Towing Your Boat
Your boat trailer is an important part of your
boating equipment. After selecting the appropriate trailer for your boat
and towing vehicle, proper maintenance and continual care when hitching
and towing are necessary. If care and maintenance are neglected, you may
be endangering the safety of your boat, your car, your family, yourself
More damage can be done to a boat by the
stresses of road travel than by normal water operation, so make sure you
choose the right trailer. The trailer should be designed to carry the
total weight of the hull, engine, equipment and any extra gear.
The coupling hitch on the trailer should have a
lock or similar device to prevent it from vibrating loose. Periodically
lubricate the hitch for longer wear and quieter turns.
The trailer should have two safety chains strong
enough to control it if the hitch should come loose or break. The chains
should be securely attached to the towing vehicle at a place separate
from the ball and bracket. They should be long enough to allow turning,
but not long enough to drag on the ground.
Extra caution is necessary when towing any
trailer. The heavier the rig, the more time it takes to accelerate, pass
and stop. Most boats on trailers obstruct the rear view of the driver.
When this happens, a rearview mirror on each side of the towing vehicle
is required by law.
Make sure your vehicle is capable of towing the
trailer. Be sure the engine, transmission, cooling system and brakes can
withstand the strain that towing will put on them.
Out of courtesy to others and to prevent
rushing, prepare your boat for launching away from the ramp. If you must
leave your vehicle on the ramp, set the parking brake, block the wheels
and put the transmission in ''park."
Never allow anyone to stand in line with the
winch cable when it is in operation or has a strain on it.
Contrary to popular thinking, the most important
equipment aboard your boat is not that expensive rod and reel or the new
water skis; it is the safety equipment. For your own safety and that of
your passengers, consult our checklist and tips before leaving the dock.
____ Compass and chart
____ First aid
____ Spare batteries
____ Personal Flotation Devices
____ "Skier down" signal flag
____ Anchor and line
Sound signaling device
____ Paddle and
____ Emergency drinking water
____ Extra fuel
1. Be Properly
Equipped. Before you get underway, be sure you have all necessary
safety equipment. Make sure fire extinguishers aboard are in working
order and that gauges register and nozzles are clear. Make sure that all
passengers know where safety equipment is and how to operate it.
2. Be Especially Careful
With Flammables. When refueling, close all hatches, ports and other
openings; shut off all engines and motors; and refrain from smoking.
Fill all portable tanks on the dock.
Operate the bilge blower for at least FOUR
MINUTES before starting an inboard engine. If you smell fumes, find out
what is causing them and make repairs before starting the engine.
Make sure that flammable items are stowed safely
and cannot come into contact with cooking or heating appliances or hot
engine parts. Be sure heating and cooking appliances on board are
secured and operate properly.
3. Plan Ahead For
Safety. Don't go out if weather conditions are bad or storms
threaten. In most areas you can call Directory Assistance and ask for
the marine weather broadcast telephone number to get a complete weather
forecast before you set out.
Leave a float plan with someone. A float plan is
an easy way to avoid unnecessary search and rescue missions and may save
your life. Fill out your float plan and leave it with a
responsible person who can notify local authorities if you are long
overdue. Cancel the float plan when you return ashore.
Distribute weight properly, especially if you
have a small boat. Do not overload. Load low and spread the load around.
4. While You Are
Boating: Be especially careful if you have a small boat, 20 ft. or
under. The overwhelming majority of small boat capsizings occur because
of sudden weight shifts.
Keep a good lookout. Failure to do so causes
most collisions. You need a second person to act as lookout if you're
towing a skier. The lookout should indicate a fallen skier by raising a
brightly colored flag.
Don't ride on the bow or gunwales. Also, never
ride on seat backs or in other unsteady positions.
Travel at safe speeds. Give swimmers, skiers and
divers a wide berth.
Choose a safe spot to anchor -- one that's well
protected, has water of a suitable depth and also has a flat bottom.
Never anchor from the stern.
Don't pollute the water with leaky oil or fuel,
litter or toilet discharge. It's illegal to pollute.
5. Obey Navigation
Rules. Always use lights in fog, bad weather and at night. In fog or
areas of reduced visibility, you must give a prolonged blast (4-6
seconds) at least once every two minutes.
Know who has the right of way. In general, large
boats, tugs, barges and fishing vessels have the right of way over other
boats. Sailboats, rowboats and canoes have the right of way over
motorboats. Any boat being overtaken (passed) has the right of way.
Pay attention to markers. The expression "red
right returning" has long been used as a reminder that the red buoys are
passed on the starboard side when proceeding from the open sea into the
dock (upstream). Likewise, green buoys are left, to the port side, when
going upstream. For more information on nautical traffic signs in your
area, contact local boating officials.
6. What To Do In
Emergencies. If you are in distress, or observe another vessel in
distress, transmit the international Distress Call on VHF channel 16.
This call is, "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY." State your vessel's name,
location, what is wrong, the kind of assistance you need and your
listening frequency and schedule. VHF channel 16 is constantly
monitored. The Coast Guard also monitors CB channel 9, whenever
If you are involved in an accident, you must provide your name, address and vessel registration number to other involved parties, provide assistance to any injured persons and, in case of death or disappearance, report the accident without delay to law enforcement officials. If the accident is a serious one, you may need to make a written report to the Department of Boating and Waterways.