There are basically two ways of launching your boat: from a car trailer into the water or simply launching your boat off the docks. While launching your boat into the water can be a fun experience, a single mistake can turn it into horror for you, for others, and for your insurance provider. Many insurance providers will not cover you for such accidents, especially if they find proof that the cause of the accident was improper handling or negligence on your end. Thus, it is essential that you practice launching your boat carefully. Let’s see how to launch a boat in this article.

How to Launch a Boat off a Trailer into the Water

Not all of us live near a beach or afford to rent a space to dock our boat on the nearest harbour. Many small powerboat owners will prefer keeping their boats on a trailer, safely kept in their garage. Two important things are achieved by doing so: ease of maintenance and security against theft and environmental damage.

So, how do you launch a boat off a trailer directly into the water? Let’s see.

Check the Water Level

Low water levels can create dangerous situations for your boat’s hull integrity. You should always check if the water level is sufficient before launching your boat off the trailer. Else you may have to consider a different ramp to launch your boat.

Install the Drain Plug

Drain plugs should only be taken off when your boat is out of the water. Else it should stay on all the time. Make sure the drain plug is installed before you launch your boat off the trailer.

Slowly back up your trailer to the ramp

Time to begin the launch process. After you load your boat with the necessary gear (such as fenders and dock lines), you can start the process. Slowly back up the truck towards the ramp until the stern starts to float.

Time to launch the boat

Once you are in position and your stern starts floating, secure your vehicle with a parking brake and release the trailer winch and other safety chains, if any. Then slowly give it a push, which will slowly slide the boat into the water.

Now all you have to do is be cautious as you drive away from the ramp area into open waters.

Pro Tip: Make sure you wear your life jacket and attach the engine kill switch to your jacket at all times when you operate the boat.

How to Launch a Boat off the Docks

Taking a boat out of a dock is relatively easier than taking your boat off a trailer. However, you must stay aware of the surroundings as docks often happen to be crowded during peak hours.

Release the lines

Release the lines that are holding your boat in place. Since your boat is docked, good chance your boat already has fenders attached on the sides. Give it a gentle push to sway the boat away from the docks.

Practice Caution as you leave the docks

As mentioned before, docks are often crowded. Maintain your speed as you leave the docks and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you always don your life jacket and attach the engine kill switch to it at all times.

Follow overtaking protocols

It is a general practice worldwide. When you are around the docks or in relatively confined waters, you should always keep the following rules in your mind.

  • Crossing paths? Give way to the boat that is coming from the left (port) side. If you are approaching someone’s port side at a crossing, they will have to give way.
  • Meeting head-on? Give way to the approaching vessel on your left (port) side and turn to the right (starboard) side.
  • Overtaking a boat? You will have to give them the way. Move to their port side or starboard side to overtake them. Let them maintain their course.

Apart from that, it is absolutely necessary that you learn boat horn signals. You would be mainly using them if you are facing reduced visibility on the water.


Remember, there are also general rules you should follow: such as checking the weather or making sure your boat is in perfect condition. These are the basic tips for launching a boat in the waters.

Boating can be a wonderful experience for many. If you feel like you are missing out, why not start by getting a skipper’s license in South Africa? Contact us for more information.

Basics of Launching a Boat | How to Launch a Boat?