The Ultimate Guide to Towing a Boat
Whilst some people are fortunate enough to have a lake or oceanfront property, everyone else in the boating community is resorted to having to transport their boat via roads. But towing a boat needs to be undertaken with care and consideration.
There are many facts and laws you may not be aware of when it comes to towing anything. Some examples would be knowing what kind of towbar you need for your vehicle, what you can tow based on your current driver's licence and how to get the boat on your trailer in the first place.
In this article we will be covering the following questions, so you can find out how best to get your boat on the road (And then in the water):
- What are the laws for towing a boat?
- What are the requirements you need to tow a boat?
- How to get a boat on a trailer
- What are some things I should know before towing a boat?
- Which towbars are available for me to use?
What are the laws for towing a boat?
When towing a boat on single-carriageway roads, the 60mph national speed limit is reduced to 50mph. When towing a boat on motorways and dual-carriageways the 70mph limit is reduced to 60mph. Any vehicles towing a trailer are prohibited to use the outside lane of a three-lane motorway.
The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500kg is 7 metres, this length does not include the A-frame of your trailer.
If your trailer weighs over 750kg when it's loaded, it must have a working brake system. The worst case scenario when towing a boat is if the trailer detaches from your vehicle, because of this, you must have a breakaway cable or secondary coupling attached from trailer to vehicle.
UK Law states that you must have an adequate view of the road behind you, no matter what vehicle you are driving. This means if your boat trailer is wider than the rear of your car, you will need towing mirrors. This can be often overlooked by drivers, but if you fail to provide yourself with enough room to see the road behind you, it can rack up a hefty fine of up to £1000, and even impose a 3 point penalty on your driver's licence.
What are the requirements you need to tow a boat?
UK Driving licence entitlements have been updated over the years. Whenever this has been done, holders of existing licences have had their licence categories updated so they won't lose any of their existing towing entitlements.
Category B (car and small vehicle) licences issued after 19th January 2013 include the entitlement to:
- Tow a small trailer up to 750kg weight.
- Tow a larger trailer provided the combined vehicle plus trailer weight is less than 3500kg
If you have a Category B licence that was issued before 19th January 2013, it means that if you are towing a trailer that weighs more than 750kg, the weight of the trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the vehicle.
If you have a Category B licence that was issued before 1st January 1997, it means that you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination that weighs up to 8250kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM).
If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500kg, you'll have to pass a further test and get a BE entitlement on your licence. You'll then be able to tow trailers over 3,500kg.
For your own safety you need to make sure your vehicle is capable of towing your boat. Your vehicle owner's manual will have information indicating the maximum trailer weight and Maximum Authorised Mass.
Most trailer manufacturers are careful to provide a trailer with plenty of capacity for the boat, but if you are carrying a lot of extra gear you could run the risk of cutting it close. We would recommend double checking that you aren't over the legal weight limit before you drive off.
How to get a boat on a trailer
Successfully loading your boat from water to trailer can sometimes be tricky as it can be weather dependent as well as terrain dependent. If you are unsure on what to do, or are planning to do it for the first time, follow these tips to successfully load your boat onto a trailer.
- Reverse your vehicle towards the launch-ramp dock, when in position put the handbrake on.
- Your trailer should be backed into the water as straight as possible, and at a depth that allows the boat to float over the rear two-thirds of the trailer.
- Align the bow peak with the trailer's bow stop.
- When the bow bumps the bow stop, clip the winch strap to the bow eye and then use the winch to pull the boat closer.
- Secure the safety chain.
- Tilt the boat's motor up and drive slowly forwards, pulling the boat out of the water.
- Perform safety checks to make sure the boat is secure on the trailer, before you drive off.
What are some things I should know before towing a boat?
Before you head out on the road, there are some checks you should perform for some peace of mind, and there are some helpful tips and towing knowledge you should learn that will come in handy. The last thing you want is an issue to occur once you're already out and about.
- Make sure the bow strap and boat safety chain are secure.
- Check your nose weight, it should be about 10-15% of your load. If this is incorrect the trailer may start to sway or snake, which is extremely dangerous.
- Complete a lights check to make sure that your brake, indicator and rear lights on your trailer are all working properly, prior to your journey.
- Take turns as wide as possible, this is to avoid clipping any obstructions that you may not be aware of, including curbs.
- Leave extra room in front of you when driving, this is because your stopping distance will be increased due to the extra weight of the trailer and the boat behind you.
Which towbars are available for me to use?
At Witter, we sell a range of Towbars that are suitable for use on trailers carrying boats. Sometimes it comes down to personal preference on the look of the towbar, other times your choice of towbar can be down to how often you plan to use it. Our range of towbars consists of the following:
Fixed Flange: The towball is bolted onto your vehicle's faceplate and is permanently attached. This is ideal for serious towing, including towing heavier loads such as boats and other vehicles.
Detachable Flange: This towbar is similarly robust and versatile like the fixed flange, but the detachable flange comes with the added benefit of being removable. This is perfect for the summer boat season if you only use a towbar during this time.
Fixed Swan Neck: With a sleeker design, the fixed swan neck is more aesthetically pleasing. However, if you are planning to use bikes as well as a boat, know you cannot tow a boat and carry bikes at the same time when using this towbar.
Detachable Swan Neck: With the same visual appeal as the fixed swan neck, you are also able to remove this when you are not towing, which is ideal for the summer if you only plan to tow boats during this time. But like the fixed swan neck, you can't tow and carry bikes at the same time.
Retractable Towbar: When not in use, it can be folded away out of sight in a matter of seconds. This offers the same advantages as the detachable towbars, but when boat season comes around, you won't have to reattach this towbar when you need to use it again.
Check out our range of towbars today and see what works for your trailer.
So, if you're all ready to get your boat on the road, enjoy it! Sailing can be one of the most relaxing pastimes and it can be a really peaceful experience, granted everything went smoothly with your journey. As long as your boat is carefully loaded, and everything is in place, it should be easy!