Unlaunching a Boat

A few trailer tricks make the job easier.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Depth means everything when you're trying to reload a boat on a trailer. Put the trailer in too shallow and you may need to stop by the chiropractor on the way home from the lake. Back the trailer in too deep and the boat flounders around like a sick whale until it finally beaches itself crossways on the bunks, threatening to leap off as soon as you pull it out of the water.

Reloading ought not to be an ego-threatening business, but it occasionally turns out to be, especially if there are a few know-it-alls watching your efforts, or worse, giving you advice.

No-Hassle Loading
The tactic that works best with drive-on trailers using pressurized grease fittings in the hubs is to back in until the bunks are completely wet-this helps the hull slide more easily. Then pull forward until only about the back half of the bunks are submerged.

When you power onto the trailer, the exposed part of the bunks will cozy the bow into exactly the right position. The stern, which is the heaviest part of the boat, remains afloat and allows you to motor forward until you're against the roller on the winch stand or just a few inches from it. Hook up the strap, take a few turns on the winch if necessary, and you're done.

Sometimes it doesn't work the way it's supposed to because the ramp angle is wrong or there's a hole that causes the trailer to lean to one side. On a ramp that's too deep, the best solution is to put a stern line on the boat to allow you to jockey it into position once you have the bow tacked in place with the winch cable. Or, if you've got a partner, he can sit in the boat and use the motor to keep the boat centered while you ease up the ramp enough to bring the bunks under the hull and get the boat in place.

Boat Askew
If one side of the trailer is down due to an uneven ramp, it's best to pull out, move over a foot or two and try to get the trailer level; otherwise, you may have to toss rocks into the hole to level things out. You also need to get the bow centered on the front roller to supply support there, and the transom has to be far forward enough that it's totally supported by the bunks. A transom hanging off the back end of a trailer bunk is like a beer belly hanging over your belt-it may not hurt at all for a while, but sooner or later both are going to cause structural problems in the skeletons to which they are attached. Adjust this by moving the winch stand forward far enough so that the transom is secure on the bunks.