Sailing Tips: Launching a dinghy 

Launching your boat without damaging its hull is more difficult that you might think. More damage is caused to the hull during its launch than when it’s afloat. By following some simple guidelines you can avoid scratches and scrapes which affect the overall look of your boat and will slow its performance. It could even lead to more serious hull damage.


Before setting out to launch your boat, there are some vital preparation points to remember. Launching a boat means you to reverse down a ramp into the water, and you need to be you'll need to be comfortable with this tricky manoeuvre. If you're a novice at towing a trailer, try to practice in a large, open space. You need to practice turns, acceleration, braking and reversing.

Trolleying In

Everything in the boat must be ready to go before launch. Check the transom (the underside of the stern) and the bouncy tank drain bungs are in place, and a painter is secured to the boat.

You must keep the bow attached to the trolley with the painter while you are moving the boat on land. Pressure on the bow will avoid scraping the stern. If the rudder has a lifting blade which can be secured, attach it before launch. Otherwise, wait until you are on the water.

A separate trolley is kinder to your boat and will save you maintenance time. Balloon tyre trailers are deigned for launching from sand.

Tip: Salt water corrodes metal, so you should keep your road trailer out of the water.


As soon as the dinghy starts to float, the wind will catch it. So hold on tight and attempt to control the drift. Pull the trolley out of the water and wheel it away. Always park it clear of the waters edge and if space is limited, take it back to the dingy park.

Once the boat has floated off the trolley, hold it in deep water to keep it afloat, while the crew park the trolley.

Recovering the dingy from the water is the reverse of launching. On crew member must hold the boat while the other fetches the trolley. Then, both float the boat onto the trolley.

Tip: Take the trolley far enough into water so the boat floats clear. Don’t stop short to save yourself from getting wet.

General advice

Boat ramps can get very busy and the pressure of other waiting their turn can change a boat launch from a mildly stressful activity into a frantic rush to get a boat into the water. With a calm nerve, the right frame of mind and plenty of preparation, getting your boat onto the water doesn't have to be a stressful job.

Top 5 tips

  1. Loading the boat with the equipment before the launch - this includes lifejackets and safety lines
  2. Remove the safety straps securing the boat to the trailer
  3. Connecting a bow line to the bow and coil it out of the way so that it doesn't snag on the trailer
  4. It may sound simple but making sure you have enough fuel in your boat
  5. Practice the launch procedure with your crew, and working out simple hand signals to use during the launch

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