from the bow eye. There’s nothing to drop. So, you walk up forward to see that your friend has just dropped the latch pin – he’s in the process of un-hitching your trailer from your truck. Yikes! That was a close call. If he hadn’t dropped the pin and you hadn’t moved forward to investigate, you’d have been the laughing stock of the boat ramp.
Whew – disaster averted. Still, launching and retrieving your boat is a high-pressure situation which can define your reputation among your peers.
Want to make sure your reputation remains a good one? Use these 5 trailering tricks.
The Lone Low-Water Launch –The tide’s super low, everyone’s having a tough time getting their boat off the trailer, and to make matters more challenging you’re launching single-handed. Not a problem, if you know the lone low-water launch routine. Remove all tie-downs and prepare the boat for launching, then pull out 10-feet or so of line from the winch. Leave the winch strap attached to the bow eye, however. Next, secure a mooring line with at least a dozen feet of slack from a bow cleat down to the trailer tongue. Back as far as possible down the ramp, and assuming your boat still isn’t floating, pull back up five or six feet. Then release the brake and allow your truck to roll backwards. Just before you reach the end of the ramp, hit the brakes. Momentum will keep the boat moving backwards, and when it gets 10-feet down the trailer, the winch strap will stop it from sliding back out of control. Then you can put on the parking brake, get out of the truck, release the winch, and grab that mooring line. As you walk out on the pier pull the boat the rest of the way off the trailer, if necessary. When you get it up to the dock remove the winch strap clip, and you’re ready to roll.
Current Events – Few things make it tougher to drive your boat on the bunks than a strong cross-current. The big mistake most people make? They start as close as possible then try to take it slow. But the slower you do it, the longer that current will be pushing you. And if you start up close you won’t have time to judge the effect of the current and react accordingly.
Before you attempt to load up, back a good 20 or 25-feet away from the trailer. Sit in neutral for a moment, and observe how quickly your boat moves. Then circle back to get up-current, and head for the trailer with a fair amount of heat on. If you see you’re going to miss, do not try to counter steer – once you’re off-center you probably won’t be able to recover unless several boat lengths remain between you and the trailer. Simply back out, and try again. Still no luck after several tries? If there’s a pier up-current of the ramp and your boat’s relatively small, have a buddy walk out on it and secure a line to an amidships cleat. If you don’t have a cleat amidships, secure a long line fore and aft and hand him the middle. Now the guy on the pier can pull on the line to counter the effect of the current, as you pull onto the trailer.
Wind Worries – Fighting a strong wind can be even worse than fighting a strong current when you’re attempting to load a boat on a trailer, because it isn’t a consistent force. One moment you might be steering to counter a 10-mph breeze, and the next, a 20-mph gust shoves you off course. Use tactics similar to those you would when dealing with a strong current, but recognize that you’ll likely have to pull the trailer danger-close to the pier (on the windward side, if possible). That will make it easy for an angler or two to walk out on the pier and help you keep the boat centered over the trailer manually. Once it’s centered use the motor to drive it up and onto the trailer.
The Stuck Truck – Your truck’s burning rubber at the ramp, but it’s not moving? You can use your boat to help get the truck started moving uphill. Just be careful, because the potential for disaster is huge. First completely secure the boat to the trailer, even if it means walking into the water to secure the transom tie-downs to the trailer’s submerged rear-end. Otherwise when you use the boat to push, if the bow stop shears off your boat could end up crashing into the stern of your truck. Don’t laugh, it’s happened.
Trim your motor down so it forces the stern up and the bow down, and apply power so your boat pushes forward on the trailer as the driver of the truck attempts to pull up the ramp. As soon as the rig gets going shut down the motor and trim up simultaneously, so your skeg doesn’t eat concrete and your motor isn’t running when the cooling intakes come out of the water.
The End Game – While trying to launch the boat, you backed off the end of the ramp? It happens, no big deal. But most people react by putting their truck into forward and applying some juice, to see if they can pull it right back up over the concrete edge – and this can cause serious damage to the trailer. The smart move is to put the vehicle into park where it sits. Then pull the boat off, so its weight isn’t bearing down on the trailer. After that it’ll be easy to pull the wheels back up onto the ramp without risking a disaster.
BONUS TIP: – The next time that buddy of yours offers to lend a hand, politely but firmly say no – or maybe just shove him off the dock.