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Author Topic:   Launching From Trailer Single-handed
jaymoussy posted 06-01-2015 09:58 AM ET (US)   Profile for jaymoussy   Send Email to jaymoussy  
[I am] still in the buying-stage for a new-style MONTAUK. I already anticipate launching by myself, which means [after the boat comes off the trailer it will be brought to a courtesy] dock [at the ramp], at least for now, for this newbie. It would be helpful to have guide posts on the trailer, but then, I also need to [have] fenders deployed for docking. How [can both fenders and guide posts be used] together [when launching a boat from a trailer] [alone]?
jimh posted 06-01-2015 10:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The position of the guide posts on the trailer will be close to the transom of the boat. As long as the guide posts are slightly forward of the transom, you can rig a fender on the gunwale of the boat on the dock side just aft of the guide post. When the boat slides off the trailer there will be no interference between that aft fender and the guide post.

Before launching off the trailer, rig a second (or third) fender to the dock in a position that will result in the fender being positioned appropriately when the launched boat is brought to the dock after clearing the trailer. After launching, transfer the fender(s) to the boat.

jimh posted 06-01-2015 10:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
To pre-rig fenders on the boat so they will not interfere with the trailer guide posts as the boat moves back from the trailer into the water, tie the fenders to the boat in the desired location, but leave them laying on the gunwales. Once the boat is clear of the trailer you can easily reach over and push the fenders off the gunwales and let them hang down.
andygere posted 06-01-2015 11:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
On a Montauk, you can use plastic fender clips to attach the fenders to the side rails.
Adjust the length so they will hang in a way that protects the boat, then flip them over the rail inside the boat. Once the boat has slid off the trailer and past the guide posts, reach over and flip them to the outside of the boat before securing it to the courtesy dock.

An alternative to guide posts are the plank style side guides. These make loading the boat solo a bit easier, but are in the way for waxing and cleaning the hull when it's on the trailer. With the plank style guides, you can flip the fenders to the outside of them before launching.

This photo shows the plank style side guides: IMG_1565_zps1cd92e6b.jpg

msirof2001 posted 06-01-2015 12:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for msirof2001  Send Email to msirof2001     
When I was using a trailer with my 1995 Outrage 21, I had guideposts. I would back the trailer to the water's edge. Then, I would get out of the truck and let out maybe 4-5 feet of strap but lock the strap so no more than that would release. I would back the boat into the water. The 4-5 feet of strap would allow the boat to go back into the water, but still be within the guides, and be afloat (still attached). The tongue of the trailer was still barely above the water-line. This allowed me to step up on the tongue of the trailer, stay dry, and climb onto the bow. The boat wasnt wagging side-by-side like a dog's tail because of the guides. Then, I would start the engine, tap the accelerator forward slightly to create slack in the strap. Remember, the boat is afloat at this point. I would walk to the bow, reach forward and under, and unhook the strap. Then, I would back the boat off the trailer, put out the fenders, dock it, and put away the truck/trailer. Always a solo operation, always worked.
tedious posted 06-01-2015 12:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for tedious  Send Email to tedious     
I have the same situation launching singlehanded with my 15, and guideposts too - makes the process much easier, especially in a crosswind.

I keep fenders rigged to the rail all the time, in the correct, horizontal orientation, using lines on both ends. I can flip them in and out of the boat as needed.

When launching, I start with the fenders inside the boat, so they don't interfere with the guideposts. I unclip the winch strap and push the boat off the trailer, leaving me holding a bow line. I then pull the boat over to the dock, fending it off by hand until I can flip the fenders out and tie up. Pretty simple and easy.

By the way, when you go to buy some, the best guideposts on the market are made by Ve-ve Inc.


jaymoussy posted 06-02-2015 01:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for jaymoussy  Send Email to jaymoussy     
Thanks for the great tips, will come handy.

UPDATE: I am through with the "buying stage".. eheh.

As they say, the two happiest, nevermind.

Treypescatorie posted 06-07-2015 08:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Treypescatorie  Send Email to Treypescatorie     
I trailered my boat for years and never used guide posts. I launched by my self most of the time and never had a problem. Seems like more of a hassle than anything else.
Jefecinco posted 06-07-2015 10:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
We have a boat on a trailer without guideposts and one with. If there is neither wind nor current I prefer the trailer without guideposts. Unfortunately that is rarely the case. I'll be adding the guideposts.


superdave_gv posted 06-07-2015 09:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for superdave_gv  Send Email to superdave_gv     
One nice trailer add-on that came with my classic 16'7" is a simple wooden board (1"x8" probably) bolted to the trailer frame. Makes walking down the trailer to step over the bow much easier when solo launching. It also makes me think bow railings (which I do not have) impede solo launching somewhat.
Binkster posted 06-11-2015 12:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for Binkster  Send Email to Binkster     
I invented a boat on trailer recovery system back in the 1980's, at least I never saw this method before or since. It required two people, one a vehicle driver, me, driving the tow vehicle and the other a boat driver, my wife. At the time I had a 24' Aquasport side console sitting on an aluminum frame, dual wheel, slide on trailer, no winch.
I first installed guide posts on the rear of the trailer the normal way. This trailer didn't have rollers, just carpeted bunk boards that the boat sat on. Towards the front there was a vertical post with a vinyl V shape bumper where the V portion of the bow would rest. From this post I attached on either side an 8 ft. or so piece of 3/4" galvanized chain inside a 1" PVC tube. The chain was then bolted to both sides of the trailer frame, one on each side. Then you simply drove the boat up the trailer and it would be always be centered on the bow post.
My wife would leave me off at the dock, to retrieve the pick up truck, and she would idle the boat outside the ramp until it was our turn and I backed the trailer down the ramp. Now every male in the area would always stop what they were doing to watch this chick drive her boat up into the bed of that pickup truck. She always came in at a pretty good clip, up the trailer into the bow bumper. She kept the throttles of the twin inline Mercs in forward and when I started up the ramp, she goosed them a little bit to help push the truck and trailer up the ramp. and then cut the ignition to off when the props cleared the water. The recovery took about a minute and never failed.
You need a boat with a pointed bow,


jimh posted 06-11-2015 02:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
RICH--I think the method you describe is used by about 100,000 bass boaters every weekend, except they don't have "a chick" driving their boat onto the trailer.

Unless I missed something in the narrative, Rich's method requires two people. I think that disqualifies it from the concept of "single handed" launching.

Also, the method is called power loading. Power loading is prohibited at most of the ramps I use here in the Great Lakes.

kev6613 posted 06-11-2015 03:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for kev6613  Send Email to kev6613     
You drive the boat onto the self centering Boston Whaler trailer as far as you can and then winch it the rest of the way. No need for posts. Really quite simple for one person. I have done it for years with a Montauk and a 13, never had a problem, except once when I fell in!
jimh posted 06-12-2015 09:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
JAY--since you are new to trailer boating, I must warn you of the perils of the launching ramp. At boat launching ramps there is a very odd departure from normal human behavior. Many trailer boaters turn into very aggressive and hostile people at a boat launching ramp. The tendency for this to occur seems to be related to the amount of boats waiting to use the ramp. The more boats waiting to use the ramp, the stranger the human behavior becomes.

Be watchful when interacting with other boaters at launching ramps. It is common for very strange confrontations to occur. Sometimes these confrontations escalate into physical confrontations. I have seen this happen--fortunately not to me--at busy ramps on hot summer weekend afternoons. There is a ramp not far from my home where on Saturday or Sunday afternoon you often find a police cruiser parked there, just to keep everyone's behavior in check. I gave up using that ramp about 18-years ago after seeing a fist fight develop there between two boaters arguing about the ramp access.

To explain this very odd change in human behavior I have only my own speculation. I think the launching or loading of a trailer boat is probably a period of tension for many boaters. When people are under tension they often lose control of their temper or lose their manners.

To become proficient in launching and loading your boat from a ramp, I recommend you do some practice, but be sure to take your practice sessions at a ramp that is not busy, on a day when not many boaters will be around. The worst possible situation at a ramp is a new boater occupying the ramp for a long period on a busy day with dozens of boats waiting for the ramp. Avoid that situation.

As for launching or loading single-handed, it can be done. If you develop your own method or technique, you should not have much trouble, particularly with a boat like a MONTAUK. A MONTAUK is easily handled by one person.

As a rule, I suggest getting your own system of solo handling, and to avoid accepting help from volunteers at the launch ramp. Some volunteers may have good intentions by offering to help, but their actions can be unpredictable. By joining in with your launch or load, they might actually make the process more difficult.

jcdawg83 posted 06-12-2015 03:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jcdawg83    
Jim, you are correct about odd behavior at ramps. I'm convinced it's due to a combination of tension or stress brought on by the actual process of launching a boat and impatience of people wanting to get out on the water. Most people have a limited amount of free time and want to spend as much of that time as possible on the water, so they are "in a hurry to relax". Add a wife and a kid or several or a few friends who are anxious to get on the water and may be complaining or urging the boat owner to hurry and the boat owner is wound pretty tight when he gets to the ramp.
jaymoussy posted 06-12-2015 04:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jaymoussy  Send Email to jaymoussy     
Thanks for the useful tips.

Well, the first outing was a duo, spouse and I, on a very quiet, very wide ramp with dock, windy conditions...

We did OK, after some adjustments to the boat controls (slow and steady). Reteiving was challenging, windy, plus trailer too deep in, I think.

Once home, I realized the boat is partially resting on the chine, port side. So, whatever I did did not center the boat.

I actually made and mounted some guideposts this afternoon!
Current hardware positioning gives me four inches between rubrail and post is 4 inches - may be too much?

Tom Hemphill posted 06-12-2015 05:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom Hemphill  Send Email to Tom Hemphill     
It does sound like the trailer was too deep if you loaded off center. On my classic 16-foot Whaler my guideposts have about 1-1/2 inches clearance on each side, which is as close as possible, since the beam increases farther forward. (And it's still possible to load off center if the trailer is in too deep, as I learned recently.)
wstr75 posted 06-12-2015 07:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for wstr75  Send Email to wstr75     
Jim, I agree with your tension/stress assessment. As the stress goes up, the memory and self-control goes away. I make a check list because there have been times I have forgotten to do important tasks like lift the motor up before driving away from the ramp. Got some really big scratches (grooves) on the keg that afternoon! Because of the stress of quickly trailering into position, taking the boat out and then getting away from the ramp, I make it a habit to drive away from the ramp slowly and to park just far enough away from the ramp not to be in anyone's way so that I can slowly get out and check that everything is stowed away, properly loaded and safe for hauling down the road.

Lastly, I mostly go boating alone these days and chose only ramps that have light traffic. I go boating on slow days avoiding holidays and other busy times on the lakes and thus am also avoiding busy times at boat ramp areas.

dfmcintyre posted 06-12-2015 09:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Jay -

Ditto on the trailer too deep comments. I have one depth for launching, one for retrieving. I note the depth of my trailer fenders. A little deeper (2" approx) for launch.

Like misirof2001 comments, I unwind about 2 feet of winch strap, rig the port side with a line (I normally use a ramp that does not need fenders), transfer anything from the tow vehicle, insert the drain plug, check prop, wiggle engine, rig starboard side, over step over the trailer tongue and back into the vehicle. I do all this while waiting in line (if there is one) or well before arriving at the actual ramp. My workflow is counter-clockwise.

What drives me buggy is waiting for someone to accomplish all of the above, five feet from the ramp, delaying what could be a smooth launch sequence.

If I have a choice, I'll pick the side of the ramp dock that will keep the boat against the dock, either due to wind, current or both.

Once in the water, and tied to the dock, I'll crank before hauling the trailer out. This way, if the motor will not start, I can easily pull out.

Returning, I position the trailer, one to two inches higher, and drive the boat, at idle onto the bunks. Everyone and thing off, outboard tilted. It takes about 15 to 20 seconds to winch back against the bow bracket. In the tow vehicle and out of the way. Will pull well away from the ramp, before stopping to rig for towing so others can easily use the ramp.

The key, IMHO, is finding the "sweet spot" for trailer depth, note it and strive for consistancy.

Regards - Don

Binkster posted 06-13-2015 12:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for Binkster  Send Email to Binkster     
I think my post may have been misunderstood by some readers.
I never said I invented power loading which is frowned upon today but used commonly 30 years ago.
I came up with the idea of bow guides as far as I know, as I described them in my post. They make centering the boat simple for anyone, and can be used single handed without a problem, and takes current, wind and experience out of the equation.


deepwater posted 06-13-2015 04:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
I think the single most helpful item I installed to help me launch and recover my Montauk was stainless steel axles on all my keel rollers.
jimh posted 06-13-2015 09:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Backing the trailer too far into the water makes loading more difficult. That is why I have my guide posts marked with the proper depth of water. I back the trailer down the ramp to the mark on the guide posts. I get the same depth of immersion that way.

The guide posts I use are pieces of PVC pipe held by or jammed onto short square steel posts. They are flexible. I have the spacing set so they are in contact and bearing against the rub rail of the boat. They really keep the boat centered that way.

Another problem with loading the boat when the trailer is too deep: if you winch the boat's bow eye tight against the bow stop, and the transom of the boat is still floating several inches off the stern bunks, the boat is going to rock back and shift to rest on the bunks when you come up the ramp. This will put tremendous strain on the winch and bow eye, because, unless the hull starts to bend, the bow stem must come back away from the winch slightly when the hull rocks back to rest on the bunks. The tension on the winch strap will be very high, and you might even start cracking the hull gel coat around the bow eye.

The position of the winch should make the lead of the winch strap to the boat be level or even trying to raise the bow up to the winch during loading. If the winch strap lead pulls the bow down, it makes loading harder. On my trailer, when the boat is fully loaded, the winch strap is leading away from the bow eye at a level position. I attach a second strap to act as a pull down to put a downward pull on the bow into the bow rest for travel on the road.

Powergroove803 posted 06-15-2015 10:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for Powergroove803  Send Email to Powergroove803     
For launching singlehanded, the new Minn Kota trolling motor will remotely hold your boat in position out from the dock while you park the trailer, then you remotely steer the boat to pick yourself up. Seems pretty cool but also you would need a relatively empty launching area to pull it off safely. I am not sure how DNR would react to a driverless boat hanging around off a dock.
msirof2001 posted 06-15-2015 03:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for msirof2001  Send Email to msirof2001     
Saw JimH's comments on tempers at the ramp. Interesting as I really never experienced it so much on the launch. I'm thinking that the further North you go, the boating season is shorter so people want to get the most out of boating in a more limited timeframe and that is causing the consternations. Like paying for a $100 Disneyland ticket and then trying to get in all the rides and having to deal with the crowds. I can totally understand the frustration.

Where I personally see the tempers fly is on the retrieve. All of you "lake people" have the advantage of being able to retrieve and leave. I'm in saltwater and you really need to thoroughly rinse the boat, trailer and flush the engine immediately. The freshwater washdowns are similar to being at a gas station waiting for a gas pump and you wait, and wait, and wait. Tempers really flare when there is a long line and there is some person practically detailing their boat with a toothbrush. They have 15-minute time limits and nobody to enforce it. So people try to enforce it themselves. No bueno.

Jefecinco posted 06-15-2015 05:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
I believe it's not very harmful to delay the engine rinse for a few hours. The salt will wash away as well in a few hours if necessary. Ramps in the Mobile Bay area don't have rinsing facilities.


64nauset posted 06-15-2015 07:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for 64nauset  Send Email to 64nauset     
Powergroove: I've seen most everything at the ramp but not a self-guided boat retrieval. That would be interesting.

Jay: Launch and retrieve are just practice using your own unique setup. Ours is pretty easy, finally. The two dock lines and two [fenders] are left attached. For launching, [fenders] are inside. Motor started, warmed, and gears tested. Once it is idling fine in forward, I get out, walk the catwalk on our trailer to the winch rope and unhook it. After clearing the trailer, [fenders] are thrown over the gunwale, then the vessel is motored over to the courtesy dock and tied off. While underway the lines are out of the way so I just leave them cleated during the day. Same for [fenders]. When it is time to dock somewhere, it is all ready to go, and can be handled by anyone aboard. That way I don't have to tromp around the boat, getting in everyone's way. Very smooth and easy. There is a slight safety concern leaving the front line attached. In big water someone could go overboard with a line possibly wrapped around a limb, which would be a hazard. If the sea state is dangerous, all is battened down and properly stowed.

Retrieve: This is where the real action is. All personnel are dropped at dock to go do things, so it is just the driver and boat. In our case, a 1963 Nauset. It is possible to place the boat too far forward on the trailer, leaving the back of the boat forward of the rear roller and unsupported. Can't trailer that way. That little problem was solved by adding a hefty wooden block with pad to the rear cross member of the trailer. It stops the lower unit and hence the boat, at just the right place for trailering. Once boat is stopped on the trailer, motor is left in drive at idle to keep vessel where it should be. I then walk the catwalk to the bow eye and connect the winch. It is tightened up snug but not too tight. Back to the controls; neutral, shutdown, motor tilt, disconnect fuel, and drive to the de-rig area. Maybe this post help with your thinking. Whatever the advice here at CW, you will figure it all out to a level of safety and efficiency that matches your style. Enjoy your new rig and I hope to see you on the water one day!

deepwater posted 06-16-2015 12:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
If you can, find a place to launch and recover your boat that's out of the way. It will help you work out how your trailer and boat work. They all don't work the same. [Launching or loading a boat on a trailer] is about your timing, your skill, and the area your working with. Faster is not better and [those] waiting to launch know they have to wait. If you [are] smooth at launching most waiting will only watch. If you [are] alone, get your boat in the water, drift it down to the end of the dock, park your [truck], start the boat, leave the dock, rig poles, and stow ice and things out on the water. Regular boaters will get to know you don't take up a lot of dock time, will give you some slack if something goes wrong, and will help. [Launching or loading a boat on a trailer] is about being ready more than anything else.
jimh posted 06-16-2015 10:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For agencies that maintain a public launching ramp at which there is a high volume of traffic on certain days or at certain times, a good practice is to post an agent at the ramp to direct traffic, or, at the least, post signs to instruct boaters. A simple sign designating a particular ramp area to be used only for launching or only for loading can eliminate confusion and confrontation.

The last time I was at a local Lake St. Clair public launch ramp on a busy summer day, there were two agents there. One was checking boats entering for payment of fees or possession of the seasonal pass. The other was directing traffic at the launch ramp. The presence of some supervision greatly reduced the chance of conflicts among boaters. Vehicles with trailers cued up to enter the ramp area, and did so only when directed by the agent, who told them which ramp to use.

I don't know that confrontation at the launch ramp is an exclusive of the northern areas of the USA. It may be related to smaller watercraft like jet-ski boats. Jet Ski boats brought a lot of new and younger people to the boat launch ramp at many lakes, and that may have engendered some conflicts with the typical trailer boaters.

I do not recommend going to the ramp with the anticipation that someone will be there to offer help. You should have a plan that allows you to launch or load without help.

dfmcintyre posted 06-16-2015 01:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
If you really want to see confrontation, wander down to your local ramp about ten minutes before the thunderstorm arrives....
64nauset posted 06-16-2015 01:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for 64nauset  Send Email to 64nauset     
<I don't know that confrontation at the launch ramp is an exclusive of the northern areas of the USA>

How true, how true. Best free entertainment nationwide is a shady spot close to a busy ramp, on a hot holiday Sunday at 5 o'clock. No end to the hyjinks. Here's a tale of a solo retrieval ….So the guy had his boat sort of loaded, still in the water on the trailer, when another guy nearby started ragging on him about something. He got out of his truck to rag back and the trans slipped out of Park without the E-brake on, and all three parts rolled into the lake. Truck and trailer disappeared, but the boat was still floating just above it. He hadn't flicked the stop on the wench yet and it payed out enough line for the boat to continue floating. This tied up two of the six launch slots. Fire Dept. came about 20 minutes later, shut the whole ramp down, sent a diver in to hook up to the truck, and soon there was a line of empty trailers back as far as old eyes can see. A couple hours later near dark, the line finally started loading again. Lots of cursing about that one, though still amusing.

endus posted 06-16-2015 02:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for endus  Send Email to endus     
Getting the Montauk situated on the trailer properly is key. We bought our boat with a trailer without guide posts, and we quickly added them after having to pull back-and-forth out of the water a few times trying to get the boat centered, since the bunks have to sit in the correct place with the contours of the hull. We wound up replacing the trailer, and the new one is a bit more forgiving, but we still love the guide posts.

I hang my fenders parallel to the water line, so the line runs through them with knots to keep them in place. When I launch I just back the boat off the trailer and flip the fenders overboard. I have not launched single handed yet, but I see no reason why this wouldn't work single handed.

I have forgotten and had the fenders out both launching and recovering. You only do that once or twice before you start remembering!

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