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nkdenton

Fool-Proof Trailer Launch & Recovery Instructions

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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 season and I've already recharged my talkies. It's just easier for us this way.

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...

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 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, 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 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.

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Your first point under the launching procedures should be highlighted in bold print. The most irritated I get at the boat ramp is watching someone back part way down the ramp, then proceed to empty all of their coolers, skis, vests, etc from the vehicle into the boat. There is a reason that most ramps have a prep area where you can do all of this at your own pace and not hold up everyone else. I don't patiently waiting for someone who is a newbie with the vehicle or boat but waiting for people who are clearly oblivious to others around them elevates my blood pressure in a hurry. Sorry, end of rant. Unfortunately I realize that I'm preaching to the choir on this one as most of the people that I have witnessed doing this are likely not part of this forum. Everyone I have encountered here seems to be responsible boat owners who understand the common courtesies and the "rules of the road".

Hope everyone has a safe and fun summer.

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I was nodding yes the whole time while reading this. I wish a general Google search would bring this up for people to see. Well done, Keith!!

Also, +1 on CPA's post.

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On #9, If i did it your way, my boat would have slid right off the trailer. Not good.

We would use the VHF and the portable VHF. Cell phones work too just for that.

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On #9, If i did it your way, my boat would have slid right off the trailer. Not good.

We would use the VHF and the portable VHF. Cell phones work too just for that.

Yeah, depends on the steepness of the ramp. I actually start my engine before I unhook just to be sure it does start. After I fire it up and unhook the strap the Admiral backs the trailer down further as I reverse off of the trailer. We don't use radios or anything, we just have a hand signal system. We're really good, though. :banana2: (just kidding, but we have gotten compliments about our speed from other boaters)

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We back the trailer into the water enough for the lower unit to pick up water. While I start the boat and check under the hood for any leaks, admiral is disconnecting the bow strap and safety chain. Then one last reverse for launch, trimming down as back away from trailer.

We also use two way fmrs radios. Handy.

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Kieth this is great job.

Two things I do:

I open the engine hatch as we back in. Reason being that it vents it and one can see if anything is amiss while banking in. After you've started it you can also check again.

I do unhook the safety Chain(I use a strap), but leave it fastened to the trailer untill its running.

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Oh I forgot to say the Admiral launches and lands it. 'I drive My Truck'................ :drink-buddy:

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On #9, If i did it your way, my boat would have slid right off the trailer. Not good.

We would use the VHF and the portable VHF. Cell phones work too just for that.

Gotcha - I've been on ramps where either the steepness or the ramp material (blended concrete, gravel, and I don't know what all) changes my approach. And, a lot of people will change the order of things around in a way that makes better sense to them once they get used to the whole routine. I used to keep straps attached until at the water edge but the ramp we use 90% of the time is not very steep and is a pristine piece of concrete capable of three simultaneous launches so I do more de-rigging in the staging area.

Main thing is just to give newbies a documented approach they can use until they develop a preference for something different so we all have a good experience at the ramp :boating:

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Gotcha - I've been on ramps where either the steepness or the ramp material (blended concrete, gravel, and I don't know what all) changes my approach. And, a lot of people will change the order of things around in a way that makes better sense to them once they get used to the whole routine. I used to keep straps attached until at the water edge but the ramp we use 90% of the time is not very steep and is a pristine piece of concrete capable of three simultaneous launches so I do more de-rigging in the staging area.

Main thing is just to give newbies a documented approach they can use until they develop a preference for something different so we all have a good experience at the ramp :boating:

:beer-7687-1::clapsmiley:

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We do what Futzin' does, except my wife is driving the boat, and I am backing the trailer and unhooking. That's why I keep her...

brick

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Nice job, well written. Now what would you tell them do when there is no help to be had? Denny.

IMGP4745_zps88412ac1.jpg

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Yeah, that's different! Involves some acrobatics and scurrying around like a headless chicken. I've done it. No real problem but didn't enjoy it . . . kinda hate making those on the ramp wait longer. Plus ya gotta find somewhere to park the boat unattended while you park/pick up the truck. REALLY don't like leaving my boat around the craziness we've all seen at the boat ramps/courtesy docks.

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We do what Futzin' does, except my wife is driving the boat, and I am backing the trailer and unhooking. That's why I keep her...

brick

Huh? Keep the boat or cute wife?? :scratchchin::dancinguy:

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Nice job, well written. Now what would you tell them do when there is no help to be had? Denny.

IMGP4745_zps88412ac1.jpg

Aha, Denny! Only done that one twice....that involved the old put-your-boathook-on-the-pier-and-tie-two-docklines-together-to-make-one-40 footer trick. One end tied to the bow cleat and the other end tied to the winch post and back 'er all the way in until she floats off the bunks, jump out of the truck and grab the winch end of the extra long dockline, then run over to the pier while pulling the bow of the boat toward you....

On attempt #1, the wind was blowing toward the pier and everything worked out my way as I had my boathook already in hand as the boat drifted right to me. How superior I felt that day to all the other mere mortals who were skeptically watching me..... Attempt #2: comeuppance. The wind was blowing out away from the pier and it was one heck of a fight to keep the stern from floating back around on top of the sunken trailer.... To be honest, if the two guys in the bass boat hadn't been coming in I probably would have been screwed....

Here ends the confession.

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Actually, the boat is hers. That's why I stick around...

brick

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Gotcha - I've been on ramps where either the steepness or the ramp material (blended concrete, gravel, and I don't know what all) changes my approach. And, a lot of people will change the order of things around in a way that makes better sense to them once they get used to the whole routine. I used to keep straps attached until at the water edge but the ramp we use 90% of the time is not very steep and is a pristine piece of concrete capable of three simultaneous launches so I do more de-rigging in the staging area.

Main thing is just to give newbies a documented approach they can use until they develop a preference for something different so we all have a good experience at the ramp :boating:

Some trailers have bunks and some have rollers. That alone will change things along with the size of the boat.

On my old V258 Four Winns that trailer had rollers and the boat was so heavy that we had to start the engine & drop it in forward ( out-drive in the water) to take the load off the winch & safely chain. At that the boat would slid off the trailer half way due to the wight.

The plug: Any time it is out, I would tape it to the wheel. No way I can forget now, because I have.

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I did drop our last boat on the concrete by leaving the winch unhooked at launch time - the trailer had rollers. Won't make that mistake twice.

Minimal (cosmetic) damage to the boat.

I like this guys rope approach -

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I did drop our last boat on the concrete by leaving the winch unhooked at launch time - the trailer had rollers. Won't make that mistake twice.

Minimal (cosmetic) damage to the boat.

Man, that just hurts my feelings right there.... glad the damage was minimal. I've seen a couple of boats slide 2-3 feet down the bunks when the tow vehicle driver got too herky jerky on the brakes. That's when I started loosening but not disconnecting the winch hook until the boat's splashed.

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Interesting video, his method works for him, because he has practiced it and refined it and launches from a ramp that is familiar to him. The first thing that I do not agree with is removing your bow straps. Not until you have her safely in the water, no mater whether you have bunks or rollers. The second thing, ( even though it is a neat idea ), is that unless your boat is in the 32ft range, chances are you do not have a center cleat. And lastly, I would like to see a video of him launching, tying up, see where he parks the truck, and pulling away from the dock in one & one half to two minutes. I do agree on getting a system down and that will take some practicing. It is like when you first learned how to drive a car, you went to an empty parking lot and practice making turns and backing up. Do the same thing. If you can find an empty launch, put her in and out a few times until you feel comfortable. No two launches are alike, so you will have to make adjustments. Sometimes you will have to use your imagination. And always remember Murphy's Law. What can go wrong will go wrong . And consider the worst thing that could happen and be ready for it. Someone once said to me when I first started in my trade, you have been to school and now you are going to find out what the trade is really all about. Good luck to all you newbees. Denny.

IMGP6365_zps9778d86c.jpg

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Darnet, I've been doing it right all this time. Great info for all the first time boaters and also a refresher for us old sea dogs.

Thanks, Saul ;)

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"Power loading" is a big "no no" on Winnipesaukee and I'm sure is the case at a lot of other ramps. It destroys the bottom of the concrete ramps by pushing the sand or soil away causing a big pit where trailers will get caught loading their boats back on. I back down till the wheels are just under the water surface , then crank it onto the trailer. It self centers as it pulls up the rollers. Just my opinion

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"Power loading" is a big "no no" on Winnipesaukee and I'm sure is the case at a lot of other ramps. It destroys the bottom of the concrete ramps by pushing the sand or soil away causing a big pit where trailers will get caught loading their boats back on. I back down till the wheels are just under the water surface , then crank it onto the trailer. It self centers as it pulls up the rollers. Just my opinion

Which is why one of my steps is to determine if power loading is permitted or prepare for winch-o-rama.... Several launches prohibit it for exactly the reasons you stated....

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Sorry bout that . Missed that step. My eyes are gettin bad so I skim and catch every seventh word or so. Great write up for the new boater though.

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