How to Tow a Boat: A Step by Step Guide

Thursday July 12, 2018

Category: Auto | Road Safety | Travel


For many people, boating is an integral part of their summer activities. While some people prefer to keep their craft in a marina, don’t let your fear of towing keep you from exploring other options. Learning how to tow a boat opens to the door to so many options, from switching up your coastal destinations to exploring remote fishing spots. Here’s how to get started:

1. Know your numbers

A crucial part of comfortable and effective towing is having – or borrowing – a truck that accommodates your gross combined vehicle weight, also known as GCVW. Calculate this by adding the weight of your boat, trailer and vehicle and make sure said vehicle has a GCVW that’s larger than that number. Make sure it comes with a tow package, including a tow hitch that’s the appropriate class. Hitches range from a Class I, typically suitable for boats under 2,000 pounds, to a class V, which can accommodate up to 18,000 pounds.

2. Consider Extended Side Mirrors

Depending on the length of your vehicle and boat, you may want to consider additional side mirrors. Extended mirrors can extend your line of vision down the length of your boat while driving to reduce the size of your blind spots.

3. Prepare Your Boat

Before you attach your vehicle and boat, it is a good idea to prepare the boat for travel on the road. Ensure there are no objects in your boat that may rattle around and cause damage while driving. Secure any windshields, oars, safety kits, life jackets and fuel you may have on board.

If your boat has a tarp, be sure to inspect the tarp for damage before hitting the road. Even a small tear can end up being torn open at highway speeds.

If you are using straps to secure your motor or other components, be sure to check that all straps are secure and loose ends are tucked away neatly.

4. Get hitched

Once you’re ready to hitch up and get on the road, align the tow hitch with the ball on your vehicle and slowly lower the hitch over the ball. Close the latch and insert the safety pin, a crucial piece of equipment that ensures your rig stays connected if you hit a bumpy stretch. Apply your safety chains and cross them. This ensures the trailer tongue won’t hit the road and get damaged if the hitch comes loose. If you’re using a trailer with brakes, attach the safety line to your vehicle.

Boat Hitch

5. Plan Your Route

Be sure to plan your route before you head out. Knowing your route before hand can help avoid unexpected construction or last minute lane along the way. With a solid plan and a trusty co-pilot, you can ensure the safest path while towing.

6. Do a final check

Don’t be too eager to head out and forget your safety check! Make sure you plug in the lights and ensure they’re all working. This is a great time to do a 360-degree walk around, checking tire pressure, boat attachments and double-checking the trailer hitch.

7. Be a mindful driver

As you head out on the road, boat in tow, be aware that hauling so much extra mass requires a bit of extra care. It’s a good idea to use extended side mirrors, so you can get a clear view of what’s behind you. Make wide turns to avoid clipping other vehicles or roadside obstructions. Remember: you’re now towing a significantly heavier load than usual, so your breaking distance will be increased. Leave extra following room between you and surrounding vehicles. Once you’re at the boat ramp, back the boat carefully into the water. Do this before you remove the safety chain and winch strap, so the trailer doesn’t slip off the rig.

Practice makes perfect

Hauling a boat is definitely a different feel than just driving a truck around. It’s a great idea to master backing up, turning corners and just get the feel of your rig in a controlled environment first. Empty parking lots are perfect for this. Once you feel confident about these manoeuvres you can try longer trips or busier stretches.

While learning to tow a boat requires practice and precision, it’s a great way to increase your location options. Whether you want to make your way through Ontario’s cottage country at a leisurely pace or head farther north for some optimal fishing, this is the way to ensure freedom is at your fingertips!


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