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Back at the Ramp

Getting the boat back on the trailer is a matter of reversing what you did to get the boat into the water — with a few exceptions.

1. Drop the truck/trailer driver at the dock. This is a good time to allow crew members to get off the boat to use facilities. Make sure they stay away from the boat ramp traffic.

2. Tie up either outside of the dock or at the end of the dock so other boats can launch, or circle a short distance away while you wait for the trailer to be backed into position. Don't park your boat at the bottom of the ramp while you wait for the trailer if others are waiting to use the ramp.

TIP: If you back the trailer too far into the water, the boat will become misaligned on the trailer. This is a common complaint readers send to the BoatUS Trailering Guys and the answer is, almost always, the trailer is too far into the water.

3. When you see the trailer being backed down the boat ramp, move toward the end of the ramp to load the boat.

4. Bring the boat to the trailer while the driver of the tow vehicle blocks the tow vehicle wheels, unlocks the winch cable or strap, and moves into position on the trailer to connect it to the bow eye.

During this time, if you've left someone aboard, have them shut down the engine and raise the outboard or stern drive. Have a dockline ready to be thrown to the driver on the trailer. Then, if possible, get off the boat and assist with the retrieval where needed.

5. Attach the winch strap or cable to the bow eye and crank the winch until the bow is snug to the trailer post. Attach the safety chain to the bow eye. Return to the tow vehicle, unblock the wheels, and proceed up the ramp. Don’t stop at the top; keep going to a staging area away from traffic preparing to launch or retrieve.

TIP: Boat guides are a big help in lining the boat up with the trailer after returning to the ramp.

6. Here you want to secure the transom straps, tie-downs, and transom saver (if applicable); remove the drain plug; and load items from the boat into the tow vehicle. Inspect the boat for anything that can possibly blow away while on the road. Also take a few minutes to remove weeds or vegetation on the boat or trailer and if possible, give the boat a rinse to minimize the risk of moving invasive species (see "How To Wash A Trailer"). This is the time to lower the bimini and VHF antennae.

7. If you unplugged the trailer lights, this is the moment to plug them back in.

Wet Ramp Tactics

Take Your Time

On a slippery/wet ramp, accelerate slowly so as not to break the traction of the drive wheels in the first place.

Add Some Weight

Additional weight over the drive wheels that are spinning is essential. Usually people in the back seat of an SUV or in the bed of a pick-up can help.

Deflation Nation

If desperate measures arise, deflate the traction tires so you create more surface area for the tires to grip the ramp.


Pat Piper

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

Pat Piper has written for many magazines including BoatUS Magazine, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, and Diabetes Health and has written/ghostwritten eight books. He's currently an executive editor for Westwood One Radio.