Trailering and towering your pontoon boat doesn't have to be a dreaded chore. As a matter of fact, if you follow a few simple tips, not only will you expand the opportunities you have to visit a wider variety of waterways, but you'll enjoy the drive as well. Towing obviously begins with your tow vehicle. It is extremely important that you keep this vehicle in tip-top shape. Change oils and filters more often than you would under normal driving conditions. In must cases, it's a safe bet to do it twice as often as regular maintenance requires. Tire pressure is another thing to check on a regular basis. While it's not a good thing to have overflated tires, its even worse to drive a vehicle with low tires. Don't forget tune-ups, services or your cooling system. All brake lights need to be in working order.
Once you're confident that your tow vehicle is in good working order, move on to the trailer itself. To reduce the possibility of swaying, manufacturers recommend that the tongue weight of the trailer (boat included) is 5-7 percent of the total tow package. (Boat, motor, trailer and all your gear.) Make sure you have adequate tie downs on your boat and trailer. If you're traveling from one state to another you may run into different regulations regarding the use of tie downs in different states. Make sure you know what they are in your state and any states that you may be traveling through. Again, when towing a boat, it's always smart to err to the side of safety. Four straps will allow you to conform to regulartions almost everywhere. If you use one strap to tie down the bow, two straps at the transom and one strap on the gunwale, you'll be in excellent shape. Remember to use straps that are weather resistant and as strong as you can buy. Straps with easy lock and release buckles allow you to tighten them and control the slack with a minimal effort. If your boat didn't come with a cover, buy one. It'll not only keep the dust and debris off your boat when you're driving but it'll serve to hold everything in place and protect if from the sun. The last thing you want to see are your seat cushions floating down the highway behind you. Covers will also reduce wind resistance and thereby increase your mileage.
Once you've determined that your tow vehicle is ready to go, your boat is securely on the trailer and your lights are in working order, it's time to hit the road. When towing any vehicle, it's important to stay alert while driving. Although you may be very comfortable pulling the trailer, other drivers have no idea what kind of an impact their actions can have on your safety. On the interstate system, for example, semi-trucks can create enough of a wind to literally blow you off the road. With the added length and weight of your boat and trailer, it's a good idea to take things slower than you normally would without them. The added weight will decrease your stopping distances tremendously so brake early and give yourself plenty of room. The length will affect your turning ability as well as how much room you need to complete lane changes. Overcompensating in these cases is much better than cutting a turn too short or clipping the front end of the vehicle you just passed. When someone passes you, flashing your lights when they've cleared your vehicle is the safe and polite way to go.
When you've arrived safely at your destination, don't despair. Most boaters hate and fear the launching of their boats more than anything else. When you think about it though, as drivers, we're usually taught to keep our vehicles as far from the water as possible. The important thing to remember is that you're not alone. Once you drive up to the ramp, you're probably in line with many others who are just as apprehensive as you are. Most fellow boaters won't mind lending a hand and a second set of eyes can make your launch a piece of cake. Since most boaters tend to hit the ramps in early morning and late afternoon, it's important that you launch quickly to avoid creating a back up. When you arrive at your destination, stop away from the launch. Transfer the necessary items from your vehicle and take the time to walk over and do a quick inspection of the ramp itself. It's also a good idea to disconnect your trailer lights prior to moving to the ramp. The lights don't last that long to begin with so by disconnecting them before you put the trailer in the water; you may be able to extend the life of the bulbs.
Before you approach the launch ramp you should prepare your pontoon or deck boat for launch. Park well away from the ramp and transfer any and all items from your vehicle into the pontoon or deck boat. Walk over to the ramp and inspect the surrounding area. A few important things to note are how the ramp lies in comparison to the road and whether or not you'll need someone to guide you down. If you're alone, (which isn't ever recommended when you're on the water) ask someone to help you. You'll also want to check for any obstacles and whether or not there's a place to dock while you park your vehicle. When backing down the boat ramp, the most important thing to remember is to take your time. Moving your hands to the bottom of the steering wheel will allow you to turn the wheel in such a way that your boat will follow the same direction automatically. Boat ramps are often uneven. If you notice this, shift your approach a few feet to compensate. When your day ends, simply reverse the procedure. The only thing that you need to remember when putting your boat back on the trailer is not to back up too far into the water. With a pontoon boat, it will load more easily if the undercarriage is between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way forward. Water in the tail pipe can also cause your tow vehicle to stall.