Whether you live by a local river or want to explore lakes in another state, towing your boat to a distant boat ramp expands your horizons and makes boating the ultimate escape. Trailering a bi-toon or tri-toon isn’t much different from any other boat other than they seem bigger. With a trailer, pontoon boats weigh 2,000-4,000 pounds depending on their length, the size of the outboard(s) and the number of tubes. Check your truck specs to see if you have enough power to tow. Practice driving and backing the whole rig around an empty parking lot to learn safe practices and to look like a champ at the boat launch.
Loading and launching
The most intimidating procedure at the boat ramp is loading the boat from the water onto the trailer so let’s start with that. Pontoon boats use a standard float-on trailer which we’ll focus on here.
Float-on bunk-style trailers are custom fit to the size and type of your pontoon boat. You’ll need to keep the weight evenly distributed so the tubes are centered on the bunks. Watch the video and follow these easy steps.
Back the trailer into the water so just the very forward end of the bunks are visible. You don’t want the trailer too high or the boat won’t be able to glide on but not too low where the boat can float into an improper angle.
Turn the vehicle off and apply the hand brake.
Have the vehicle driver stand at the head of the trailer to help guide you in.
Bunk guides are also helpful. The boat driver can gage where the trailer is and where to place the tubes by watching the poles or bunk guides. Since pontoon boats have the helm/steering wheel offset to one side (usually to starboard), one tube will be directly under the driver and that makes it easier to sight down the trailer.
Drive forward in idle. Move slowly and deliberately. Don’t approach the trailer until your driver gives you a signal. If a wake or wind pushes the boat off to the side, stop, back up and try again. When approaching, compensate for the effect of wind or current by staying upwind or current of the trailer as you idle toward it.
If the launch ramp is shallow, trim up the outboard engine to just where the cavitation plate is at water level leaving the water intakes still submerged so the engine can run smoothly.
Don’t power load which means gunning the engine to push the boat farther onto the trailer. This does damage to the ramp environment and is illegal in some areas.
Instead, use the strap and winch to haul the boat up onto the trailer.
Shut down the engine and trim it all the way up.
10. Haul the boat up the ramp to the staging area and do the following:
- Connect the trailer electrics and chains
- Turn off the batteries
- Attach tie down straps
- Unload the boat
- Secure the Bimini and cover for transport
To launch, just reverse the steps above making sure that you ready and load the boat with gear in the staging area so you don’t tie up valuable ramp time. When backing off the trailer, unhook the strap, trim the engine down part way, keep the wheel centered and back off straight and slow.
Connecting your vehicle to the trailer includes essential steps:
Lower the trailer coupler onto the ball using the trailer jack and crank. Close the coupler and insert the cotter pin that secures the assembly.
Attach the trailer safety chains to the vehicle frame. These add an element of safety and are required in most states.
Hook in the breakaway cord at this time. Should the trailer come unhitched, this cord will activate the brakes on the trailer to stop it.
Attach the electrical cord that works the brake and signal lights on the trailer. Check the lights with the help of another person for proper function before getting on the road.
When driving, take corners slowly and make wide, arcing turns. Because of the added weight, allow extra time to brake and don’t change lanes abruptly. Make sure you have enough room when merging for both the truck and trailer because you’ll have extra-long blind spots.
When launching reverse the steps above to prepare the boat for the water.
Trailering a boat is essential because it lets you explore near and far. Launching, loading and towing your Harris pontoon isn’t difficult and with a bit of practice and these handy tips, you’ll be a pro soon.