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Less Stress at the Boat Ramp



Boat ramps can get hectic, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Here are some tips that will not only make your experience safer but also ensure a more pleasant start and finish to your day.


If you’ve spent much time around boat ramps, you know it can get hectic, especially early in the morning as people are heading out and late in the afternoon when everyone is coming in after a long day on the water. Add to that factors like an approaching storm, and it’s going to get pretty stressful if you’re not prepared. Here are some tips that will not only make your experience safer, but also ensure a more pleasant start or finish to your day on the water.


First and foremost, know how to back your trailer into the water. If you do not have experience backing a trailer, thinking you can learn at the boat ramp is a bad idea. First take some time to do a little research. Start by reading this article and watching the accompanying videos from BoatUS.


Next, it’s a good idea to either practice at home in your driveway, or go to an empty parking lot and spend some time practicing the techniques you’ve read about. Remember to be patient and think through each move before making it.


After some practice, you’re ready to head to the boat ramp. When you arrive, pull over away from the ramp (and all the traffic) to prepare your boat. You may want to make yourself a cheat sheet and keep it in the visor of your vehicle for a quick reference.  

  • Load everything you’ll need on the boat before you put it in the water. This will save valuable time and not hold others up once your boat is in the water.
  • Put the key in the ignition.
  • Remove the transom straps.
  • Check that the drain plug is in.
  • Tie a line to the bow so you have a hold of the boat once it is off the trailer – make sure that line is easily accessible (but not dragging on the ground).     
  • Do not unhook the winch strap and chain that attach the bow of the boat to the trailer. Doing so could cause your boat to come off the trailer onto the ramp.


Now that you’re ready and it’s your turn to back down the ramp, remain calm. Don’t get in a rush. Open your windows so you can hear direction from the person giving you guidance as you’re backing. Take your time, and if the boat and trailer get out of line just pull forward and start again.


Once you have the boat in the water, put the car in park, and engage your parking brake. Do not turn off your vehicle just in case you need to quickly pull the car away from the ramp. Hand the line to the person assisting you so they can keep the boat alongside the dock once it’s off the trailer. Unhook the wench and push the boat off. You should then be free to get back in your vehicle, disengage the parking brake, and pull forward to a parking space. Once on the boat, don’t forget to lower your engine(s) before turning the ignition key.  


Remember the most important thing at the boat ramp is patience. When you return, take your time, wait your turn, then get your vehicle and back down the ramp again. Be sure the boat is securely attached to the wench and is sitting even on the trailer before pulling it out of the water. Like you did earlier in the day, pull off to the side before you remove the plug, put the straps back on and unload items from the boat. Be sure to remove anything that could fly off as you drive down the road. Once home, you can wash down the boat and flush the motor(s).