Joe Boater and the Launch

Canoe with a Downwind Sail

One spring day, having just hand launched your old Grumman canoe on Lake Washington from the Stan Sayres Boat Launch, you look over your shoulder to see a car and trailer combination preparing to launch a sailboat from the same ramp. You are curious, so you decide to watch. The first thing you notice is the sailboat’s size. You guess it is about 30 feet long, which seems large for a trailered boat and the car towing it. There are two people involved in the operation. A man is driving the car, and a woman is standing on the dock adjacent to the ramp. The car and tow reverse to the launch ramp and the trailer begins its descent. As it does, the angle between the two becomes more pronounced, with it being the greatest when the rear hitch on the car reaches the top of the ramp. The trailer is still a few feet from the water. At this moment, the angle, weight, and balance of the tow are such that the trailer’s tongue lifts off the ball hitch on the car and rolls down the ramp, into the water.  The boat, which has already been unstrapped, floats off the trailer and the momentum is enough for it to drift away, leaving the couple wide-eyed and drop-jawed. Fortunately for them, humiliation aside, you are close by and watching from your canoe. It is also fortunate that it’s a windless day. You paddle to the bow and are able to push the boat back enough for the couple to grab the dock line on the stern. Together, you are able to get the boat back to the dock.

Once Joe can see the couple has the situation under control, he continues on with his own paddling plan. The couple appears to be relieved he was there to help but also still adjusting to the shock of the situation. Joe doesn’t feel it necessary to make it worse with conversation. Joe, and hopefully the couple, learn a valuable lesson about trailering and launching a boat. The weight of the tow vehicle and the trailer/boat should be of proper proportion.  Be situationally aware, and have a good understanding of balance. Make sure the trailer is securely attached to the ball hitch of the tow vehicle, they are same sized and use safety chains too.


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