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Author Topic:   Proper Trailer Loading
DBOutrage17 posted 04-22-2005 10:57 PM ET (US)   Profile for DBOutrage17   Send Email to DBOutrage17  
How are you supposed to get the boat back on the trailer? I always float it on with no power, get out and use the winch to finish. Is that odd? Do most people drive it on under power? I have an Outrage 17II.

I found this:

That appears to say you can power on or winch on but interestingly some ramps prohibit the power on approach.

bsmotril posted 04-23-2005 06:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
It depends on the way your trailer is set up, the steepness of the ramp, local customs, and sometimes the usage rules for an individual ramp. With a bigger boat, you aren't going to be able to winch it up, so driving on is more common. For me, it usually is a combination of driving it on as far as possible, then winching the last 6 inches while someone else gives it the gas. The boat weighs 5000 plus pounds. BillS
bigjohn1 posted 04-23-2005 08:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigjohn1  Send Email to bigjohn1     
DB, the short answer is...with your boat one can easily manually load her on the trailer. The guys with larger and heavier boats have no choice as its damn tough to manually winch up a 5,000+lb boat. I have seen enough instances on the ramp of smashed fingers, pinched fingers, and loads of near "misses" to decide that power loading a light boat is not worth the risk. Many have been doing it in relative safety for years and have had no problems though. As Bill states, in some areas, its just the way everyone does it and that tradition carries on irregardless of boat size.
DBOutrage17 posted 04-23-2005 03:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for DBOutrage17  Send Email to DBOutrage17     
The power on looks like a tricky maneuver, often performed by people who don't care what the bow of their boat looks like...
I will stick with the manual approach.
handn posted 04-24-2005 09:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for handn  Send Email to handn     
I have a 305 Conquest, 12000 lbs +. I would like to see Arnold winch it on the last five inches.
Royboy posted 04-24-2005 03:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for Royboy  Send Email to Royboy     
Around these parts (Michigan), it's generally illegal to powerload your boat due to the damage it causes to the ramps here. The blast from the prop undermines the ramp and it eventually collapses. Those with big boats should be able to afford a power winch to get thier boats on the trailer. There's no sense destroying the ramp to save a few bucks on a necessary piece of equipment. The Bass boat crowd is famous for this around here, even though all of the State ramps have a big sign at the end of each dock prohibiting it. As you may be able to tell, it ticks me off. I don't like paying ever higher launch fees because some yahoo is too cool or too cheap to recover his boat properly.


Knot at Work posted 04-24-2005 06:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     

Try to load your boat in a southerly wind at 20 knots, with an outgoing tide and a westerly approach to the dock. I appreciate it when people DO POWER load to hurry the ramp time and minimize my exposure to the shoals in the winds while some YAHOO screws around with his boat and is too worried about gettign his feet wet when he should be tying his boat to his trailer and getting OUT of the water.

God made Concrete. Concrete makes boat ramps... get over it.

HuronBob posted 04-24-2005 06:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for HuronBob    

Roy's point is well taken, especially for those of us in Michigan using inland DNR ramps... (and, this discussion has happened at least once before here at CW).

At most of the ramps that Roy is speaking of, nobody is loading 25 foot boats, most of the boats are bass boats and smaller.. and we're not dealing with tide and wind as you are.

No need to power just screws up the ramp for the rest of us...


Whalerider posted 04-25-2005 08:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whalerider  Send Email to Whalerider     
There is a difference between POWERING it on, and DRIVING it on. I have had several (read 8) boats from 16 feet to 25 feet, over the years and with EVERY one of them I could drive it on the trailer with the engine at idle speed or slightly faster. All you have to do is position the trailer correctly and use some basic seamanship. Where I boat we have 7 foot tides, 8 kt currents and winds just like every where else...never a problem and NEVER any damage. I run a Nantucket now and using the drive on procedure I come right up to the bow roller or within one or two inches on a really shallow ramp.
Nothing worse than waiting 20 minutes for some amateur yahoo to wade around with ropes and then try to crank their boat up on a trailer that is barely in the water or watch someone using full power to try to force it up to near the bow stop due to an improperly positioned trailer. If you can’t DRIVE your boat on to the trailer without causing any damage under all conditions other than the most severe, then you need some boating instruction or just take up golf. Learn the correct way to position your trailer and launch /retrieve your boat, it easy and will make your boating much more enjoyable.
HuronBob posted 04-25-2005 09:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for HuronBob    
WhaleRider... Nice distinction between "driving on" and "powering on", well put. I've never had the pleasure of launching or loading a 25 footer. It is refreshing to hear someone with that experience advocate for a more peaceful and environmentally friendly approach to boating.


diveorfish posted 04-25-2005 11:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for diveorfish  Send Email to diveorfish     
Due to the fact that power loading is prohibited at most ramps I always manually load my boat. My boat weighs close to 6000 lbs with fuel and gear and I never have any problem winching it. You just have to back the trailer down far enough to where the bow post is about to get wet and the boat will float right up to the roller. I stand in front of the bow stop where it is dry, hook up and tighten using the winch with very little effort.
newt posted 04-25-2005 01:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Sorry knot, but God didn't make concrete...the Romans did.
jimh posted 04-26-2005 09:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Power loading can be effective at some ramp sites, particularly those where there is no dock alongside the ramp area and you are working alone and do not wish to wade ashore. However, power loading is prohibited at many ramps. It is also more effective if two people are working in concert to load the boat. One person drives the boat onto the trailer, while another attaches the winch strap and secures the boat on the trailer. Done properly, it can make loading a very fast operation. However, it is often seen that a great deal of thrust is used trying to force a boat the last foot or two onto a trailer. This results in erosion of the sea bottom beyond the end of the concrete portion of the ramp. It is much simpler to use the winch to move the boat those last few inches.

Also, it is quite easy to spin a propeller hub when trying to power load. Pay particular attention if you are using a plastic propeller hub insert, such as those found in the Mercury Flo-Torq system.

Each boat and trailer combination will have an optimum position which will promote the easiest loading. Too little immersion and you will have a long pull to get the boat onto the trailer. Too much immersion and the boat will remain floating too long, resulting in it dropping onto the trailer as you haul the trailer up the ramp. This can lead to misalignment of the boat on the trailer. I prefer to winch the boat the last 3-4 feet onto the trailer, as this generally results in the boat coming onto the trailer dead center. Also, the boat will not shift position when the trailer is pulled up the ramp.

To make loading easier and more consistent, I mark the depth on the fender of the trailer on the driver side. As I back in, I observe the depth mark in my mirror. This has worked well, even on ramps with quite different slopes. I find that when loading at certain ramps, sometimes it is necessary to change the trailer position slightly during the loading. Usually this means backing in a little further to facilitate pulling the boat with the winch the last foot or so on a really steep ramp.

The depth for launching will be different from the depth for loading. Generally on launching you will immerse the trailer into deeper water than when loading.

Adding tall PVC pipe trailer guides at the extreme rear of the trailer will make loading much easier. As the boat is being loaded, it is normal that the stern of the boat remains afloat until the very end of the loading process. As a result, the stern will tend to swing side to side during loading unless constrained by the PVC guides posts. It is much easier to winch the boat forward onto the trailer when the stern is being held centered by the guides. They are strongly recommended, and they are not very expensive ($60).

Newport_whaler posted 04-26-2005 09:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for Newport_whaler  Send Email to Newport_whaler     
I have worked on several lakes putting piers in and out. I used a 30ft pontoon that I made with a cherry picker on the front. Several times I would have 100ft of dock on the boat and would be able to get on and off the ramp just fine, when people (bass boats) do not power load.

Now you have to realize that you are not going to hurt your truck if you back it up closeto the middle of the hub on the rear axle. Many people do not do this, as to why is beyond my understanding, maybe because they are scared. I am at a close friend’s house a lot, which happens to be next to a Public Access. When we do see power loading happen we do make them aware of the fact that they are only making it worse. Unfortunately more do power load than not it seems, and it is always the ones that do not back up until the tires are even wet or the tail pipe is even close to the water.

UNLAWFUL! This is true within the state of Michigan. For those that are not on inland lakes I can understand the need to do so and this is only explaining to DBOutrage17 what should be feasible for a boat his size on an inland lake. If he is battling a tide or current like those in Nova Scotia (50ft in some places) where I once lived, then the power (driving) loading should be legal and done so.


bsmotril posted 04-26-2005 09:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
In Saltwater, your tow vehicle brakes would be toast in short order if you submerge the axle up above the brake drums.

I can't understand why people are so quick to condem power loading when they are totally unfamiliar with the ramps or customs where it is done. The Calhoun county ramp I use is on the Intracoastal waterway that is dredged to a channel depth of 14' it is 4 lanes wide, has a corrugated concrete bottom, with concrete docks on both sides, and between lanes 2 and 3, concrete bottom, and metal sheeting along the sides. I watched them build it, and they first built a caisson of metal sheeting. then built the ramp, and finally removed the caisson and flooded the ramp. The ramp extends 75-80 feet out, and is about 10 foot deep at the end. Besides being used to launch a lot of offshore fish boats, including many 25-40 foot center consoles, it is also used to pull out commercial shrimping boats using a tractor and a a huge trailer with a tongue about 30 feet long that spans two lanes in width.

At this ramp, the people who don't power load are in the minority by far, and they are the guys who usually have the small aluminum john boats, or flats scooters. The two man process Jim mentioned is most often used where the driver backs the trailer, then exits the tow vehicle to attach the cable and winch the boat up the last 6 inches or so while the boat driver runs it up. Typically, there is a cross current of 1-3 knots unless you hit slack tide, so you crab in until you get the boat between the docks, then straighten it just before you run up the trailer. Done this way, a typical trailer loading takes less than a minute. The driver then pulls up and parks in a staging area where the boat can be unloaded further.

I've arrived at this ramp sometimes with 10-15 boats ahead of me, but have never had to wait more then 10 minutes or so to be out of the water. The ramp has existed in its' present configuration for 15 years, and there has been no detrimental effects from power loading. The only repairs done have been to replace worn fender boards on the concrete piers, and new cleats bolted to the concrete. With a properly designed float on trailer (which most are these days), and adequate operator skills, there is no downside to powerloading, and many benefit from the shorter lines at the ramp. Your mileage (and ramp) may vary, so don't condemn that with which you are not familiar with, Please !

handn posted 04-26-2005 10:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for handn  Send Email to handn     
With a bigger boat, it is difficult if not impossible to winch or "float" the boat on in all circumstances. Tides change the ramp angle and sometimes backing in far enough to float the boat on would submerge the rear bumper and electrical plug.
The power winches I have seen on trailers look pretty wimpy, fine for 14 foot johnboats but not much else.
I unplug my trailer electrical connections to avoid popping tailights. This disables the winch.
When powering on, the proper proceedure is to tilt the motors out, raising the bow and directing most of the thrust upwards minimizing erosion. Only the minimum power necessary to put the boat on the trailer is applied.
Most of the ramp erosion is caused by going cheap when building the ramp.
Knot at Work posted 04-26-2005 12:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Knot at Work  Send Email to Knot at Work     
I suppose we are talking Apples and Oranges.

Our northern contingent Lake bound brothers are correct to assume that "power loading" will cause erosion and other ills in the placid confines of a quite lake.

The other side of the coin, is those of us that launch, and recover in Salt Water, ICW or other tidal areas. Power Loading is not only the norm, the ramps are built to accomodate it.

Buckda posted 04-26-2005 01:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Until BillS mentioned the differences in ramp construction, I was totally on the side of "always winch the boat on the trailer".

Michigan generally has a LOT of state-owned ramps. We have a ton of boats too, with lots of lakes and big lake access points. Perhaps it's for this reason that the ramps are constructed differently (plus we don't have to suffer the devastating erosional effects of tropical weather and tidal surges).

I'm not saying that some ramps in Michigan aren't busy - they are...but I can also understand the frustration in a coastal location where the ramp might be the only one for miles and EVERYONE has to use it, so the lines are long and the time taken to hand-winch a boat onto a trailer can slow the whole situation down quite a bit, and because of the construction (as described above) does not really benefit the environment.

In Michigan, the ramps are concrete- but often a slab that merely extends to a specified depth. When the water clarity is good, you can usually see the end of the ramp, about 5 feet underwater. In some cases, when people have been powerloading, you can see the effects of this on the ramp - the concrete ends (in jagged fashion where previous loaded trailers have broken off the end) and there is a 1-2 foot dropoff to the bottom from where the sand has been eroded by propwash. It's not you can start to understand the passion behind the comments from the Midwestern contingent..especially if you've ever backed your trailer down a ramp and watched the back tires drop off that edge and heard the axle hit concrete.

It's the same feeling as walking out to your car and from the end of the parking lot row, you can see the glass on the ground from someone breaking in to steal your radio.


Newport_whaler posted 04-26-2005 02:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Newport_whaler  Send Email to Newport_whaler     
bsmotril - You are correct in saying so in your area- I would gather from what you had said that you might be talking about Travis lake at the Mansfield Dam Park-I called them so I was not condemning anyone (only one I could find with the description that you had- sorry if it is not the same one), however, to which, I was explaining within the state of Michigan, as I hope all know, we do not have salt water. I did agree with what you had said as stated by myself having referred to Nova Scotia, whom also has shrimp and lobster boats.

I think both of us should-- as you stated "Your mileage (and ramp) may vary, so don't condemn that with which you are not familiar with, Please!" Which had put something into perspectives after having read the link that- DBOutrage17 had on his question-which never stated were he uses the boat.

and even the thread

However, I did do the research and DNR will give you a fine in Michigan and Travis County Parks will not (and I am sure that goes for all that are built in the means that you describe) - I stand corrected and hope you take the time as I have done to read the above links.

While writing this Buckda and Knot at Work replied and I agree and have learned. Which is what a forum in for.

By the way bsmotril I love the 23’ Conquest – Lost a 21’ in a divorce!!!

bsmotril posted 04-26-2005 05:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
Nope, I'm talking about Port O'Connor TX. Lake Travis is a flood control lake, and the level varies greatly. The docks at the ramps there float, and when the water is low, there is a big drop off at he ends of the ramps from power loading erosion. And I agree it is a problem on shallow ramps. Luckily it only get low enough for it to be a problem once every 10 yrs or so.

The Conquest 23 is no longer mine. At least it is still in the family and was bought by another forum member.

DBOutrage17 posted 04-26-2005 07:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for DBOutrage17  Send Email to DBOutrage17     
Hi all. I didn't want to start a controversy or disparage anyone's ability to load their boat, I just was curious as to what the norm would be.

Lake Erie is where I boat. The ramp is on a river, no current, no tide, fresh water and it has a dock down the middle of a launch side and retrieve side. No rules posted on the dock whatsoever but I'll have to read the ticket closer next time to see if it says anything at all about power loading. I doubt if it does, because there's power loading going on there all the time.

I think the way I do it with my boat size and ramp conditions are fine and I will try some of the tips learned here, like the water mark on the fender, I like that.

jimh posted 04-26-2005 08:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I think in Michigan many of the boat launching ramps are just pieces of concrete pavement slabs that were dragged into the lake and are resting on the natural lake bottom. Also, because the lake levels tend to remain very constant, these ramps do not extend very far into the lake. It is not unusual that the ramp ends before the dock ends!

Because of this design, it is very common that when loading the boat's engine and propeller will be over the natural lake bottom and not over concrete. The thrust from the propeller can dig a hole at the end of the concrete ramp, and even more annoying, build up a mound just a few feet out. I have launched at a ramp, then backed out into a shoal created by power loading, damaging my propeller in the process.

Ramps in areas where there is diurnal change in water level or very wide seasonal change in water level are often built to be very long. We just saw a ramp out in Arizona on an impoundment lake where the lake level was anticipated to change about 50-feet. Needless to say, this "ramp" was very, very long, hundreds of feet really. Depending on what time of the year you were using it, the bottom under your boat could be concrete for 500-feet after you left the trailer. In that situation there is not much concern about bottom erosion from power loading.

The fluctuation in water level also tends to make having docks at the ramp more difficult. In Michigan we almost always have courtesy docks alongside each ramp lane. In areas with tidal or large seasonal variation, it is very common to not have a dock for each ramp lane, and perhaps to only have one dock. If there is a dock, it is situated more to be out of the way of the ramp and to be used for temporary mooring of your boat while you fetch your truck and trailer.

I explained some of the difference in the article

Two Schools of Thought--How Ramp Design Affects Trailer Performance

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