Launch And Recovery; The Slippery Slope.

Launch And Recovery; The Slippery Slope.

For a day’s entertainment and education I suggest our students grab a bag of popcorn and head to one of Auckland’s busy public launch ramps on a sunny Saturday morning.

There seem to be some very creative boaties out there devising all manner of spectacular methods to break their boat and themselves during the L&R process.

Many hazards and variables require consideration during L&R, and as the editor has refused our request for a 50 page Launch and Recoverpedia it is therefore impossible to cover them all in this one installment. Feel free to drop us an email for a copy of our free L&R checklist or have any questions about problems you are encountering. []

I will try to pick off the most common pitfalls and embarrassment inducing occurrences.


There is a little etiquette expected at slipways and one sure fire way to attract scowling stares of disapproval is to back your trailer at the top of the slope and then proceed to prepare your equipment and ensure all your jigs are in their correctly labelled and colour co-ordinated pouches. Frequent honking and abuse from other boaties could distract you just enough to forget something like the all important bung or lead you to discover how many revs are required to reverse a boat off a trailer with the stern strap still attached.

Rather than become a ramp squatter, why not prepare your boat in the car park as much as possible. Here things like the bung, ropes and fenders can be attached. You can also take your time and ensure all retaining straps, prop flags, covers etc are removed.


Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal. Use both a bow and stern rope, it can give you better control of the boat. I’m not a big fan of using one rope tied to the bow and stern, two separate ropes gives far more control and versatility and is less of a snag hazard. If using a floating dock, fenders are worth considering. I’m always amazed with people’s reluctance to use them, they seem to be viewed as some kind of embarrassment, like stabalising wheels on a bicycle. I have been driving boats for many years and I cringe at the thought of tying a nice shiny boat to a dock without them. Some factors are outside your control such as other boat’s wake smashing yours against the dock. I’d rather my fenders take any impact not the gelcoat or worse still an enthusiastic crewmember’s irreplaceable digits!

Formulate the plan in your mind and ensure everyone knows how you envisage things will unfold. Details such as briefing your crew not to allow anyone walk behind the trailer while you reverse, the hazards and importance of not grabbing a spinning winch handle, how the wind/tide will effect the boat and which ropes to tie where.

We have all heard the Peter Blake wannabes yelling at their partners when they fail to telepathically understand that they are to attach the bow rope immediately at the non-discussed moment in time. It is amazing how well things go when everyone is allowed access to the plan!


If you are unfamiliar with the launch site, do your homework. Talk to others using the area and ask if there are any hidden mischiefs lurking to strip boat owners of their pride and finances. Classic faux pars include such things as the tide going out so far as to render it impossible to recover a boat when you return. Some places also have a thinly veiled hard area, which once veered outside, allows the soft mud to swallow trailers whole. Or perhaps you may discover the dreaded abrupt end of a slipway where the council seem to have gone into negative equity on the concrete fund, and left a 2 metre drop at the end of the ramp, which, when the trailer is pushed over at low tide sees all other boaties in the area switch their mobiles to video mode and a new youtube star is born!


If your vehicle ever starts sliding down the slipway you obviously failed the homework section above, but fear not, all is not lost. When a trailer that is stuck in sand/mud or the algae growth is overcoming the vehicle traction, most people’s reaction is to ‘floor it’. Best case scenario is loud embarrassing screeching and clouds of choking smoke resembling a West Auckland teenager’s ideal Friday night out, or worse the vehicle digs itself a comfy trench to sit in until the tide floods over the sills.

At the first sign of lost traction STOP, back up and try a different angle. Failing this get out and chock the trailer wheels, lower the jockey wheel and disengage the trailer from the vehicle. This hopefully will allow the vehicle to escape and find firmer ground, then attach a tow rope back to the trailer and effect a gentle controlled tow. Be very careful during this evolution as such large forces have the capacity to demonstrate how well your St John’s donations have been spent.

If all the above fails, don’t worry, I’m sure you told your insurance company that your vehicle would be used off-road when you took your policy out and you are insured for water damage!

By | 2013-06-28T05:15:44+00:00 June 28th, 2013|Blog|Comments Off on Launch And Recovery; The Slippery Slope.