Boat Basics – How to Tow Your Craft Safely
Towing your trailered boat is at the very top of the basics that you need to know
as a boat owner. Improper towing habits and techniques can lead to equipment, property, and vehicle damage for both you, or others. Brush up on a few tips before you head out…
UNDERSTAND SPACE and TIME
It takes longer to stop with a trailer loaded with a boat. It takes longer to accelerate a trailer loaded with a boat. Both of these facts should lead you to this conclusion: you need more space when pulling into traffic or passing another vehicle. You also
need to consider in advance what you need to do to turn, stop for a traffic light, etc. You don’t ever want to have to resort on excessive braking, except in emergencies.
You should always distribute the weight of your boat and load it properly. This will help you avoid “fish tailing” when you hit a hole in the road, gust of wind or suddenly tap on the brakes.
If the swaying from side to side does occur, the only way to rectify it is to SLOW DOWN without touching the brakes or turning the wheel excessively. Although it’s human nature to brake when this occurs, that’s the worst thing you can do and will make the swaying worse.
Once you have regained control, get to a place where you can get more weight towards the front of the trailer.
IT’S YOUR TURN
When it comes time to turn with a boat in tow, the extension of the trailer will not allow you to turn the corner as efficiently as your vehicle alone can. Taking a wider turn is the answer. Position your vehicle on the outside edge of the lane and don’t “cut” your wheel until your towing vehicle’s rear tires have passed the inside curb.
PASS ON IT
Passing any car or truck on the road is risky business when towing a boat.
You need to factor in the weight and length of your vehicle and trailer combination.
As stated before, it will take longer to get up to passing speeds and you’ll require
More room to safely return back into traffic. Best advise: don’t pass the car in front of you unless it is going excessively slow.
IT’S A BREEZE
Wind also plays a role in safely towing a boat. Sudden wind shifts – whether it’s from a passing semi in the other lane or weather related – can affect your towing.
Large footprint vehicles have a wave of high pressure in front of them and low pressure behind them as they speed down the highway. So if you’re passed on the left by a large truck, your trailer and vehicle may be pushed to the right But that’s not all, the “push” will come from your trailer first. This is what is called bow wave.
Once the large truck has passed, you may be sucked back to the left. Being ready with both hands on the wheel and ready to compensate for this sudden shift is essential.
If Mother Nature has the wind howling, your extended profile will be very difficult to control. Take a tip from the truckers – pull over and wait it out.
Once you make it to your destination it’s time to learn the next step in trailering your boat; how to back up the trailer! It’s easy (once you get the hang of it).
1. pull forward far enough that you have your vehicle and trailer aligned
2. Make small steering corrections as you back up
3. The trailer will swing in the OPPOSITE direction of what you do – steer right, the trailer will go left. Some boaters swear that putting their hands on the bottom of the steering wheel helps them remember this.
4. Keep backing down into the water until the boat begins to float.
Want to know more? Check out Discover Boating’s HOW TO TOW A BOAT: STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE