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Launch control

Boat launch

From Club Marine Magazine, tips on how to launch and retrieve a trailerboat like a boss

Whether you’re new to the game or have launched more boats than the Queen, here’s a checklist worth having with you whenever you’re heading out for a day on the water with your trailerboat.

It’s recommended to check and recheck to ensure that no unpleasant surprises await as you prepare to take your turn backing down the ramp. If you’re new to the towing and launching game, practise backing on an uncrowded boat ramp, and make your own checklist and carry it with you whenever you go boating.


  • Is all the safety gear in the boat?
  • Have you packed the winch handle?
  • Make sure your bung(s) are in the boat – before you leave home
  • Check the battery is sufficiently charged
  • Walk around the boat and trailer and ensure everything is shipshape
  • Lock the trailer hitch onto the towball
  • Connect the towing safety chain(s)
  • Connect the trailer lights and ensure they are all working
  • Ensure the manual brake lever on the trailer is released and the ratchet lever is rotated to the rear of the trailer
  • Check that the brake lockout is disengaged
  • Check that the winch is locked and the safety chain to the bow of the boat is secured
  • Check that the tie-downs are secured
  • Check that the outboard or sterndrive leg is raised
  • Ensure that nothing in the boat will blow out while towing
  • Finally, recheck the trailer hitch is locked to the towbar

Prior to backing down the ramp …
  • Recheck the bung(s)
  • Ensure you have secure ropes for launching and docking
  • Release and stow the tie-downs
  • Make sure the trailer’s brake lock is engaged
  • Ensure the outboard is off its rest
  • Prime the fuel line. If you have a tote tank, make sure the fuel vent is open and fuel line is attached and primed
  • Make sure the battery is switched on
  • Loosen, but do not release the safety chain

On the ramp ...
  • Inspect the ramp and drop-off to ensure the trailer wheels won’t drop over the edge and that there are no obstructions
  • Back the trailer far enough into the water to allow the boat to be driven or pushed off safely
  • If you are on the boat alone you must wear an approved PFD in most states
  • The person in the boat should lower and start the engine and snick it into Forward
  • The safety chain should be disconnected
  • The winch hook can then be released and the boat can then be backed off the trailer
  • If launching at night or in low-light conditions, dip your headlights so as not to impede others on a multi-lane ramp

  • Make sure the trailer is deep enough – but not too deep – so the boat can follow the trailer guides or rollers
  • Ensure the handbrake is on and the car is in gear or Park
  • Ensure the winch, winch handle and safety chain are ready
  • Either winch the boat into the winch post or have the skipper drive the boat up to the post
  • Once the boat is hard against the post, secure the winch hook to the bow eye
  • Secure the bow safety chain

AND FINALLY ...Boat launch
Before heading for home …
  • Check the boat is secured, including reattaching the tie-downs and lifting the engine or leg
  • Remove the bung(s)

The main thing is always to maintain your cool, stay calm and try to stick to a set routine. In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to overlook some crucial item that could, at the very least, cause embarrassment and disruption to a day on the water, or at worst provoke a serious and possibly expensive incident.

Taken from a story in Vol 33.1 Club Marine Magazine.