How to Launch and Load a Pontoon Boat

by Will Charpentier
Launching your pontoon boat is a drive-on, drive-off experience.

Launching your pontoon boat is a drive-on, drive-off experience.

Because pontoon boats don't have one hull to support them in the water, but two, they don't sink into the water as much as a boat with a single hull will. This means that they will float free of the trailer quickly. When you return to the trailer, you can use the trailer's guide-ons (the flimsy uprights that mark the edges of the float-on, float-off trailer) as a reference to power the boat back onto the trailer with a minimum of fuss.


  1. Park your vehicle and boat in the launching ramp's parking lot. Step to the rear of the boat (called the stern) and unplug the trailer lights from the connector on the car. Disconnect the trailer's safety chain from your vehicle. Remove the tie-down straps from the boat.

  2. Place everything that you want to take with you on the boat, inside the boat. Insert the ignition key into the boat's key switch. Screw the drain plug into the bottom, rear of the boat.

  3. Return to your vehicle and back the boat up to the edge of the water. Unsnap the winch line that connects the front (called the bow) of the boat to the trailer. Tie a rope to the bow of the boat and hand the end to your assistant.

  4. Return to your vehicle once more and back the boat into the water until the boat floats free of the trailer -- this will happen more quickly than with other types of boats, due to the boat's twin-hull configuration. Tell your assistant to tie the boat off until you park the vehicle.

  5. Park and lock the vehicle. Pocket your car keys. Go boating.


  1. Pull your boat up to the dock. Extend the bow line once again and tie it to the dock.

  2. Go to the vehicle. Unlock it and move it to the ramp. Back the trailer into the water until 2/3 of the trailer is submerged.

  3. Return to the boat. Send your associate to tend the truck. Untie the boat and move it to the trailer, using the trailer guide-ons to align the boat with the trailer. Pull the boat onto the trailer. Move to the bow of the boat and snap the winch line onto the bow. Tell your assistant to crank the winch to pull the boat as far onto the trailer as possible.

  4. Move to the truck and pull the boat from the water. Move away from the ramp and into the parking lot, as quickly as possible.

  5. Rinse the outside of the boat to remove any marine life before you leave the parking area. Put the tie-downs on the boat, remove the drain plug and plug the trailer light plug into the connection on your vehicle. Cross the trailer chains and clip them in place.


  • Put your vehicle keys in your pocket when you park in the parking lot and don't take them out of your pocket until you return to the vehicle.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

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