Pre-Boat Launch Checklist

  • Always check weather forecast prior to every trip.

  • File a float plan with a friend or relative. Tell them where youʼre going and when you intend to return—and what to do if you don’t/

  • Confirm the number of passengers and ensure there are correct size Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) for each passenger.

  • Confirm all equipment and safety gear is operable: GPS, radio, horn, flares, anchor, whistle, mirror, flotation devices, fire extinguisher(s), etc.

  • Ensure cell phone is fully charged in the event an emergency call is needed (inland). For offshore, conduct radio check and then conduct another radio check once underway.

  • Prior to starting safety check, verify boat motor starts and runs. 

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Boat Trailer Check: 
  • Never travel with boat cover on the boat while traveling on the trailer. Boat covers are not made to withstand the wind speed.

  • Back tow vehicle to boat trailer and align where ball is under coupler:

    • Connect trailer tongue coupler to tow vehicle ball – BE SURE LATCH IS UNDER BALL not on top of it and LATCH IS LOCKED & BOLTED SECURELY.

    • Connect trailer safety chains to tow vehicle and ensure the chains are crossed underneath the trailer tongue.

    • If your trailer has brakes – be sure to connect trailer safety cable to tow vehicle.

    • Connect trailer wiring plug for trailer lights to tow vehicle.

    • Crank up trailer tongue jack to ensure the jack will not hit the ground while traveling.

    • Check trailer winch to ensure it is connected to boat, is tight and locked.

    • Check secondary safety cable to ensure it is connected to boat.

    • Check trailer tire pressure and condition of tires.

    • Check trailer lights before each trip to include the brakes, turn signals and emergency flashers.

    • Check boat tie down straps to ensure straps are properly connected to trailer.

    • Once all steps completed, it's time to head to the boat ramp.

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Once at the Boat Ramp area: 
  • Be courteous, don't move the boat down the ramp until all your crew has arrived, and the boat is fully loaded. Pull to designated area to transfer all gear, coolers and/or equipment from the tow vehicle to the boat. 

  • Disconnect the tie-down straps. Keep the boat attached to the trailer with both the winch on the bow eye and the safety chain on the bow eye. Disconnect the trailer lights from the tow vehicle.

  • Install the drain plug. Unlock the motor transom saver. Connect the dock lines to the boat cleat on the appropriate side of the boat (the side will closet to the dock). If desired, also have fenders out and ready to deploy.

  • Roll down the windows in the tow vehicle and have all passengers, human and pets, get out of the vehicle before backing down the ramp. This helps communication with the backup spotter, and it helps in the event the tow vehicle goes into the water; the driver will be able to escape when the power windows become inoperable. In addition, remove seat belt, in the event a quick escape is needed. Ensure all passengers are on the dock or out of way of traffic.

  • Position the trailer at the top of the ramp and slowly back down, with the assistance of a spotter.

  • If the trailer jackknifes or becomes difficult to straighten, go back up the ramp a little way and start again. It's easier.

  • Once the boat is at the water level where it can be launched, set the parking brake and put truck in park. If needed, chock the front wheels of the truck for extra support.

  • Remove the winch strap/cable hook from the bow eye and the safety chain. Ensure fenders are in place and dock lines are properly connected to bow and stern cleats and are being handled by the passenger/crew members.  Push the boat into the water.

  • Move the boat to the end of the dock — or, if possible, to the opposite side of the dock away from the boat ramp.

  • Once the boat is safely off the trailer, pick up the wheel chocks (if used), release the parking brake and drive the tow vehicle up the ramp, and park in a designated area for boat trailers.


Click here to learn more about our boat safety education

It is the responsibility of the boat operator to know and follow all the navigation rules.

A navigation rule can be overlooked if necessary to avoid immediate danger. For a complete listing of the navigation rules, refer to Navigation Rules of the Road, published by the U.S. Coast Guard (COMDTINST 16672.2 Series) and available through the U.S. Government Printing Office or on the Web at