An important part of owning a boat is learning how to transport it safely. Although this can be daunting, especially as a new boat owner, it’s not difficult. There are a few important things to keep in mind:

  1. Choose the right towing equipment
  2. Use common sense when loading and unloading your boat
  3. Be confident with the techniques for driving safely with a trailer

Let’s walk through a few tips for transporting your boat to be sure you get to and from the water with confidence.

Driving with a Boat Trailer

Safe Boating Tip: Know the proper techniques for safe towing and practice driving and backing up with your trailer in a controlled environment before heading out on the road. Understand that you must comply with provincial and local laws with respect to trailer licensing, registration and operating lights.

Driving with a Boat Trailer

When driving with a trailer, remember that your vehicle is longer and heavier than it was before the trailer was attached. To drive safely with a boat trailer in tow, you should:

  • Accelerate slowly
  • Turn using a wider radius to allow for the trailer
  • Drive at a slower speed than normal
  • Allow for greater braking distance
  • Use extra caution if driving in high wind, heavy rain, fog or icy conditions

Choosing the Right Trailer for your Boat

If you’re looking to determine which style of trailer is right for you, consider the following:

  • Is the width and length of the trailer suitable for the size of your boat?
  • Is the weight capacity of the trailer suitable for the weight of your boat?
  • Is the towing capacity of your vehicle suitable for the weight of your boat?
  • Do all the operating lights work properly?
  • Are the wheel bearings properly greased and able to operate smoothly?
  • Does the coupler (located at the front end of the trailer) match the size of your vehicle’s hitch ball?
  • Is the trailer equipped with mandatory ‘closed-loop’ safety chains?
  • Does your trailer require trailer brakes according to your local and provincial regulations?

Roller Style Trailer

Bunk Style Trailer

How to Tow your Boat

Now that you’ve chosen the right trailer for your boat, it’s important to learn the process for attaching the trailer to your vehicle. Follow these steps:

  • Before attaching the trailer to the vehicle, ensure that the trailer is properly balanced and level.
  • Position the vehicle or trailer so that the hitch ball is directly below the trailer’s coupler and lower the trailer.
  • Securely fasten the tongue coupler and lock the trailer latch using a cotter pin or lock.
  • Using tie down straps, securely fasten the boat to the trailer
  • Attach the winch cable and/or winch safety chain to the bow eye of the boat (if equipped).
  • Ensure that the trailer’s safety chains are securely fastened to the hitch. Chains should be long enough to accommodate tight turns but short enough so that the tongue of the trailer cannot touch the road if it becomes dislodged from the hitch.
  • Fasten the trailer’s lighting harness to your vehicle and check your lights.

How to Launch your Boat

The next step in this process is launching your boat in the water.

Consider the following:

  • Make a visual check of the launch area: Is the ramp deep enough to launch your boat? Are there any overhead wires or obstructions?
  • Remove all tie-down straps and unplug the trailer lights from your vehicle.
  • Ensure the bilge drain plug is properly installed.
  • Place all gear and safety equipment onboard the boat.
  • Ensure the winch is connected to the bow of the boat
  • Attach a bow and stern line to the boat.
  • Slowly back the trailer into the water until the motor becomes submerged.
  • Test the operation of the motor by starting it and allowing it to warm up.
  • Shut down the motor and continue backing the trailer into the water until the boat begins to float.
  • Use the bow and stern lines to guide the boat off the trailer and then remove the vehicle from the ramp.

Launching a Boat

How to Load your Boat

After you’ve spent your time out on the water, it’s time to load your boat back onto the trailer.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Secure the boat at the dock.
  • Back the trailer into the water until it is two-thirds submerged.
  • Turn off your vehicle and engage the emergency brake.
  • Position the boat on the trailer using the bow and stern lines–do not drive your boat onto the trailer.
  • Attach the winch line to the bow-eye of your boat and pull the boat up onto the trailer using the winch.
  • Ensure the boat is properly seated and balanced on the bunks or rollers.
  • Once the boat is in position, lock the winch and attach the winch’s safety chain.
  • Remove your vehicle and trailer from the ramp.
  • Once parked, attach the trailer lights and ensure they are working properly.
  • Remove the boat’s bilge drain plug.
  • Secure the boat using tie-down straps (secure to the transom) before departing.

Loading a boat onto a trailer

Now that you’ve successfully transported your boat, you’re ready to hit the road with your PCOC or boat license on hand and start exploring the many waterways Canada has to offer. Don’t have your boat license yet? Sign up for your Pleasure Craft Operator Card today.