I posted this a few years ago... went back and found it so here's the text and the link. Take Iggy's advice and invest in a USCG course. If one is not available, see if you can find a Good Samaritan boater who will spend some time with you and perhaps make a complete run on the water with you including launch and recovery.... I've done a few of these myself and there are lots of experienced boaters who don't need much of a reason to get on the water...Good luck.
There are plenty of experts here that know a lot more than me and probably could sum this up in half the words, but since we are getting several first timers with H2Os and bowriders, I thought I would put this out there at least as a starting guide. I tried to be clear and make it a little entertaining.... Good luck first timer Newbies and "first time in 20 years" Newbies, too!
Keith's Fool-Proof Boat Launching Procedure, aka Things I learned the easy way from other boaters or the hard way myself: 1. Do ALL your pre-launch prep work AWAY from the ramp. Load the coolers, skis, jackets, towels, etc in the parking lot. Nobody wants to have to wait while watching you and your crew scramble around trying to get everything together at the water's edge no matter how many times you politely apologize and trust me, you will make mistakes and forget stuff when you do this, anyway.
While you're at it:
2. Remove transom straps and stow in the tow vehicle, preferably in the back near the hitch so you know EXACTLY where they are when you return off the water for recovery.
3. PUT THE PLUG IN. REPEAT. PUT THE PLUG IN. No more than 1/8 turn after finger tight, maybe even less than that. You want it very snug but not torqued. It will be harder to loosen than you remember tightening it in the first place, believe it or not.
4. Unhook the safety chain from the bow eye, and reverse the winch and feed out a couple of feet of strap.
5. Get into the boat and put out fenders on the side of the boat you will dock; attach docklines at the bow and stern. Ready your dock pole or a boat oar in case you will need it. If you aren't staying in the boat for the launch, toss out the bow line and get out of the boat to walk down the ramp as your partner backs the trailer. If you are launching from inside the boat, you are good to complete the rest of the steps.
6. Key in, power switch 'ON', Blower 'ON', stereo 'OFF'. Gas Gauge: DO YOU HAVE GAS?
7. Do a radio check with the tow vehicle driver - yep - a couple of those little Motorola walkie-talkies come in REALLY handy when launching and you don't look as awkward as you think you do. Over time practice and experience and some good hand signals might replace this but as a Newbie, you don't have that yet. I am starting my 8th (actually now 14th) season and I've already recharged my talkies. It's just easier for us this way. (Actually we now just use our cellphones)
Remember Launch Rule #1: Everybody at the ramp will hear what you are yelling except the person you are yelling at. Launch Rule #2: You are more likely to yell out dumb or confusing things at the boat ramp than any other place. Help yourself out - spend the $20 at Radio Shack/Gander Mtn/Bass Pro/Dick's/Academy for the talkies... (or be sure you each have a cellphone)
8. Back the trailer slowly down the ramp into the water. Slow and easy wins the day, very slight adjustments of the steering wheel will usually be just fine. If the trailer gets too far off line, just pull up 3-4 feet - it will straighten out. You don't have to go back to the top of the ramp. This is where you use the radio/cellphone to help your tow vehicle driver make the adjustments.
9. As the trailer wheels get to the water's edge, it's time to unhook the winch strap from the bow eye. If you can reach from inside the boat, do so or have a helper do it. In my family routine, my wife will usually stop the truck, put on the parking brake, and come unhook the winch strap while I take one last look around the cockpit to make sure we have everything - GAS IN THE TANK, ditty bag, jackets, towels, lunch/dinner, marine radio, Navionics tablet or chart plotter, etc. I will usually trim the lower unit down 50-75% here.
10. As the stern eases into the water but BEFORE the boat begins to float, start the engine. If the engine starts, radio the driver to keep easing in and when you feel the stern lift off the bunks you can ease into reverse to pull off the trailer. If you can't start, at least you are still on the trailer bunks and can reattach the winch strap and go back up into the parking lot to troubleshoot. Otherwise, idle over to the pier and tie off with your already attached docklines while the driver parks in the parking lot. Keep the radio/cellphone on so you can tell them to be sure to bring the thing you just realize didn't make it into the boat when you were prepping.
Easy peasy. Keith's Fool-Proof Boat Recovery Procedure:
The biggest mistake I see at the ramp (aside from forgetting the plug or the straps) has to do with trailer depth position relative to the water surface when it's time to re-trailer the boat. Different ramps have different grades of steepness - there is no standard for this so you have to kind of get a feel for the ones you use most often. You will find that you do NOT position the trailer for recovery (driving back on) at the same depth as it was when you launched. That's because you usually float the boat off the trailer, but you will want to drive the boat back onto the trailer. So, you will usually want to be a little shallower on the ramp as you start recovery. Do NOT sink the trailer too deep thinking "I'll just hover over the trailer, hook to the winch and then let it settle on the bunks as we move up the ramp." That may sound like a good idea but it's not. You risk not having proper alignment of the hull strakes (those longitudinal ridges going from back to front) on the bunks and not having the winch wound up tight enough. Besides, it almost never works.
1. If you have a tandem axle trailer, sink the first tires completely but not the second tires or fenders. As a starting point, leave the front 1/3 to 1/4 of the fender above the surface of the water and power the boat onto and up the bunks (if your ramp allows full engine power recoveries - some do not permit it so make sure you know in advance. If this is the case, prepare for a winch-a-thon).
2. Give yourself enough runway to glide up straight to the trailer - account for wind and current if there is any. Slow and steady wins the day getting onto the trailer - idle speed only. You may ease into and out of gear several times between starting and eventually touching onto the trailer bunks. This will take practice and experience.
3. It is okay to abort the drive-on by easing into reverse to stop and back away for another approach. At contact, you don't have to be 100% perfectly aligned - if only slightly off, the hull will self-align as it moves up the bunks - they are designed to do that (as long as you aren't like 20 degrees off center). If you do realize you are on the bunks but a little off center or sideways, don't worry about it - just ease into reverse and let the boat back down - usually 1-2 feet will do it - and it will align itself onto the bunks just as if you came in dead on in the first place. You'll see or feel the transom swing around that few degrees as it self-centers. Then just ease back into forward and drive the boat on up the bunks. (That little trick only took me three seasons to learn. I give it to you now for free.) DON'T ACCELERATE UP THE TRAILER BUNKS ANY FASTER THAN YOU WANT TO HIT THE WINCH POST.
4. Once the boat has settled onto the bunks properly aligned, trim up the lower unit no more than about 25% to ensure the skeg doesn't hang on the ramp before the bow hits the bow roller. If you trim up too much then accelerate, you'll likely be putting more force on the hull down onto the bunks at the hull pad (the very rear by the transom) and friction will keep the boat from moving on up the bunks. If you realize this is happening, bump the trim button down a 1-2 quick clicks and try again. Or, what I do at this point is use an inexpensive little Motorola two-way radio* to tell my wife to ease back down the ramp just another foot or so (don't wet the tires of the two vehicle, though) to help me close that last few inches between bow eye and the bow roller. Again, we're not sinking the trailer beneath the boat, just backing far enough to use some of the hull's buoyancy to relieve the force of friction on the bunks so I can power up the rest of the way.
5. At about 1 foot away from the bow roller, stop and attach the hook and winch strap (that you left reeled out about 18 inches after backing the trailer into the water to launch), then winch the strap tight. If you have help, the helper can winch while you drive up in a sort of push me/pull me technique until the bow eye settles nicely into the eye roller. If you find you aren't moving up the bunks to the roller, try bumping your trim up 1-2 nudges and then try throttling up again. Once you are on the roller, kill the engine and trim all the way up.
Good luck - you guys can do this.