Launch: 10 Common Variables

Ready for a fun day at the lake? When you’re looking forward to having fun in the sun, get started on the right foot with a successful launch.

Many elements combine at once that can either make or break your day, not to mention your boat. Knowing what to expect can alleviate your stress.

Rules can be slightly different depending on the location of the dock, so it’s wise to do some research ahead of time. Taking the time to practice a few basic skills (e.g. reversing with a trailer attached to your vehicle) can pay off in time saved when launching your boat. 


  • Wind
  • Boat Trailer
  • Shore
  • Dock
  • Water conditions
  • Experience of the towing vehicle’s driver.
  • Sobriety
  • Balance
  • Position of towing vehicle on the boat ramp.
  • Size of the watercraft.

Wind is an environmental condition that can adversely affect watercraft. Although wind travels at the same speed over land as it does over water, watercraft do not have the advantage of traction. On an extremely windy day, boats are advised not to launch. The smaller the boat, the less stable it will be in windy conditions. When you are setting a boat in motion, or rolling it into the water, it is wise to know the conditions you will face in advance.

Boat trailers are amazing inventions. If you live far away from a water source but love boating, a boat trailer is an excellent investment. Not only will it save you money spent on marina fees, but it will also give you the freedom to vacation with your boat anywhere you want. Keeping your boat in a marina restricts it to one locale. When launching a boat from a trailer, there are a few things to consider. 

  1. Driving in reverse with a trailer is a learned skill.
  2. Mark the trailer when proper launching depth is achieved.
  3. Do not let the bystanders watching you stress you out!

A good rule to remember with a trailer attached to your vehicle is that the back of the trailer will go in the same direction that you are turning the steering wheel. It is the opposite when reversing with the vehicle alone. It is good to practice reversing with a trailer before you are at the boat launching site. When you are comfortable in your neighborhood parking lot, you’re good to go. Also, when launching the boat, it is very helpful to bring someone along to help you. Failing to submerge the trailer to the proper depth while launching is one of the fastest ways to make your attempt unsuccessful. The boat will be difficult to launch if the trailer is too shallow, or too deep. Finding the proper launch depth takes a bit of practice. It doesn’t help that all boat ramps are unique. You may be used to successfully launching at your favorite vacationing spot only to travel to an unfamiliar location and experience a botched launch or retrieval because of a different ramp grade. A good rule of thumb when launching your boat is to back down the ramp far enough to float the stern with the bow still resting on the trailer. Mark the trailer with waterproof tape, or a simple piece of bright twine once the proper launch depth has been achieved. You can refer back to this marker when retrieving the boat, since the depth that facilitates boat removal is the same for retrieval. This simple step will save you a lot of time at the end of the day.


Non-motorized watercraft are generally cheaper to launch than motorized boats. Some states have replaced launch fees and now require boaters to purchase permits for their boats instead. Researching the requirements of your boating site before you arrive will ensure that your boating adventure doesn’t hit any snags. The ten common variables listed at the top of this article apply not only to motorized craft but to non-motorized boats as well. Non-motorized boats will be more susceptible to many of these launching variables because they have no motor to rely on. The sailor will be unassisted by an engine if he or she encounters adverse conditions. When launching, balance is key to a great start. Knowing your own strengths and being comfortable manning your chosen craft are important too. Boating is a lot of fun with smaller, non-motorized craft because they can often put into and launch out of destinations that are inaccessible to larger boats. Whether you’re out to explore, exercise, or have fun in the sun, being able to navigate these potential launch variables will ensure a great trip!