Properly Trailering Your Boat

Monday, January 30, 2012

Boat being towed down the Klondike Highway in Alaska. Photo courtesy of the

When most people think about boat insurance, they think it is just to protect against losses on the water. But with the majority of recreational boats in the United States being towed to and from the water, accidents can happen just as much on the road. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to properly trailer your boat. Nobody wants to be at fault for causing a third party damage, or worse, injury or death.

Article by Auxiliarist Mary Bethea, Harrisburg, PA

Trailering your boat does not have to be a stressful experience if you take the time to prepare your boat and trailer before you hit the road. Here are a few tips that can help you create your own routine to ensure a safe trip for you, your boat and those sharing the road:

  •  The trailer must have a load capacity adequate to carry the boat, motor, fuel and all equipment that may be carried in the boat as it is trailered.
  • Lower the tongue socket onto the ball on the trailer hitch and lock together securely.
  • Connect trailer lights to towing vehicle and check turn signals, brake lights and backup lights.
  • Attach safety chains from trailer to tow vehicle securely in a criss-cross fashion.
  • Check tie-down straps and winch and cable.
  • Make sure wheel bearings run free and are properly lubricated.
  • Check tire pressure, lug nuts and test brakes.
  • With the boat on the trailer, make sure it’s “sitting right” in a level position.
  • Make sure to stow drain plug in the boat so any remaining water can drain and it is there when you get to the ramp.
  • Don’t forget the keys to the boat.
  • Never carry gasoline tanks in the tow vehicle.
  • Defensive driving is especially important.   Stopping will take longer and lane changes will need more room.
  • Carry spares such as tire, fuses, brake fluid and bearings.
  • Have a good roadside safety kit that includes a flashlight and road flares.


Trailering laws do vary from state to state and often are based on weight and beam. Before you head out on the open road, make sure your boat trailer adheres to all the state regulations. At a minimum, all trailers need to have working taillights and brake lights, and most states require registration of the trailer with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The American Boating Association has compiled the US state’s towing laws and you can check the regulations that apply to you.

If you’re interested in learning more about boat trailer maintenance and towing safety tips, the Coast Guard Auxiliary offers Boating Skills & Seamanship and About Boating Safety courses, both which cover this topic in class. The added bonus is that many boat insurance companies will offer discounts on boating insurance to boaters who successfully complete the About Boating Safely class. And who doesn’t love saving money while being safe?



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  1. Bill Stolz says:

    Very good article

  2. Lynn Mott 081-01-07 says:

    Nicely done

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