If you tow your boat on a trailer, boating safety begins before you ever leave home.
One important thing to remember is make sure you have the right trailer for your boat. You can figure that out by looking at the trailer’s stated load capacity. If the combined weight of your vessel and its engine is more than 90 percent of the recommended load capacity, buy the next larger trailer. This is because your gear (fuel, life jackets, anchors, lines, etc.) will increase the overall weight by at least 10 percent. Make sure you also check the owner’s manual of your towing vehicle to ensure it’s rated to tow the combined weight of your boat, engine and trailer.
Before Leaving Home
Secure the boat on the trailer and the gear within the boat to keep it from shifting.
- Arrange the gear so that its weight is balanced side-to-side and front-to-back.
- Secure the boat to the trailer with several tie-down straps and/or safety lines to prevent it from shifting. Use extra tie-down straps in case one fails. Never trust the bow winch alone to hold your boat onto the trailer.
- Put the engine or drive unit in the raised position and secure it.
- Attach the safety chains between the trailer and the towing vehicle, crisscrossing them under the trailer tongue.
Inspect and maintain trailering equipment.
- Check the pressure of all tires on the towing vehicle and the trailer. Make sure you have a spare tire in good condition for both the vehicle and the trailer.
- Tighten the lug nuts/bolts on the wheels of your towing vehicle and the trailer, and grease the wheel bearings.
- Make sure that all lights and brakes on the towing vehicle and the trailer work properly.
- Examine tie-down straps, lines, winch, safety chains, and hitch for signs of wear. Replace or adjust as necessary.
On the Road With a Trailer
- Drive cautiously at moderate speeds, and avoid sudden maneuvers.
- On long trips, pull over every hour or so to check the towing vehicle, trailer, tires, trailer coupling, and gear in the boat.
- Allow for the added length and weight of the trailer.
- Make wider turns at corners and curves.
- Allow extra time and distance for stopping and for passing other vehicles.
Learn more by watching this video about trailering your boat.
You can get more boating safety tips by taking an online boater safety course at www.boat-ed.com. The training offered at this site is approved by the state agencies responsible for boating safety education, and it’s the same material that’s taught in the classroom.
Studying at boat-ed.com is free. Those who must be certified before they can buy a boating license pay a one-time fee, which is due only if they pass the course. Online boating safety courses are available in participating states, so visit www.boat-ed.com to take a course specific to your state.