How to Tow a Boat

August 26, 2021

How to Tow a Boat

Is your boat your way of getting away from it all? With a boat trailer, you have even more freedom, because you can boat on any body of water that’s accessible by road.

Before setting off on your adventure, take the time to learn how to use a boat trailer safely. Find out how to tow a boat in this article.

Choosing a boat trailer

In order to tow your boat safely, you’ll need to use the right trailer. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a boat trailer.

Choose a boat trailer approved by Transport Canada

Transport Canada treats boat trailers like motor vehicles. As such, they must meet several manufacturing requirements in order to be allowed on the road.  All boat trailers approved by Transport Canada will have a Transport Canada approval label clearly visible.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association has created a program to help trailer manufacturers comply with boat trailer regulations in different countries. NMMA certification attests that the boat trailer model in question meets industry standards in the following areas:

  • Fastening devices
  • Safety chains
  • Conspicuity treatment

Consider the weight and length of the boat

Every trailer has a maximum load capacity that should not be exceeded. Otherwise, the trailer may be damaged and become a danger to other road users.

When calculating the load to be towed, it’s important to consider the weight of the motor, fuel and all of the safety equipment and accessories that may be in the boat in addition to the weight of the boat itself. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to select a trailer with a load capacity that is 15% to 20% more than the weight of the boat.

The length of the trailer will need to match the length of the boat.

Brakes or no brakes?

When a boat and trailer have a combined weight of 1,300 kg (2,866 lbs) or more, the law may require the use of a trailer equipped with brakes. The same applies if the trailer and its load are more than half the weight of the towing vehicle.

Trailer brakes are very useful during sudden stops and help prevent jackknifing.

Choosing the right towing vehicle

The vehicle and hitch used to tow a boat trailer must have the capacity required to tow the full load. A vehicle’s maximum towing capacity can be found in the owner’s manual.

How to get a boat onto a trailer

To properly position a boat on a trailer, the transom must be aligned with the rearmost rollers or supports. However, a deviation of 25 cm or less is not a problem. At the front, the towing chainplate must be located just above the V of the bracket.

The winch strap should be horizontal, i.e. parallel to the road, for optimal safety.

Pre-towing checklist

Once the boat is in the correct position on the trailer, you can use this checklist to make sure the trailer is safe for road travel.

  • The weight is well distributed throughout the boat
  • The fastening straps are properly positioned and tight enough to keep the boat from moving during transport
  • The trailer hitch is properly positioned on the hitch ball of the towing vehicle
  • The safety chains are properly attached to the chassis of the vehicle (in the shape of an X)
  • The trailer connectors are properly connected to the vehicle
  • The trailer lights are working
  • The brakes and brake lights are working (if applicable)
  • The trailer and towing vehicle have the correct tire pressure

Adapting your driving to tow a boat trailer safely

Driving a vehicle with a trailer requires expertise and vigilance. Towing a boat trailer significantly affects how a vehicle handles on the road and makes it more unpredictable.

The trailer slows acceleration, extends braking distance and increases sensitivity to crosswinds, making traffic, winding roads and slopes riskier.

Ready to take your boat on the road? Don’t forget your boat licence!

Towing a boat safely requires the right trailer and towing vehicle. The boat must be secured to the trailer, and the trailer must be properly attached to the vehicle. It’s also important to adapt your driving style to account for the trailer.

Before setting off on an adventure with your boat, you’ll need to have your pleasure craft operator card. You can get it quickly by taking the National Boating Safety School’s online boating exam.

The boating safety manual can help you prepare for the exam by reviewing basic concepts such as the Collision Regulations and when to use navigation lights.

Get your card today