Back a trailer down a ramp like a pro

For whatever reason, some things in life just don’t come easy. Patting your head and rubbing your belly is one. Learning to tie your shoe laces is another. Driving on ice is a third. Add backing a trailer down a ramp to the list.


For whatever reason, most boaters have a tough time backing down a ramp. Maybe it is the backwards view of the world that comes from looking in a rearview mirror. Maybe it is because many boaters who tie up to slips or mooring balls only use their trailer twice a year, once to put the boat in the water and once to haul it out of the water.

Backing a boat down a ramp shouldn’t cause panic and frustration, so correct a few common mistakes and focus your attention on getting out of the harbor.


  • Re-arrange your mirrors. Slightly tilt your mirrors down so you can see either the launch lines or the concrete sidewalls as your boat rolls over the top of the ramp.

  • Buy mirror extensions. When you add your vehicle and your boat length together, you’ve got a jumbo-sized combo. For around twenty bucks, a pair of mirror extensions will enable drivers to see when they turn or head over the crest of the ramp. You can also get away from those pesky little decals that say ‘things may appear closer than they really are.’ It’s possible that normal mirrors create backing problems.

  • Place and keep your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel.

  • Left means left. The trailer goes in the opposite direction of the front wheels. Move your hand on the steering wheel to the left, your tires go to the right, and the trailer goes to the left. Move your hand on the steering wheel to the right, your tires go to the left, and your trailer goes to the right.

  • Correct your angle. Use slow and gradual movements on the steering wheel to fine-tune your position.


A little practice goes a long way. Now that Labor Day is past and the boating traffic is light, why not make a few runs to iron out the bugs? And as we remind our kids, practice makes perfect.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at