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How to Use a Boat Ramp

Pier at sunset

There are many skills you need to master as a boat owner, one of which includes knowing how to use a boat ramp. Transferring your boat from your vehicle’s connection into the water can be difficult to do, but it helps to know a few tricks. Take a look at our recommendations for using a boat ramp so you can get this skill right every time.

Prep Your Boat

Row of cars with boat trailers

If you’re learning how to use a boat ramp for the first time, you’re going to want to do quite a few things in advance to make the experience run smoothly:

  • Get there early. There’s nothing more unsettling on the boat ramp than pressure from other boaters! If you’re trying a boat ramp for your first time, get there early so you’ll have time to adjust if necessary.
  • Inspect the launching area. Look for your boat ramp’s rules and regulations, and be sure there is no debris blocking the ramp.
  • Pack the boat. Once you launch the boat, you don’t want to then spend the next fifteen minutes transferring snacks and equipment from your car to your boat.
  • Give yourself room for backing up. There’s a temptation with boat ramps to avoid giving yourself a lot of room because it feels like you’ll get too far off course. But, once you have the boat aligned properly, backing up with plenty of room isn’t a challenge. It’s the adjustments that get tricky.
  • Bring water-ready shoes. The concrete under a boat launch can be notoriously slippery. The spotter helping you will often go in the water, so make sure that they wear water-ready shoes that will add some grip.

Back Up and Launch

Back up the boat slowly, even when you think you’ve got it aligned properly, and proceed down the ramp. Use a spotter to confirm that your boat is headed to the bottom of the ramp and into the water.

The way the trailer moves isn’t intuitive, and can be a bit jarring for anyone who’s never backed a trailer before. Some boating enthusiasts recommend steering with your hand on the bottom of the wheel. If you do it this way, your trailer will turn in the same direction as your hand.

Once the boat is floating, put the vehicle in park with the emergency brake activated. Then, it’s time to unhook the bow of the boat. Unhook the safety chain and allow slack on the bow strap. You can then pass the line of the bow to someone who’s staying on the dock, moving the boat off of the trailer. Individual trailers can be quirky, so make sure that you understand the way yours works before you attempt these steps.

After that, you’re set to bring the trailer out of the water. If there’s a line of people waiting to use the ramp behind you, don’t force or hurry anything, but do make sure that you promptly and safely get out of the way for the next launch. (Remember your emergency brake is on!)

Shop BoatLIFE!

If your boat is frequently out of the water, it helps to have some products that can keep it looking new from top to bottom. Browse the boat cleaners available here at BoatLIFE to ensure your boat looks spotless when you launch it! This way, you can show off its shine alongside your new boat ramp skills.

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