Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to pack your boat. The latter can lead to building a fruitful relationship with your insurance provider, while the former will
lead to a holiday that’s remembered for all the right reasons. Naturally, the information on this site is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice or training – which we very much recommend!
Boating safety starts before you leave home with the boat in tow. Whether you are travelling a short distance or on a longer trip, towing your boat requires preparation, practice and vigilance. There are legal requirements regarding maximum towing capacity. This is based on the car and the towing hitch. Check that you are within the limits. Towing puts extra demands on your vehicle, particularly on its cooling system and brakes. Vehicle manufacturers may also recommend higher tyre pressures in the rear wheels when towing. This information can be found in the vehicle’s handbook.
Weight distribution and loading
The best way to avoid your boat developing its sea-legs while being towed is by correctly loading it. This means getting the centre of gravity low as possible with weight evenly distributed.
As well as bow-to-stern weight distribution, you should also consider starboard-to-port load distribution.
Just like the ballast on a ship, the lower the center of gravity, the more stable the trailer
Some vessels have side-mounted fuel and/or water tanks, so keep this in mind when filling them! Another way to keep your boat well-balanced is by storing any equipment at floor level – so make sure those scuba tanks (or priceless seafloor treasures) are on the floor inside the cabin between the bunks and NEVER on the rear bench seat.
A balanced trailer won’t just provide the best on road handling – it’ll also prolong the life of your trailer’s tyres! Of course, there is more to consider such as not exceeding the maximum load specified by the trailer manufacturer, so be sure to seek professional advice before hitting the road.
Before you embark on your journey, take a moment to do the following checks:
- Pack the boat carefully, spreading the load evenly with heaviest items over the axle/s in the centre. Keep the contents secure so they don’t move around and affect the vehicle’s handling and safety.
- Check and tighten all tie-downs – front, rear and side.
- Check that the coupling and safety chains are secure.
- Test the trailer’s lights to ensure they’re all working.
Trailer checks and maintenance
While your boat is in the water, take a moment to do the following:
- Check trailer frame (bends, joints and springs) for wear, cracks, and damage.
- Inspect the rollers to make sure they are rotating freely.
- Tyres should have plenty of tread and be in good condition.
- Ensure wheel nuts are properly tightened and check tyre pressures.
- Wheel bearings should be in good condition and well-packed with lubricating grease. Signs of wear or corrosion means they should be replaced.
- Check condition of towing hitch and safety chains.
- Check that the towing ball on the car hitch is secure.
- Check the winch cable or strap and the safety chain.
- If the trailer has a braking system, ensure it’s in working order and top up fluids if required.
- Check the lights and view them for correct operation, including the brake lights and indicators.
- Flush trailer brakes with fresh water to prevent rusting brake rotors.