Boat Safety / May 18, 2023

How to launch a boat safely

Boating season is in full swing, with May 2023 setting some record-breaking temperatures in many parts of Canada. If you are a novice boater, or even an experienced boater, we want to remind you of how to launch a boat safely in a Canadian river, lake, or ocean. Tips for launching your boat safely

Launch a boat safely from a ramp trailer

When launching a boat from a marina, it’s essential to take the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. Here are the steps to launch your boat safely from a marina or other direct water ramp access.

  1. Prepare the boat: Ensure that boat is equipped with all the necessary safety equipment, including flares, life jackets, an anchor, an bailer and a fire extinguisher. Check that the fuel and oil levels are sufficient and ensure that the boat’s batteries are fully charged.
  2. Prepare the trailer: Ensure that the trailer is in good working condition, and that the hitch is securely attached to the towing vehicle. Check that the trailer’s lights are working correctly, and that the tires are properly inflated.
  3. Secure you boat via a long rope (see link to video below) to your truck. This is incredibly helpful if you must launch your boat by yourself.
  4. Check in with the harbour master or marina staff before pulling your truck and trailer to the launch area.  The staff or another boater may be on hand to help you navigate the procedures between your truck and trailer.
  5. Position the trailer: Place the trailer near the water’s edge and make sure that it’s aligned with the boat ramp.
  6. Back the trailer into the water: Slowly back the trailer down the ramp, ensuring that the boat is centred on the trailer. Be careful not to submerge the trailer too deep, or the vehicle’s engine may be flooded.
  7. Put the vehicle in park, grab the rope and untie it from the vehicle and secure your boat to a cleat or pilon.
  8. Remove the trailer:  Once the boat is floating, carefully drive the trailer out of the water and secure the boat to the dock while you park the tow vehicle and prepare for departure.
  9. Prepare the boat for departure: Remove any tie-down straps, attach the boat’s mooring lines, and start the engine. Ensure that all passengers are safely seated and that they’re wearing life jackets before departing.
  10. Remember to follow all posted signs and signals, as well as any instructions provided by the marina staff. Be patient, take your time, and most importantly, have fun!

Launching a boat from a slip

Launching your boat from a slip can be a little different from launching from a ramp, but with proper preparation and attention to safety, it can be just as straightforward. Here are the steps to safely launch your boat from a slip:

  1. Prepare the boat: Ensure the boat is equipped with all the necessary safety equipment, including flares, life jackets, an anchor, a bailer and a fire extinguisher. Ensure that the fuel and oil levels are sufficient, and that the batteries are fully charged.
  2. Prepare the slip: Check that the slip is in good condition, and that there are no obstructions or hazards in the water. Be sure that the dock lines are secured to the boat, and that there is enough slack in the lines to allow for movement.
  3. Start the engine: Start the boat’s engine and allow it to warm up for a few minutes before departing. Be sure to have the boat in neutral while preparing to leave.
  4. Release the dock lines: Carefully remove the dock lines from the cleats, starting with the stern lines. Allow the boat to drift away from the dock and into the open water.
  5. Exit the slip: Once the boat is clear of the slip, shift into forward gear and proceed out of the marina at a safe speed.
  6. Monitor conditions: Be aware of any potential hazards or obstacles in the water, such as other boats or buoys. Maintain a safe speed and distance from other vessels.
  7. Enjoy your trip: Finally, once you are safely out of the marina, Bon Voyage and have a good time! Remember to follow all boating regulations, including speed limits, and always be aware of changing conditions.

As with launching from a ramp, it’s essential to take your time and pay attention to safety when launching your boat from a slip. Be aware of your surroundings, follow all posted signs and signals, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. There are always experienced boaters around, and they are usually more than willing to help.

Quick tips 

The quickest Way to Launch a Boat by Yourself by Salt Strong:
BoatSmart: How to Launch A Boat: 10 Steps to Get on the Water
Boatsmart: How to launch a boat

Drive a Boat Canada:  How to launch a boat
Safe Harbour Insurance:  Safety around the marina


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