Beginner Boating Tips - How to Launch Your Boat
There are a couple things you can do to make your first time a little easier. Ideally you will be able to find a friend who has a boat and is willing to come out with you and guide you through the process. There is nothing better than an experienced boater for teaching you right the first time. They have probably learned the hard way on a few things but hopefully you can learn from them. If you are the first person in your group of friends to make the leap into boating, good for you. I would recommend the best thing you can do is go to the ramp you plan to launch your boat and watch some people do it. Also, if something doesn't make sense, ask one of the boaters. Most boaters are more than happy to talk with you and give you tips, everyone had a 'first time' at some point.
One thing to note when you are watching boats launch, make sure to look at the type of boat. Really focus on the boats that are similar to yours. If you just bought a nice new fiberglass runabout boat you might not want to follow the lead of the local fisherman with the metal fishing skiff. The fisherman is probably not too concerned about hitting or scrapping rocks and also probably has a small outboard motor, where as you might have an I/O motor which is quite a bit different. Also, you will notice the ramps get very crowded during certain days and times. If this is your first time you want to make every effort to go at a time when it is not busy (i.e. -weekdays). The worst thing is having a whole lineup of boats behind you waiting for the ramp and getting you flustered launching your own boat.
So here are some tips and things to remember when launching your boat:
Before you put your Boat in the Water:
1). Put the plug in the boat and double check it. You do not want your boat in the water without the plug in. This has caused panic for many boaters. So double and triple check it is in. Everyone in the boat should be checking for this before it is launched.
2). Remove the trailer tie-downs, straps, and any engine supports or straps. It sounds obvious but it is easy to pull up to the ramp and back down before you remove these straps. Trying to get your boat off the trailer with the straps on makes for a good laugh later but is very frustrating while on the ramp.
3). Load you Gear into the Boat. It is usually easier to load up your towels, coolers, bags, etc while the boat is right behind your vehicle.
4). Make sure you have enough life vests/flotation devices. Once again sounds obvious if you are on a boat but it is easy to forget and if guests come along you need to make sure to add extras for them.
While your Boat is in the Water:
1). Back your trailer down the ramp to get your boat in the water. Put it in the water so the engine/outdrive is in the water but make sure the boat is not floating off the trailer. You want to make sure the boat is started and everything is properly working before you release the boat from the trailer.
2). Run the Blower - This will evacuate the engine compartment and make sure there an no explosive fuel vapors in there for starting
3). Make sure Kill Switch is set to Run - I think this is something everyone has run into at some point. It is easy for this to get bumped or to pull the attached lanyard. Anyways, if you turn the key and absolutely nothing happens this is the first thing to check.
4). Start the Boat. If needed give it a little gas with the drive mechanism in throttle only. You do not want the propeller to be turning while you are on the trailer.
5). Communicate between Drivers. The boat driver and the vehicle driver need to be on the same page at all times during this procedure.
6). Unhook the Boat. Release the remaining bow hooks that are keeping the boat on the trailer. Do this only after the boat has been started and is running smoothly.
Double Check - A nice check I like to use is run the bilge. If there is a lot of water coming out you have a problem. Do NOT launch the boat. Water should not be getting into your boat fast enough to accumulate during the launching process.
7). Vehicle driver gradually back the boat down the ramp until it is floating. At which point the boat driver can gently give it a little reverse throttle to slip the boat off the trailer.
Congratulations! You are in the water and ready to go. Have fun out there.