Get your card today


How to Properly Launch a Boat

August 31, 2021

A boat launch can be a daunting experience for someone who has never done it before. At a public launch, you might feel rushed to launch your boat as quickly as possible in order to avoid embarrassment.

Whether you’re launching a boat alone or with friends, at a public or private launch area, we walk you through the steps for launching a boat without any unfortunate mishaps.

Practice backing up with a boat trailer

Before getting to the fundamentals of launching your boat, you should have a good amount of practice backing up with your boat trailer. Boaters backing into the loading area too quickly can easily lose control of their trailer.

Try backing up your trailer in an empty area like a parking lot to avoid situations like these and become familiar with the way your trailer handles. After a few days of practice, you should get the hang of reversing your vehicle in a straight line without jackknifing the trailer.

Preparing for launch

Since public launch etiquette generally requires you to be quick and efficient, you should always prepare your boat before getting on the ramp. Upon arriving at your launch site, park in an accessible area and get everything organized:

  • Start by ensuring that all your supplies are loaded onto the boat and arranged carefully so they do not slide out of place.
  • Next, make sure that the battery has been turned on and that the fuel tank has been connected so that you can quickly start your boat once it is in the water.
  • Last but not least, install the drain plug, remove the safety straps from your boat, leaving only the winch and a safety chain tied to the boat, and you should be all set.

Back your boat down the launch ramp

When you’re ready to launch your boat, you will need to align the trailer so the boat can be reversed straight down the ramp. This is where your earlier practice will come in handy.

  • If you have someone with you, ask them to spot for you. Have them stand in a position that allows you to clearly see them in your left side mirror. Don’t be shy to ask a fellow boater for help if you are alone.
  • Reverse your trailer slowly down in a straight line until the wheels just touch the water’s edge. The stern of your boat should be freely floating in the water. If not, slowly continue reversing until it is.
  • After the back of the boat begins to float, place the vehicle in park and engage the parking brake.

backing boat down launch ramp

How to get your boat off the trailer

Once your parking brake is safely engaged and the stern of your boat is floating in the water, it is time to get your boat off the trailer. Since these final steps may require you to walk into the water, it is recommended to wear waterproof footwear or boots when removing your boat from the trailer.

  • Exit the vehicle, proceed to the front of your boat and release the remaining two bow connections to allow the boat to float freely in the water. If you had someone spotting for you, ask them to help you with this step.
  • You may need to give the boat a slight push to help it slide off the trailer. Guide the boat away from the trailer using the bow and stern lines.
  • As soon as the boat is off the trailer, you or your helper can tie the boat up to the dock before returning to park your car.

Keep practicing for the perfect boat launch

Now that you know how to launch a boat by yourself or with a helper, you should follow the old adage that practice makes perfect. After a few successful launches, you will have mastered the art of launching a boat from a trailer and your flawless launch etiquette will much appreciated by your fellow boaters.

Keep in mind that you must obtain the Pleasure Craft Operator Card if you want to legally operate a boat on Canada’s waterways. This card is available when you purchase an online boating license in Canada and pass the official online boating course offered by Drive a Boat Canada.