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PA Boating Handbook
Trailering / Launching & Retrieving

Trailering is a package deal, which includes the boat, trailer, hitch and tow vehicle. Everything must be compatible. The tow vehicle hitch must match the trailer ball. The hitch should be mounted to the frame of the towing vehicle. Do not use bumper hitches. Trailer tires must have sufficient load-bearing capacity and be appropriate for the trailer. Practice is a key aspect of trailering. Before taking your boat on the road, use an empty parking lot to practice turning, parking and backing up. Before towing your boat:

  • Check your tires.
  • Make sure your wheel bearings are greased.
  • Ensure the trailer hitch is firmly on the trailer ball, and it is latched and secured with a pin or lock.
  • "X" patternCross and attach the trailer safety chains to the tow vehicle in an “X” pattern. They should not drag (required by law).
  • Make sure your lights work with your vehicle (required by law).
  • Secure the winch, other tie down straps, and any loose items.
  • Always carry a spare tire for your trailer

Prepare your boat well away from the boat ramp so you do not block ramp traffic. Before you launch, it is helpful to make sure you have not missed any important points:

  • Launching a boatPut the plug in.
  • Raise the motor.
  • Disconnect trailer wiring and tie-downs.
  • Tie a line to the bow to maintain control of the boat.
  • Slowly back your boat trailer into the water and set the emergency brake.
  • Disconnect and secure the winch.
  • Push or motor the boat off the trailer while somebody holds the bow line. Retrieval is the opposite of launching.
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