Launching and Retrieving: How Far Should You Submerge the Trailer?

If you have a trailer boat, you already know that one of the most stressful parts of any day is launching and retrieving. (Read 5 Tips for Launching a Boat Single-Handed, to see some tips on doing the chore by yourself). And one of the biggest reasons why people botch a launch or a retrieve is because they don’t submerge the trailer far enough. Another big reason? They submerge the trailer too far.

Getting your trailer submerged to the proper depth is an important part of trouble-free launching and retrieving.

Don’t back down the ramp far enough, and the boat won’t drive onto the trailer no matter how hard you try. Sure, you can usually winch on the boat, but most packages are actually designed for driving the boat on—and winching, especially over a dry bunk trailer, can put a lot of stress on the winch, the strap or cable, and the bow eye. (On most roller trailers, it’s not nearly as big a deal). On the flip side, if you back down too far and the trailer doesn’t catch the bow because it’s completely submerged, you might drive right past the bunks or rollers and smash the bow into the bowrest, drive the keel across the trailer frame, or even crash into the back of your truck. Don’t laugh—I’ve seen it happen.

Just how deep you should place the trailer for retrieval is best determined when you’re launching it. Back down far enough that the stern of the boat begins to float, but the bow of the boat is still resting on the trailer. That should make it easy to pull the boat both on and off the trailer under its own power. Savvy trailer boaters mark the trailer where it meets the water so they can tell at a glance when they have it in the right spot.

If only it were that simple… Naturally, those of you who have owned trailer boats for an extended period of time know that all ramps are not created equal. They have different grades, and if you regularly launch at one with a steep grade then one day travel to a ramp with a much shallower grade, the mark you made might not be the best place to launch from. In fact, your boat might be sitting high and dry… or on the flip side, might float free of the trailer. The bottom line? A healthy dose of common sense needs to be applied, each and every time you launch or retrieve your boat.

Lenny Rudow:
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