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Boat Trailering Disasters – Don’t Do This!

If you own a trailer boat, here are five things you DO NOT ever want to do.

Traveling across the waves in a boat at 60 or 70 mph can be scary, but boat trailering over asphalt at those speeds while towing a boat should be even scarier. The only problem is, many trailer boaters don’t have a clear concept of just how much damage can be done to their boat – not to mention life and limb – should something go awry at those kinds of speeds.

So before you hit the highway again, let’s take a quick look at five things you never want to do with a boat in tow.

boat trailering
Ummm, yeah – we trailer boaters do NOT want to end up in this situation. Ever.
  1. Fail to securely attach the bow and stern of the boat to the trailer, above and beyond the winch strap. That means a safety chain on the bow eye is a must, as well as transom strap(s). And you’re making a big mistake if you don’t overdo-it on the strap’s capacity. You’re also making a mistake if you depend on one of those cheap straps with a flip-down tensioner that pops open half the time. Get oversized ratcheting straps, and make sure they’re cinched down tight.
boat trailering
Depending solely on the winch strap to secure the bow of a trailer-boat is insufficient.
  1. Fail to replace critical boat trailering gear often. Even straps that are just a couple years old and show only minor wear need to be tossed into the garage for lighter-duty use, and replaced. Wheel bearings that aren’t silky smooth when you jack the trailer and give them a test-spin (you do this at least once a season, right?) or that feel hot to the touch when you pull in at the boat ramp, should be swapped out for new ones post-haste. And brake lines that start to sag should trigger a call to the trailer service team, even if they’ve only been in service for a limited time. All of this stuff can and will fail, if you fail to replace it the moment you notice it’s no longer in tip-top shape.


  1. Tow – not even for a quarter-mile – without a pin secured in the coupler and safety chains crisscrossed under the tongue. This may sound like boat trailering 101 (actually, it is) but you’d be amazed at how often people do it. They lose their pin or use it on another trailer, and figure it’s no big deal. Trust us, it’s a big deal. We’ve seen trailers that came loose and speared other vehicles (no pin nor chains), trailers that speared the back of the tow vehicle (chains but no pin), and trailers that flipped on their side and spilled Mom’s Mink across the highway when the tongue came free of the tow hitch then dug into the asphalt (no pin, and chains that were not crisscrossed to support the tongue if it pops free).
boat trailering
You may not see any harm in accelerating quickly when trailering, but…
  1. Slam on the brakes, or slam on the gas. Again, this is boat trailering 101. Slamming on the brakes can, in extreme cases, plant the bow of your boat in the cab of your truck. Slamming down on the accelerator can, in extreme cases, send your boat flying off the trailer. In fact, it was aggressive acceleration (and a strap that wasn’t replaced soon enough after it began to show some wear) that caused the disaster pictured above.
boat trailering
After a long day of fishing, it’s easy to tilt the engine up prior to pulling the boat, and then forget to tilt it back down to a safe trailering position.
  1. Tow with your outboard tilted up and no “transom saver.” This creates a fulcrum at the transom which, depending on the size of your outboard, has hundreds of pounds of weight rocking back and forth. That causes a huge amount of stress and can seriously damage a boat’s transom. In severe cases, it’s even been known to rip a transom apart. Outboards should be tilted down at least far enough to rest on the tilt ram(s), and if that puts the prop(s) too close to the pavement, a transom saver bracket (which connects between the lower unit and the trailer for support) is in order.
boat trailering
Plastic wrap will make cleaning the bugs off your windshield a piece of cake.

Slick Trailering Bonus Tip: Sick and tired of having your boat’s windshield covered in bugs when you tow to the ramp in the pre-dawn hours? Steal the plastic wrap out of the kitchen, and use it to wrap the windshield and console top. When you arrive at your destination just pull off the plastic wrap and you can launch bug-free.

Get more boating tips and boat reviews from Lenny Rudow on BD.

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Lenny Rudow …has been a writer and editor in the marine field for over two decades, and has authored seven books. He is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow's FishTalk Magazine, is Electronics and Fishing Editor for BoatUS Magazine, and is a contributing editor to several other publications. His writing has resulted in 45 BWI writing contest and two OWAA Excellence in Craft awards. Volunteer positions have included NMMA Innovations Award judging, serving as president of Boating Writers International, and serving as the president of the Maryland Freshwater Foundation. Rudow is an alumnus of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, and The Sea School. He boats and fishes as often as possible on the Chesapeake Bay and in the Atlantic Ocean.