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Top Tips For Loading Your Boat Onto A Trailer

Top Tips For Loading Your Boat Onto A Trailer

You’ve had a great day out on the water. Maybe you went fishing and caught dinner for your family, or maybe you simply took an afternoon to cruise around and relax in the sun. Now that you’re wrapping up your adventure, you need to remove your boat from the water and load it onto your trailer. Where do you start?

There are two major factors that need to be taken into account when coming off the water and loading your bay boat or other watercraft onto a trailer: First, are you alone, or is someone with you? Second, is the docking/loading area busy or quiet? Either way, Boatline has put together some helpful tips to ensure the process is successful.

Loading Your Boat Onto a Trailer With Help

Having other people onboard with you when getting ready to dock is extremely helpful, especially if one of those people knows how to operate the boat or drive your tow vehicle with the trailer on it. If you don’t have someone with you who can help with either scenario, you still may want to read through this section for tips that apply to both situations.

When boating with others, idle up to the launch-ramp dock and unload all of the passengers. If you have gear onboard, it’s considered good dock etiquette to leave it in the boat and worry about it after you’re out of the water. If the dock area is crowded, you can cast off and idle back out in the water, away from the dock, once the passengers are unloaded. Otherwise, you can just tie off and wait.

If you sent someone to retrieve your tow vehicle, move the bass boat or other boat into position when they begin to back down the ramp. Once the trailer is submerged to the point where your boat can float over the rear two thirds of the trailer bunks or rollers, the driver should put the tow vehicle in park and set the parking brake. They should then step out onto the trailer tongue to pull your winch strap out and help bring you the rest of the way in.

Once your tow vehicle driver is set and in place, slowly pull forward toward the trailer. If the ramp angle is shallow, you may need to trim up the outboard motor or sterndrive a bit to keep the propeller from getting damaged. As the boat starts to slide onto the trailer guides, your tow vehicle driver should be able to connect the winch line to the bow eye and crank you the rest of the way in until the boat is snug with the winch post.

If wind or the current blows you off course and you end up crooked on the trailer, leave the winch line clipped to the bow eye, and put the boat in reverse and back down very slowly until the boat is afloat again. Then, have the tow vehicle driver manually crank you in. If you need to do a complete “do-over,” have the tow driver detach the winch strap and approach the trailer upwind so you can line up with the bunks from a diagonal line.

When the deck boat or other boat is in place and the safety chain is secured, you can fully tilt the motor or drive up and the tow vehicle driver can slowly pull you up into the parking area. This is where you should remove your gear from the boat and place it into the tow vehicle, make sure everything is tied down properly, lower any bimini tops or antennas, and put the boat cover on if you have one.

Loading Your Boat Onto a Trailer Without Help

If you don’t have a tow vehicle driver or someone who can operate the boat while you get the

rig, you’ll have no choice but to tie up, run to get your vehicle, then pull the boat onto the trailer from the bowline. You may also want to attach a stern line if the wind is blowing the boat around or there is a strong current. Once your boat is up far enough where you can attach the winch strap, you can crank it the rest of the way up and move out of the way so others coming in can still dock.

Tips For Loading Your Boat Onto a Trailer 

  1. Always make sure the trailer is as straight as possible when backing it down to load.
  2. If your trailer is positioned in the water properly, it should take minimum power to push it up to the winch post. If the boat only floats onto the back third of the trailer, the trailer is too shallow. If the boat is still floating when it gets to the winch post, the trailer is too deep. Once you find the sweet spot in-between, mark the waterline on the trailer as a guide for future trips.
  3. Never “power load” your boat onto the trailer. Going too fast can cause damage to the boat and/or trailer and tow vehicle. In addition, your prop thrust can potentially blow away the bottom near the end of the submerged portion of the ramp, which could eventually cause damage to the ramp itself.
  4. Once you reach the parking area to do your final preparations, pull the drain plug and drain any live wells. This will help prevent the inadvertent transference of invasive species to other bodies of water in the future.


In the market for a new boat or trailer? has a vast assortment of boats for any level of enthusiast, whether you’re buying or selling. Let us help you get your sea legs.

By Barrett Baker


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