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Launching Your Boat

When you arrive at the launch ramp, you’re understandably eager to get your boat in the water. Before you just stick it in the water willy-nilly, you should know some of the basics of launching and retrieving your boat.

After driving to get to your favorite boating spot, understand that your wheel bearings, brakes and seals are probably hot. However, when you stick a hot trailer right in chilly water, all those components undergo rapid cooling, and that leads to rapid contraction, which can lead to water intrusion.

Continual dunking of hot wheel bearings into cold water can drastically decrease their service life. The rapid cooling that occurs causes the metals and seals to contract quickly, which actually draws water in. As a result, the metals can lose their temper and weaken. Grease can become diluted with water, which can lead to corrosion.

Here’s a way of giving the trailer components a chance to cool down before you launch. When you get to the ramp area, park your truck and trailer in a spot well away from the ramp itself. While you are waiting for the trailer components to cool down a bit, use the time to load all your gear and get the boat ready for launching. Some ramps even have “staging areas” specifically for these tasks, which keeps people from clogging up the launch ramp with activities that already should have been done.

In the staging area, after you have loaded everything you need into the boat, remove the tie-down straps at the rear of the boat and be sure the drain plug is in. Leave the bow strap attached. Why? Some ramps are steep enough and some trailer bunks slick enough that you can end up dumping your boat onto the pavement instead of into the water. And if you do that, people will think you’re really stupid. And they’d be right.

In actually launching the boat, the rule of thumb is to back the trailer into the water far enough so that the tops of the fenders are just above the waterline. Usually, this is enough to float the boat off the bunks and make backing it off just a matter of shifting into reverse. Some trailers differ—you might need to back in farther or less—but this is a good place to start. Now you should be able to remove the bow strap without getting your feet wet, back the boat off of the trailer, then pull the trailer out and park. Most parking lots at launch ramps have enough space for maneuvering, but look around to be sure you have enough room to get out later.


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