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A guide to towing and trailering

There are a range of options to consider when deciding how to store your boat whilst it is not in use. Budget and convenience are factors in the decision, and often lead people to consider towing and trailering their boats. However, there is still a great deal to bear in mind. 

Why tow your boat?

By towing your boat, you become able to transport it to any desired location without much hassle. It gives the option to take advantage of a spot of good weather, or a free day. 

Another benefit is that towing enables you to protect your boat from external threats, like the weather or general wear and tear on its hull whilst residing in the water. This should reduce maintenance and repair costs significantly, as your boat is not exposed to environmental corrosion. Also, if the boat were to need maintenance, by keeping it out of the water it can be easily accessed.

It is cost effective to tow your boat. Aside from the initial costs of buying towing equipment, there is little spending each time you tow your boat. If it were to constantly be docked, then further fees arise for the likes of guaranteed security, and for being able to keep your boat in certain locations.

Towing your boat may be better for the environment. It eliminates the risk of oil, fuel and other waste products leaking into the water it resides in, and also reduces the impact of the anti-fouling paints on the boat.

Here’s our boat towing and trailering check list:

  • Always consider the vehicle you are using to tow, and think of it in relation to what is being towed. Most cars have a maximum weight that they can tow, and that their wheels can handle, which can typically be found in the handbook or specification sheet.
  • Consider the width of your vehicle. The maximum trailer width for any vehicle towing in the UK is 2.55 metres, with the maximum length for the trailer being towed being 7 metres, respectively.
  • Check, check and double check your wheels. Consider the extra strain that is put onto the wheels of a car when towing, with the weight of the boat itself, and the gear that is stored inside. With this in mind, an inspection before you set off on your journey with your boat is crucial to ensure any worn down tires are replaced. Consider that smaller wheels may turn quicker and thus wear easier.
  • Is everything that could fly away strapped down? This sounds simple, but certain boat accessories may be overlooked, so ensure you are thorough in your inspection. Aside from losing vital equipment you may need on your sailing trip, you may cause serious damage to other drivers on the road. No matter how certain you are that the sailboat is securely fastened onto the trailer, always check to ensure the safety chains are crossed, and the safety pin on the latch is secure. Double, even triple check all safety procedures.
  • License plate. Ensure that the licence plate on the towed vehicle matches the vehicle towing.

When you’re out on the road

  • Remember to turn wide. There is an extra amount of space to consider when turning, so give plenty of room, and be aware of other drivers.
  • Stay slow on the roads. When towing a trailer, the maximum speed limit on single carriageway roads is limited to 50mph, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways in the UK. There are also other restrictions, such as being unable to use the outside lane of a three or more lane motorway, so ensure you have read up on the changes made to your driving by towing.
  • Wind is an added threat. Towing a trailer also increases the risk of ones vehicle swaying, or being caught in the wind. One way to prevent accidents occurring from strong winds is to take a break from driving if they start to become an issue. Another is to keep to a low speed, and avoid sharp turns.
  • Make sure your vehicle is able to adequately stop. There is much more weight, and therefore much more pressure added to your vehicle when towing a sailboat, so make sure you are familiar with the changing breaking time.
  • Manoeuvring. When backing your sailboat, it is common to get confused at which way to turn the wheel in order to steer the boat being towed. Simply place your hands at the bottom of the wheel, and move your hand in the direction you want the trailer to go. If you move your hand right, it will go right; if you move your hand left, it will go left. Ensure your tow vehicle is equipped with extended side mirrors – not just for backing, although they will significantly help – but for day-to-day driving with a sailboat attached.
  • Always have insurance on what you are towing, and ensure that this covers during the process of towing.
There are many things to consider when towing a sailboat, so ensure you are well educated before you set off. These guidelines are just key factors and useful tips to bear in mind, but are not a comprehensive how-to guide.