Are you sick and tired of boat ramp ridicule? Wouldn’t you like to get your fishing machine into and out of the water in a matter of seconds, instead of providing entertainment for those dock-walkers? Launching and retrieving your boat is a stressful situation, one which can define your reputation among your piers. Use these ten trailer boat tricks, and you’ll look like a pro each and every time and be a boat ramp champ.
1. The Low-Water Launch Trick – A super-low tide is a common problem that makes launching a real challenge. But it’s not a problem at all, if you know this low-water launch routine. First, remove all tie-downs and prepare the boat for launching. Then pull out 10’ or so of line from the winch. Leave the winch strap attached to the bow eye, and the winch disengaged. Next, secure a long mooring line (with at least 10’ to 15’ of slack) from a bow cleat to the trailer tongue. Back as far as possible down the ramp, and assuming your boat still isn’t floating, pull back up five feet. Then release the brake and allow your truck to roll backwards freely. Just before you reach the end of the ramp, slam down the brakes. Momentum will get the boat sliding, and when it gets 10’ down the trailer, the winch strap will slow it and keep it from sliding back out of control. If it goes too far, that mooring line is your fail-safe.
2. Current Events – Few things make it tougher to get your boat back on the bunks than a strong cross-current. The big mistake most people make is to try and take it slow from a close starting point. The slower you attempt to drive your boat onto the trailer, 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’ away from the trailer. Sit in neutral for a moment, and observe how quickly your boat moves. Then circle back up-current, and head for the trailer with a fair amount of heat on; on my boat I’d be doing four or five mph, for example, fast enough to make a good shot at the trailer but slow enough to stop if I slam it in reverse. If you see you’re going to miss, do not try to counter-steer—once you’re off center you will not 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, you can load with a more manual method: have a buddy walk out on it and hold a line, which you secured to the fore and aft cleats. He should hold it in the middle, pulling the bow or stern as necessary to counter the effect of the current, as you power onto the trailer.
3. Wind Worries – Fighting a strong wind is even worse than fighting a strong current when you’re attempting to retrieve a boat, 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. First off, lower all canvass tops, Biminis, and side curtains to reduce your boat’s windage. Also make sure to back the trailer down right up against a pier, on the leeward side. The pier will create a slight wind shadow, so there’s less blowing against your boat. Then use the same tactics you would when fighting a current, to get the boat onto the trailer.
4. Stuck Truck – You’re truck’s burning rubber at the ramp, but nothing moves? You’ll need to use your boat to help get the truck started moving uphill—but be careful, because the potential for disaster is huge. First, secure the boat to the trailer, even if it means getting into the water to secure transom tie-downs to the trailer’s submerged rear-end. Otherwise, if the bow stop shears off, your boat could end up crashing into the stern of your truck. Don’t laugh—it’s happened more than once.
Trim your motor down so it forces the stern up and the bow down, and apply power 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 it up ASAP, so your skeg doesn’t eat concrete.
5. Light Fight – If you trailer a boat, then you probably replace a lot of light bulbs. Why do they go out so often? Because they heat up as you drive to the ramp, then pop when you back down it and they’re bathed by cool water. To keep those lights running, simply un-plug your lights and allow a minute or two for a cool-down period, before launching the boat.
6. Buy Smart – There are two products that make trailering and launching a much easier feat: Liquid Rollers, and the EZ Hitch. Liquid Rollers is a $5 can of lubricant made by MaryKate, which makes your carpeted bunks every bit as slick as rollers. Suddenly, launching and retrieving becomes far, far easier than it used to be. An application lasts for several months, and you can find the stuff in any boating store. But be careful—boats that used to stay put will now slide free, and this unexpected slickness has accounted for more than one hull that ended up laying on the ramp.
The EZ hitch is a $50 V-shaped steel plate and mount that sits in front of your ball hitch. When you back up your truck in the pre-dawn morning, if you can get within six inches of the trailer tongue the V catches it and pushes it into the correct position. If you’re sick and tired of backing up, getting out to look, re-aligning the truck, getting out to look again, etc., the EZ hitch belongs on your truck.
7. Sway Away – Does your rig sway on the highway? If so, you might not make it to the ramp in the first place. You need to fix this problem fast; most of the time, sway issues are related to weight distribution. It’s not a side-to-side problem, but a fore and aft problem. You either have too much or too little tongue weight, which should be about 10-percent of the load. If sway is an issue with your rig, try shifting weight from the stern to the bow, and vice-versa. If you can, do so by removing weight, not adding it. Also try trailering with your fuel tanks low, and fill them just before you launch—gas is about six pounds per gallon, so this can make a huge difference in the load weight.
8. Trailering Do’s: DO put a cotter pin, bolt, or lock through the locking hole on the lever of a ball coupler. DO give your trailer a freshwater rinse after each and every saltwater bath (especially the brakes). DO launch without dunking the bearings at all, where/when possible. DO move your trailer a few feet if it’s sat for more than two weeks, to reduce tire dry rot. DO chock a wheel of the truck whenever you launch or retrieve.
9. Trailering Don’ts: DON’T try to pull the trailer back up onto a ramp after backing off of the end, until you first remove the boat (thus getting rid of all of the weight bearing down on the wheels). DON’T ever trailer a boat without transom tie-downs. DON’T tow a boat and trailer combination that has not been balanced—just because a hull fits on the bunks does not mean the rig will ride right.
10. Attitude is Everything – When you pay attention to all of these tips and still screw up at the ramp—because it will happen, even to the best of us—keep a smile on your face and laugh along with all of the guys who are watching. A sour attitude will only make matters worse!
You can find more specific Atlantic coast, bay and ocean hotspots and how-to/where-to fishing and boating information in many of y Lenny Rudow's books. Check them by clicking here