Launching and retrieving a boat

Riding home with a new boat hooked to your vehicle can be one of the most exciting moments for an outdoors person.  Limits of fish, pulling your family on a tube, beautiful sunsets.  These are all things that are flashing through your mind on that first ride.  However, eventually most people will ask themselves... how am I going to launch this thing?



Ready for some fun
Launching and retrieving a boat can be one of the most nerve racking experiences for a new boat owner.  I know I was definitely in this camp.  I could not wait to get my boat out to target walleyes and perch but was real hesitant about launching my new toy.

Growing up on a farm, I had backed up plenty of trailers and other pieces of equipment but could I do it in front of a crowd?  I am not one to give up easily so I was bound and determined to launch and retrieve my boat like a pro.  It only took me one or two times to get the hang of it and now I can even launch solo.

The most important thing about learning to launch and retrieve a boat is finding what works for you.  Always remember, there is not one set way to do it.  Some people roll down a window and stick their head out... some people use their mirrors and nothing else... some people open up their trunk and look over their shoulder... some people just look over their shoulder.  All of these methods work.

The only way to find out what works for you is by gaining experience.  A good tip for the beginner is to practice backing up the boat in a parking lot before the first splash.  Another tip is to find an isolated ramp or one with multiple ramps and hit it early in the morning before the crowd.  When practicing, try different methods until you find one that works.   After a few times launching and retrieving, you will be a pro.

The thing that made me most nervous about launching my boat was the fear of people laughing at me if it took too long or I had to re-correct myself.  After launching and retrieving a few times, I found out that this fear was nothing to worry about.  Most people are actually quite helpful as long as you go about launching and retrieving your boat with respect for others.

Having respect for others means launching and retrieving your boat as fast as you possibly can.  Getting your boat prepped or cleaned up in a staging area.  Making sure your drain plug is in and straps are off.  Turning your lights off so you don't blind others.  These are all things that are important to properly launching and retrieving a boat. 

If you do all of these things, it won't matter if you can't launch your boat as fast as a seasoned vet.  If you do all of the prep work correctly, people do not mind if you are struggling to back up... they might even offer to help out.

Now for the basics... The first thing I do when pulling up to the launch is to find out where the staging area is.  You would not believe the amount of people that skip this step.  Nothing irritates me more than watching someone pull into the launch and then proceed to take up one of the lanes getting their boat ready.  Please use a staging area.  I don't care if all the lanes are open.  USE THE STAGING AREA.

Once you are in the staging area, get your boat ready for the water.  For me, this means getting my poles and life jackets ready, straps undone, guide rope tied, drainage plug in and unhooking my lights and adapter.  I always do the last step because submerging your lights can cause them to malfunction and fifteen dollar adapters are easy to steal while you are away from your trailer.

Once your boat is staged, look for an available lane and line yourself up with the dock.  A good tip is to find the lane with a dock on the left side of your boat.  This makes it easy to look out the window or the driver side mirror to see the dock.  Line yourself up with the dock and back yourself straight in to the water.

Once the back of the boat is in the water, unhook the boat from the trailer and back the boat the rest of the way in.  It is nice to have a partner with you to hold the dock line so the boat doesn't get away from you.  If you are solo, you will have to tie off the boat before it comes off the trailer.

Once you see the boat floating, tap the breaks to help it float clear of the trailer.  Your partner should yell to you when the boat is clear and then you can proceed to pull the trailer out of the water.  Have your partner get the engine started as you park the tow vehicle and trailer so you can get out of the way as soon as possible.

Retrieving the boat is basically the same thing as launching but has one or two different steps.  Once you dock the boat, back the trailer into the water until it is submerged enough to where the boat can float to the hook.  I like to make sure the pad that the front of my boat sits on is right under the water line.

Once I get the trailer in this position, I hook the boat to the trailer and then crank the handle on the hook a couple times until the boat is secure.  If everything is secure, you can proceed to pull the boat out of the water.  Once the boat is out of the water, make your way to the staging area and finish getting the boat ready for the trip home.

If you are nervous about your ability to launch or retrieve a boat, do not be.  Hopefully, this article will convince you that launching and retrieving a boat is actually a simple process.  If I can learn how to do it, you definitely can.


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