Sailing Beginner - Launching Your Sailing Boat
I take off the safety chain at the bow, and then I go to the back of the boat and remove the nylon strap. In this way, the sailboat will be able to float off the trailer and separate from it once it's submerged.
Tip: Here's a little tip that will save you money and time. Make sure to disconnect the trailer wire from the tow vehicle before you back the trailer into the water. This will avoid burning out light bulbs unnecessarily. The reason that a bulb may burn out is when backing down the ramp, your foot will be constantly on the brake and as a result the boat trailer brake lights are getting hot. But once submerged, they will get even hotter and can easily short out at this point. Trust me, I know this works, because one day while launching my sailboat I forgot to disconnect the trailer lights and burned out one of the bulbs instantly. Try this next time you launch, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Next, I attach a 25-foot piece of nylon rope to the bow of the sailboat. Then I point the side mirrors on my tow vehicle down, so that I can see the boat ramp while backing down it. This prevents me from driving off the ramp, as you cannot see the boat trailer at this point to use as a reference. Once the trailer is completely submerged, I put the vehicle in park along with the parking brake. And then I proceed to release the sailing boat off the trailer by slowly cranking the winch handle out until the boat is now free from the trailer.
Tip: A word of caution is merited here, please be careful to keep clear of the boat winch handle especially when the winch is under tension by the weight of the sailboat. My Renken 18 foot sailing boat weighs over 1,200 pounds and creates a lot of tension especially when it's on the incline of a boat ramp. One day I accidentally released the winch while being distracted and the handle just about knocked my two front teeth out! Thankfully my dentist was just up the street and I had to make an emergency appointment. Don't let this happen to you! If you are going to quick release the sailboat, make sure you position the handle in a neutral position first to avoid any personal injury to yourself.
I prefer to release the sailboat a little at a time after that accident, by turning the winch handle slowly a little at a time, making sure to keep my body clear of it, until I can unhook the winch strap from the bow. Then I gently push the sailboat off the trailer with both hands, then I grab the 25foot rope mentioned earlier so I don't have to go swimming for it, and tie it up to the dock by controlling it with the rope. There you have it, with these few steps and words of caution will enable you to launch your sailboat for the first time. Until my next article - Happy Sailing!