A boat is a major investment and in the excitement of getting back to the water, it can be tempting for many people to hire the first company they come to or do it themselves. For those that want to do it themselves, there are some basic safety precautions that should be observed to protect the boat and other drivers.
Perhaps the most important aspect of towing a boat is ensuring the tow vehicle is actually able to handle the weight of the watercraft and the trailer. Every towing vehicle has a stated maximum gross combined vehicle weight (GCVW) rating. The vehicle should be equipped with a tow package that includes extended mirrors, appropriate tow hitch and transmission coolers.
The boat trailer must be securely latched to the tow vehicle. Safety chains or cables are required by law, running from the trailer to the tow vehicle. The chains should be relatively tight and not sloppy. It’s absolutely critical that proper restraints are employed to ensure that the boat is securely fastened to the trailer.
In the event that the trailer becomes unhitched, the chains will tether it tightly to the vehicle and prevent it from weaving into oncoming traffic or completely breaking loose from the vehicle. Boat owners will also need to ensure that the weight of the boat and its contents are evenly distributed.
Lighting and Brakes
Working trailer lights are an essential safety feature even if the boat is being towed just a mile down the road or whether it’s a rowboat or a yacht. If the trailer is equipped with its own braking system, make sure the brakes are plugged in and working properly.
Leave Extra Room
Depending on the size of the boat trailer, it may be wider than the tow vehicle and many drivers forget this very important fact. Driving close to the center line can place the wider trailer into the lane of oncoming traffic.
Towing a trailer means wider turns, more acceleration time to get up to speed, and a longer space in which to stop. Windy conditions make a trailer more difficult to tow and trying to compensate for wind changes can make the trailer fishtail or even pull a vehicle off the road.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before heading for the open road with other drivers, boat owners should take a test drive to make sure all systems are working correctly and they feel comfortable towing the trailer and boat combo. It can be helpful to practice in a large, open parking lot to get a feel for acceleration, backing up safely, and using the extended mirrors.
Towing a trailer can be enough of a challenge, but adding a boat into the mix can be a disaster if the tow vehicle has insufficient power, safety precautions aren’t observed, or the driver isn’t comfortable. A boat is a significant investment and following basic safety precautions during transporting it will keep the vessel and other drivers safe.
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