How to Load a Boat on a Trailer

Published on October 10, 2022


Trailering a Sea Ray to new cruising or fishing grounds opens up a whole world of fun boating opportunities but it can also present challenges when launching and loading at unfamiliar ramps. Here are some tips to make it easy no matter where you go.


Loading Sea Ray boats

Most people find it harder to retrieve the boat than to launch it so let’s focus here.

1. Take a good look at the ramp before backing down – specifically its width and its angle. If the ramp is narrow, take extra care backing. If the ramp is shallow, that means you’ll need to drive the tow vehicle farther into the water before the trailer will be at the proper depth.

2. The trailer should be deep enough so the forward end of the bunks are visible but not so far that the boat would float off the trailer as you’re trying to load.

3. Put the vehicle into the “park” position and also apply the parking brake.

4. The vehicle driver should stand at the head of the trailer and help guide the boat driver into position.

5. Bunk guides are helpful to line up the boat on approach so if your trailer has them, you’re in luck.

6. Always drive the boat slowly when approaching the trailer. Go in and out of gear in short bursts.

7. If the approach isn’t going well, stop the boat, back up, line up and try again.

8. If there’s a cross wind or current, the boat driver needs to compensate by being upwind or up-current of the trailer on the approach.

9. Trim up the outboard slightly but not so far as to take the cavitation plate out of the water. Trimming is especially important if the ramp is shallow and the propeller risks hitting the bottom.

10. Don’t use the engine to push the boat farther up onto the trailer. This is called power loading and it can damage the ramp or the boat.

11. Once the boat is lined up on the trailer, have the vehicle driver attach the strap to the bow eye and winch it up the rest of the way. 

12. The outboard engine should be shut down and trimmed up once the boat is secure.

Boat trailer safety tips

Once your Sea Ray is on its trailer, there are still steps to take to ensure a safe tow. 

1. Make sure the cotter pin is inserted into the coupler assembly securely. 

2. Don’t forget the safety chains that attach to the vehicle and the breakaway cord that activates the trailer breaks if the boat separates from the vehicle.

3. Prepare the boat for the road in the staging area, not on the ramp.

4. Secure any loose items in the boat before towing and decide whether to use the cover at high speeds because you may risk tearing it.

5. If there is one, remove the plug and let any water out of the boat. 

6. Check the trailer lights before heading out on the road – ask someone for help.

7. Tow at a safe speed for the road and weather conditions and don’t cut corners too sharply.

It’s not hard to learn how to trailer a boat safely but practice does help. Launch ramps are busy places but if you go off-season, mid-week or early in the morning, you may be able to get some time to launch and load the boat repeatedly and soon you’ll be a pro.

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