One of the most important parts of owning a boat is shepherding it to and from the water. Whether your boat gets docked throughout the season or lives in your driveway when you’re not on the water, there will be some amount of transportation involved in owning a boat. So, what kind of trailer should you get, and how do you use it once you have it? Here’s a trailering guide that’ll give you the basics.
Types of Boat Trailers: Bunk Trailer vs Roller Trailer
Not all trailers are made equal, and different types suit different boats and different owner needs better than others. Knowing the various kinds will help you choose what’s right for you and your boat.
Bunk trailers have a relatively simple design that consists with parallel boards, or bunks, lined with carpet and spaced to support the boat’s hull. Friction between the bunks and the hull helps keep the boat in place when backing down or pulling up a ramp. They’re generally less expensive than other options but require deeper water at the ramp to launch.
In place of bunks, roller trailers have small rollers or wheels that support the boat on the trailer. These allow the boat to easily glide on or off the trailer. This also gives roller trailers the ability to launch at shallow or undeveloped boat ramps, or off many riverbanks.
Boat Trailer Size: Measuring Your Boat
Once you pick what kind of trailer you want, it’s vital to make sure that your trailer will do the job that you need it to do. The biggest part is ensuring that it is the correct size for the boat you will be hauling.
Boat Trailer Length and Width
Check the trailer’s length and width against the boat you’ll be hauling to make sure it’ll fit. Additionally, some states have different width requirements for trailers, so it’s good to know the dimensions to check against local regulations.
Supporting the weight of the boat is obviously one of the most important parts of the trailer’s function. Trailers typically have their weight limits displayed on them, making it easy to check. When calculating your boat’s weight, make sure you take into account the engine, equipment and fuel.
How to Trailer a Boat
With your trailer chosen and correctly sized, next you have to learn how to use it. Like many parts of boat ownership practice will help you perfect it. Read on for a step-by-step guide on the basics of hauling your boat on a trailer.
1. Check Boat Trailer Weight & Vehicle Towing Capacity
Like making sure your trailer can sustain the weight of your boat, you should make sure that your vehicle and trailer can work together. Check your boat and trailer’s weight against your vehicle’s tow capacity. If you end up pulling something that is too heavy for your vehicle, it can damage your vehicle and be dangerous for you and other drivers.
2. Hitch Trailer to Vehicle
To get your journey underway, the next step is to safely attach your trailer to your vehicle. You should start by checking your hitch and ensuring that you have the correct size ball receiver on it. When you purchase your trailer, information should be included about what size ball is required. Make sure that your hitch pin is secured so the receiver doesn’t slip out of the vehicle’s hitch attachment. Then, connect your trailer to your vehicle by putting the coupler on top of the ball receiver. Once it is in place, put its cotter pin back in place to lock it. For extra security, attach safety chains to the vehicle’s frame as well as a breakaway cord.
3. Load Boat onto Trailer
Once your trailer is attached, what’s next is to position your boat on it. Whether it is the forward or back or side to side orientation, every boat and trailer will have a sweet spot of the exact place the boat will reside. Check your trailer manual to find the proper placement of the boat and how to make any needed adjustments.
4. Secure with Boat Tie Downs
Use boat tie downs to secure the boat to the trailer. Also, be sure to secure gear inside the boat so fenders and life jackets don’t blow away while in transit. A boat cover, properly secured can keep the everything in place.
5. Connect Trailer Lights
The final step in getting ready is to attach your trailer to your vehicle’s electrical system to make sure that you have functioning lights on your trailer. If you do not do this, any signals that you make on the road will not be visible to other drivers, making you a significant road hazard. Nonfunctional trailer lights are also a traffic infraction that can get you in trouble, so it’s better to make sure they’re set up and ready to go.
Boat Trailer Safety & Considerations
Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure you are trailering safely.
Ensure Good Weather for Trailering
Make sure you check the weather forecast before you start trailering. If there is a chance of high winds that could jostle your boat or any potential for heavy rain that could hamper your visibility, it might be best to wait for clear weather conditions before you get underway.
Never Trailer Your Boat with Passengers
Do not under any circumstances haul your boat if there are people in the vessel. There is a huge injury risk associated with being in a vehicle that is being towed, as it is unlikely that passengers will be able to secure themselves safely in the boat. Additionally, it is illegal in most locations.
Exercise Caution While Driving
When you tow your boat, make an effort to drive as though you are taking a driver’s test. Extra care and precautions should be taken when a trailer is attached to your vehicle. Avoid sudden movements like quick lane changes or tight turns and be mindful of how much wider and longer your vehicle is with its load attached. Make sure you’re comfortable with the feeling of towing your boat before you set out, and be cautious on the road once you do.
Read Additional Boat Resources
For additional tips and tricks for new boat owners, check out these additional resources:
• Owner Resources
• New to Boating
• Hurricane Boat FAQ’s
• Deck Boat Forum