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mrhodes916

Nervous Newbie

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Hello all, my wife and I recently purchased a 2003 Sunesta 223 and although we aren't totally new to boating, we are both new to boat ownership. The boat was previously owned by my father and it was always moored at the lake...so going out on the lake for the day was as easy as just walking down to the dock, starting it up, and backing it out of the slip.

Now that the weather here in northern CA is getting warm, we are looking forward to taking it out for the first time ourselves but it is no longer moored at the lake and I'm just a bit nervous about launching it from and retrieving it back onto the trailer for the first time. I have ready many posts in this forum and I have watched many videos on youtube but I'm still wondering...just how difficult is it? I don't expect that launching it will be too much of a problem, it's retrieving it that makes me a little nervous. The trailer has those two vertical "guide bunks" on the back end so I'm hoping that those will help to give me a target to aim for and then guide me onto the correct position on the trailer once I get the boat between them. What I'm not certain of is the part of the whole process that my wife is going to be capable of or comfortable with performing. I may have to dock the boat, go get the trailer and back it down, walk down the dock and switch places with my wife, drive the boat onto the trailer and have her winch it up. Is that "acceptable"? Are other boaters going to get upset if it takes us a bit longer than normal our first few times? I would really like to go out during the week when it isn't busy to practice launching and retrieving but I don't see that as being an option since my wife and I both work M-F.

Anyway, I've heard many stories (and have even witnessed a couple myself) about people with short fuses at the boat ramp and I want to avoid that at all costs. I've read enough to know that I should load and prepare the boat in the parking lot before I even get in line for the ramp, don't forget the drain plug, trim down after backing the boat into the water, trim up before pulling the boat out, etc...I just want to have peace of mind about the actual launching and retrieving parts of the process. Any tips or words of encouragement would be appreciated. Thanks!

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I would take a day off of work during the week and head on down and practice. It's not that difficult, but you don't want to be "that guy" on the weekend that ends up holding everyone else up or worst ends up on You Tube. One big thing that I do is to dip my trailer pretty deep when I am loading, this way I can use the guides and am not cranking it back 10 feet onto the trailer. I pretty much hook it up and turn the crank a few times to snug it in and then slowly pull out and allow the boat to settle on the trailer. After a few tries, you will know exactly how deep to dip the trailer for the best results. Practice makes perfect, but also don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Us boaters are a pretty welcoming group. Take some time and head on down to the ramp and watch others do it. And welcome to the Forum.

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It's best if possible to go on a weekday for your first time, when it's not crowded. The worst thing you can do is have any onlookers intimidate you and make you hurry. Sometimes, if there are some nice enough people around, they will give you a hand if they see you are having issues. If anyone around is looking impatient just tell them you are new at this. They've been there before, too.

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we all were noobies at one time :) Like everyone else said go on a weekday when it is not so busy. I would even suggest you find a launch that is in a protected area if you can. What I mean by that find one where wind and current won't effect you. On weekends there can be a lot of pressure but never let it effect you and take your time.

It won't take you long to get comfortable and soon it will just be a routine. If your really nervous create yourself a checklist so you don't forget anything :)

Congrats on your new ownership and welcome to the Chap family!

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What I'm not certain of is the part of the whole process that my wife is going to be capable of or comfortable with performing.

I gave my wife a simple choice. Learn how to drive the boat on or learn how to back up a trailer. She chose the boat. Just be patient and she'll get it.

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Try to find a nice wide ramp that will allow you to take your time and others to go about their routine around you. If you only have a single width ramp and take a long time, sometimes others can get impatient. Weekdays are best or early morning on the weekends, at least until you have done it a few times. Bring your wife into the process slowly. I did it all at first, but now she backs the truck in and parks it and I load/unload. Try doing it without a stiff sidewind or current at first. it can compound a difficult situtation.

Admittingly it is intimidating the first few times but after a few dunks and retrieves, you will feel alot more confident. Good luck and welcome to the group.

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Welcome to the group..... :oregonian_winesmiley:

If you cant get to a ramp during the week try getting there early most ramps around here are pretty quiet till 10:30 or so. One of the hardest things to master is going backwards with a trailer, it takes a lot of practice. Find a deserted parking lot and both of you practice during the week. When you can go backwards (straight) using the mirrors for 100 yards. You'll be able to back-up anywhere, anytime, all the time. When we had our first boat I tried to get the Admiral to drive the truck and trailer didn't work to well. She didn't like driving the boat either made for a real pain. I'd dock the boat (out of the way), go get the trailer back it in. Then she would get it the truck, I'd get back in the boat. She would back the trailer in deeper if need be. Drive the boat on the trailerI then would jump off the front and winch it up.

When we got this one we had to streamline the process. So I spent a lot of time letting her learn how to drive then maneuver the boat. RULE # 1....never raise your voice. She will make mistakes and scratch the boat. She gets more upset than I do and I have to fix them.

Now I back the trailer in she launches it and lands it. I haven't landed the boat in 3 years, last time I did I missed the trailer. She does it even when we have help, I just sit there.

The biggest mistake I see newbies do is not plan a head when they launch or dock the boat. So many times I see newbies with New boats that don't have any fenders or lines out when they get to the dock.

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Thanks for the helpful responses. First lesson learned is that from this point forward my wife will be referred to as "the Admiral".

"Toddler" and "Escape Plan", I think your process will probably end up working out the best for us with me backing the trailer down the ramp and the Admiral launching and landing it. It sounds like we just need to get out and practice. I know that I definitely need practice going backwards with the trailer. When my dad and I pulled the out of the lake a few weeks ago I'm pretty sure that I did an "S" pattern all the way down the ramp...it was more difficult than I thought it would be. It didn't help that the lake level is still way down so the ramp was probably twice as long as normal. It was a little more embarrassing than I thought it would be too...even though it was cold and rainy there were still quite a few bass fishermen out there who I'm sure got a good chuckle. Oh well...looks like I'll be spending some time in a parking lot this weekend!

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I've commented on several threads on this topic - perhaps you already read some of those. Short answer - You can do this and so can your wife. For us, it has turned out she is more comfortable backing the trailer in and having me doing the launching/recovering.

The previous advice is spot on: find a ramp that's not too busy at some point during the week and just do some practice. It gets easier and more comfortable every time. The following will look intimidating but I'm giving some "why" in here. You can simplify it to just get the "What" and it will be a dead easy procedure.

Keith's Fool-Proof Boat Recovery Procedure, aka The most important things I learned the hard way:

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. 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 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 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.

*Go to Wal-Mart, Dick's, Sports Authority, or Academy Sports and spend the $30 for simple walkie-talkies - one for the boat driver, one for the tow vehicle driver - you will be glad you did. Nothing draws more attention and is more embarassing to you and your wife than being that guy who is yelling over the noise of the engine at his wife who can't hear him but everybody else within a mile radius is hearing everything.

Good luck - you guys can do this.

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Admiral and I still use the 2 ways: very handy.

BEST TIP I'VE FOUND FOR BACKING A TRAILER: place your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. Move your hand in the same direction you want the trailer to go.

Welcome and congrats. My BiL has a 223 as well.

PICT0018.jpg

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Remember the drain plug, or you will learn quickly how to put the boat back on the trailer.

You might consider practicing backing-up the trailer in an empty parking lot, before heading to the boat launch. For many, backing-up is the hardest part of trailering. So don't worry if your first few times are a little rough. With practice, you will become a pro.

brick

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Remember the drain plug, or you will learn quickly how to put the boat back on the trailer.

You might consider practicing backing-up the trailer in an empty parking lot, before heading to the boat launch. For many, backing-up is the hardest part of trailering. So don't worry if your first few times are a little rough. With practice, you will become a pro.

brick

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Avoiding the dreaded double post is harder than launching.

brick

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I did the easy way out of having any problems launching or reloading in terrible winds WITH terrible currents.

Simple

You install 4 vertical guide on poles.

2 at the rear of the trailer & for my style of boats. 2 more about at the widest part of the hull when the boat is centered on the trailer. I leave a 1 " clearance on each pole as the boat passes thru them.

ALL 4 are HEAVY WALLED Aluminum electrical pipe. Took the pipes with the finished lengths on each leg of the bends to a COMMERICAL ELECTRICIAN with a heavy duty HYDRAULIC PIPE BENDER. Done right the first time.

I bought some Stainless Steel threaded rod to make my own pipe clamps & some SS pieces from a metal shop.

When the pipes are in place I then bought some cheap WHITE plastic pipe that slides over the vertical part of the pipes. Raised the white up so it would turn easily & put SS pipe straps below them. That allows the WHITE sleeves to turn as a boat pushes very hard in wind & currents.

Think a lot of different ways at each step. IT MUST WORK PERFECTLY ON PAPER. Before any buying.

Caution

The rear bent pipes NEED TO BE several feet than the highest part of the boat hull on the trailer. Why ? When you have to back into a VERY STEEP ramp ?

You may need about 3' or more of length on those 2.

Will the guideons bend ? yes. That high wind & current condition needs to have the trailer back in at up to a 45 degree angle. To keep the trailer in place as you put pressure on the pole.

I have loaded the 186 alone in about 8 mph currents with no problems...............Make DAMMM sure you will still have deep enough water when launching & retrieving at 45 degrees. I wait until I can use the most UP RIVER part of a dual ramp.

Piece of cake with 4 poles to guide on.

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A little trick when backing.

Put your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel instead of the top and when using your mirrors whatever way you move your hand, the trailer will go the same way.

When your hand is on the top of the wheel your movement is backwards which gets confusing quickly.

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as many others have mentioned practice, practice. when I had my sunesta I took it to a big parking lot and practiced backing into the slots. it helped a lot and like others mentioned a busy ramp adds tension so take your time. hurrying up just leads to mistakes which will take longer and cause problems. I enjoyed getting my kids involved too. we had a checklist and assignments at the staging area and my admiral read them off (that was her only job!!)

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As far as backing the trailer goes...the first time I did it a few weeks ago I was aware of the little trick of putting my hand on the bottom of the wheel but I assumed that once I got my truck and trailer lined straight up with the ramp that I could just hold the wheel steady and it would head straight down the ramp. Obviously I was wrong. So can I assume that I'll be making small corrections with the wheel back and forth the whole time I back down the ramp? I'm sure I'll figure these things out for myself when I go out and practice but knowing what to expect ahead of time will help. Thanks again for all of the responses.

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A few things we do when we retrieve the boat. the Admiral backs the trailer deep in the water to wet the bunks, then pulls it back to where the front of the fender is just sticking out above the surface. As mentioned before, that will vary with the steepness of the ramp. I then pull the boat onto the trailer up to within 2 feet or so of the winch. I shut her down and raise the trim and climb off of the bow onto the front of the trailer. I hook up the winch strap and winch the boat up the rest of the way as my wife backs it down in slow increments. Been doing it this way since I had a friend power his up too far as a wake came in and broke his winch roller and gouged up his bow.

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Agree with Futzin' - Small corrections being the key word. Once you are lined up it only takes small incremental corrections to stay that way. Overcorrecting aggravates the situation.

One last tip for the learning phase and you may have already thought about this. When launching, you're mainly just trying to float the boat off the bunks. You don't have to be 100% perpendicular to the water to do that. If the ramp is not crowded or is very wide and you realize you're canted off to one side a little but still able to splash the boat without getting your rear truck tires wet, just go ahead and back the boat off the trailer and go park the truck and trailer. Know the ramp area, though - we have some ramps that have sharp drop-offs or deep mud on either side of the concrete apron and it's a bad day when you get off onto that stuff.

It's coming back in where you may want to be more picky about alignment because it is more crucial here. If you have the vertical guide posts installed (I don't have them - maybe I should), you can be a little sloppy on alignment on recovery as well because you have three reference points (the two guide posts and the winch post up front) to help you see whether you are aligned with the bunks or not and guide yourself onto the trailer from the off-angles. Again, with practice you will be going straight down and up in short order but during the learning period this could be a help. I know lots of people who've been trailering with guide posts for 20 years and think I'm crazy for not having them.

Sorry to beat you to death with the minor stuff - it runs the risk of making it seem a lot more complicated than it really is. Some parking lot work to practice backing, turning, straightening, hitting the hole, etc is key. The rest is remembering straps and plug. When you realize you left the plug out (and you will - virtually guaranteed), just don't panic, hit the bilge pump right away and calmly move back toward the ramp while telling the driver on your handy walkie-talkies that you bought to come back down the ramp, please.... Calmness is key because a panicky driver has trouble backing a trailer down a ramp and time will be of the essence. Otherwise you will be doing a Jacque Cousteau imitation...

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I use my mirrors, and very slight corrections. If your trailer is too far out of line, pull forward to straighten out, then resume backing. Go slow and easy.

brick

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This may go without saying, but use your side-view mirrors and don't look over your shoulder. Once you get used to only using the mirrors, the over the shoulder look will screw you all up. Take it slow and forget about all those uptight goons at the ramp who are in a big hurry to give you dirty looks! It will become second nature with some practice.

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