|Make Mistakes at the Launch Less Likely with a Safety Checklist|
Mistakes at the launch—a hazard whenever cars, trucks, and trailers operate in close quarters—can result in more than a red face. Serious property damage and injuries can occur. This is why safety is every bit as important at launch as it is when your boat is on the water, or on the road. With nearly 13 million recreational boats registered in the United States, marinas are often crowded with operators so eager to launch that they forget or neglect key steps in the process.
To make jumping the gun less likely, have a safe-launch checklist. Recommended basics include the following:
✔ Put on a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket before working on or near the water.
✔ Make sure there’s plenty of room at the marina for easy turning and parking.
✔ At the ramp, check the following items: Make sure that the water depth is adequate for the size of the boat, and that the ramp is wide enough and has an incline that will accommodate both the boat and the trailer.
✔ Scan the surface of the ramp for slippery conditions and/or sharp objects.
✔ To keep from delaying others, do initial launch preparations away from the ramp: Raise the outdrive, or motor, to prevent dragging on the ramp; remove the support bracket and install the drain plug. Disconnect the trailer wiring. Release transom tie-down straps. Check the ﬁttings. Connect the fuel tank, check ﬂuid levels, and again check the drain plug.
✔ Keep the boat winched to the trailer until ready to launch.
✔ Back the trailer down the ramp, keeping the tow vehicle’s wheels out of the water.
✔ Shift into “park,” set the emergency brake, and block the wheels.
✔ For inboard propulsion, energize the installed blower for ﬁve minutes prior to starting.
✔ Lower the outdrive, look for water entering the boat, sniff the bilge, and start the motor.
✔ Make sure water is passing through the engine cooling system.
✔ Attach a bow line to the boat, then release the winch and disconnect the winch line.
✔ Launch the boat with a slight shove or by backing away under power.
✔ Move the towing vehicle and trailer to the parking lot to make room for the next boat and trailer in line.
✔ Move your boat to a dock away from the ramp to load any passengers or additional gear.
Make this checklist part of your routine, and you and others will beneﬁt. When you follow the correct ramp procedures, you encourage other boaters to follow your example and to improve their own safety.