Trailering a boat requires proper preparation. It is best to know before you go.
Trailer Preparation. Small things matter when preparing to tow a boat on the open road. This Captain’s Report was prepared as a general guide. Trailers and tow vehicles vary, so consult and follow the specific trailer and tow vehicle’s owner’s manuals to ensure all of the safety precautions and weight limits are followed.
Boaters tend to be preoccupied with safety on the water, but you also have to be concerned with safety while trailering.
Walk Around. To prepare your boat for trailering, we recommend you use the walk around method.
Starting at the front of the trailer, you want to make sure it’s hitched to the ball right, and then that it’s latched securely.
At the fore part of the trailer there are safety cables or chains. Make sure the S hooks are hooked up to the trailer hitch solidly (yellow arrows) and be sure that the draw bar retainer pin is in place and that the safety clip is secure (green arrow). Also check that the lights are properly plugged into the receiver socket or connector (red arrow).
Safety Chains. If your trailer has chains in lieu of cables, make sure that they are crossed. When crossed, they form a cradle. If the trailer drops off of a hitch, the trailer’s tongue will drop onto the chain set and the chains will hold it up preventing the trailer’s tongue from dropping onto the road.
Check the Lights. After attaching the trailer lights to the tow vehicle, check that the lights are working. With one person in the driver’s seat of the tow vehicle, have someone stand where they can see both rear trailer lights. Have the person in the vehicle press the brakes so the person watching can detect that they are illuminated properly. Try the turn signals as well and check all of the side-lights and the rear lights by turning on the headlights.
Check that the winch is secured and not going to unwind by accident.
Like safety chains for the trailer, there is a safety cable for the boat. Confirm that it’s securely attached to the eye on the boat.
If you have a trailer jack, it goes in the up position for traveling.
A fold-a-way trailer tongue is convenient when storing your boat and trailer in a tight space like a garage. If your trailer has a fold-a-way tongue, be certain that the locking pin is in and the safety clip is in place.
Check your tires. Make sure they are inflated properly. Don’t just look at it to make sure it’s not going flat at the bottom, use a tire pressure gauge. Check it and make sure it’s correct.
At the stern of the boat, check to make sure your safety straps (yellow arrows) are secure, and there will also be some sort of support method for the engine (red arrow).
Engine Trailering Support. When towing, the engine needs to be in the up position to protect the lower unit from dragging. To protect the hydraulic engine-lift most outboards have either a fold down brace on the engine mount or a separate brace that attaches from the trailer to a cradle for the lower unit.
Check inside the boat to be certain there isn’t anything loose, anything that is going to be rattling around, or anything that will go flying off onto the road.
Don’t forget to check the tow vehicle for proper tire inflation, check for dangerous tire wear or condition, and confirm that the oil is topped up and clean and the coolant tank is filled to the proper level.
Finally, take one last look at the boat and ascertain that everything is secure. Make sure there aren’t any antennas that should be lowered or any canopies that need to be secured. This is your last chance before you get on the road.
Registrations and Insurance. One of the most important aspects of trailer boating is the paperwork. You need to make sure that your tow vehicle, trailer, and boat are registered properly and insured.