Are Pontoon Boats Easy to Launch?


Launching a pontoon boat on ramp

Launching their boat is something every pontoon boat owner will need to do at some time.  It can be stressful for new boat owner to reach the launch and feel that he/she is holding everyone else up. But launching a pontoon boat does not have to be complicated, even if you are doing it alone.

A pontoon boat is easy to launch. The easiest way to launch a pontoon boat is with another person. Two people can  get a pontoon boat into the water in a matter of minutes. Although it takes a little more effort to launch a pontoon boat on your own, it is still easy to do.

How easy is it to launch a pontoon boat?

Making sure that your pontoon boat launch is easy all starts with preparation.

When you have totally prepared your pontoon boat before you get to the launch ramp there will be much less stress and you will have much more confidence in your ability to launch your boat successfully. You will also take less time getting the boat into the water and therefore not feel as pressurized to do it quickly if there are other boat owners waiting for access to the ramp.

Whether launching with help or on your own, it only takes you to successfully launch your pontoon boat once to lose all fear of doing it again.

Let’s look at the steps you can follow to easily, quickly and safely launch your pontoon boat.

Preparation is key

When you prepare yourself and your pontoon boat for launching prior to arriving at the launch ramp, launching the boat becomes much, much easier.

Obviously you will have prepared the boat somewhat before you even begin towing it. However, most of these prior-trip preparation steps will have been to secure the boat, gear and stuff on the boat, more for safety purposes than for launching purposes.

So, once you reach your destination you need to take some additional actions to prepare the boat for the water before you approach the ramp.

It is a good idea to pull your vehicle and boat over to the side to complete these preparatory steps even if the ramp is empty when you arrive. This removes any need to speed up the process if someone else arrives shortly after you. If you feel under pressure to do things quickly you can easily make mistakes.

5 easy steps to prepare for launch

Below are the five steps you should take to prepare your pontoon boat for launch. Take your time with this preparation and don’t be afraid to double-check everything once you have completed the steps.

After two or three launches are under your belt the entire process will be much smoother and you will eventually reach the stage where launching has become second nature to you.

Preparation steps for launching a pontoon boat:

  1. Load. Load all your safety equipment (except your PFD which you should be wearing), the mooring lines, and any gear you have onto the boat.
  2. Unhook. Unhook and stow the transom straps.
  3. Disconnect. Disconnect the electrics on the trailer – you don’t want them shorting out in the water.
  4. Gather up. Gather your mooring line and fenders so they are ready for use.
  5. Plug it up. Check the drain plugs in the pontoon tubes are secure. If water gets into the tubes if can cause your pontoon boat to nosedive or even sink.

Your pontoon boat is now ready to launch and you can approach the ramp.

Launching with another person

Launching with another person is by far the easiest way to launch any boat and a pontoon boat is no exception.

Follow the steps below for an easy, quick and safe pontoon boat launch.

10 Simple steps to safely launching a pontoon boat

Once the pontoon boat has been prepared for the water you are ready it to move to the ramp for launching.

  1. Use the help. Have the other person act as a spotter to help guide you in a straight line into the water as this will make launching a lot easier. The spotter’s job is to help you keep the trailer straight. He/she should let you know if you are veering to one side or the other. If you have no-one with you then you can always ask another boat owner, who is waiting for access to the ramp, for a little help. This will usually be offered gladly because the sooner you get in the water the sooner they get in the water.
  2. Clear your path. Make sure there is no-one, and no pets, hovering around the boat as you reverse it into the water. This especially applies to kids who can have very little understanding of how dangerous it is to stand beside a moving vehicle.
  3. Get into position. Move the boat into position by lining up the trailer with the ramp. Keep the trailer as straight as possible and about a trailer-length away from the water. Don’t be afraid to shunt back and forward until you have the trailer and boat lined-up correctly. If other boat owners start queuing up behind you don’t let that make you rush. Take as much time as you need. You are a beginner at this and we were all there at one stage!
  4. Back up smoothly into the water. In a slow and smooth motion back up your trailer and boat down the ramp. If you need to, make small adjustments to keep the trailer straight. When the first part of the boat begins floating in the water it is time to stop – you don’t want the boat fully submerged in case it floats away before you are in it.
  5. Park and secure the road vehicle. Engage the parking brake. If you have a big pontoon boat that is fully loaded and are on a fairly steep ramp the parking brake may not be enough to hold the vehicle in place. If this is the case chock the wheels of your vehicle with something. Although I have never needed to do this I carry a set of cheap wheel chokes in the trunk in case I ever need them.
  6. Unhook the pontoon boat. Now that your boat is in position you can safely unhook the winch strap and the safety chain on the trailer.
  7. Back up the boat. With the boat free of attachments you can safely back it up so it is fully in the water. The water should be just above the wheels of the trailer.
  8. Launch the boat. It is time to start the motor and reverse the boat away from the trailer and into deeper water. If you are using gentle reverse-power but the boat is not moving then it is an indication that the boat might not far enough back in the water and you may need to back up the trailer further.
  9. Dock it. The pontoon boat should now be moved to the dock and secured there.
  10. Clear the ramp. Go back to your road vehicle and move it away from the ramp. Be sure to park it securely out of the way of other boat users wishing to access the ramp.

Obviously the last two steps are much easier if there is more than more person launching the boat. One person can move the boat while the other sparks the road vehicle. But, what happens when you are alone and want to launch your pontoon boat?

Launching alone?

Although not as easy as launching with a spotter, solo pontoon boat launching is not difficult.

Let’s look at the additional steps needed to successfully launch a pontoon boat on your own.

Additional steps for launching a pontoon boat on your own

The steps to solo launching a pontoon boat from the ramp are the same as launching it with another person up until you get the boat into the water. However, there is also one additional preparation step you need to take before getting to the ramp – when preparing the boat before moving to the ramp.

Be sure you take the additional preparation step of attaching a strong rope to the pontoon boat just before you approach the ramp.

A rope that is attached to the pontoon boat is needed so you can pull the boat when it is in the water. Don’t add this rope until you reach your destination and remember to remove it before heading home; you don’t want a lose rope flapping around behind your boat on the highway.

Additional steps for launching a pontoon boat solo:

  • Follow steps 1 – 6 above for launching a pontoon boat with a spotter. Obviously you will have to be extra careful when backing up your trailer into the water by constantly looking in each side mirror of your road vehicle to ensure the trailer remains straight. If need be get stop the vehicle, get out of it and look! If there are other people there who get annoyed at this they will almost definitely offer you help.
  • Make sure the rope attached to the boat is within easy reach. Ensure you have access to the rope that you have previously attached to the pontoon boat.
  • Back up the boat. With the boat free of attachments you can safely back it up so it is fully in the water. The water should be just above the wheels of the trailer.
  • Dock it. Use the rope to pull the boat to the dock.
  • Secure the boat at the dock and move your road vehicle off the ramp. Once you have secured your pontoon boat at the dock go back to your road vehicle and move it off the ramp. Be sure to park it securely away from the ramp and any access points so other boaters can launch safely.

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