How to Transport a Dingy to the Sea

Much like a plane that is most vulnerable when taking off or landing, boats are often damaged whilst they are on the way from or to the sea. Designed to be on water, it is easy to break sensitive parts of a boat at transportation. Since especially small dinghies are often transferred for every single sailing trip, it is essential to know some basic lifting tricks. In this article, I try to outline the most important ones.

Small dinghies have the advantage to offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing an area in which you want to sail: just pick up the boat, drive there - and off we go. That’s great, but every transfer is a potential source of damages. Boats are built to be on water, so transportation requires a lot of care, some common sense and knowledge about basic lifting techniques.

1.) First of all, you should always choose a boat that matches your physical abilities. This is most definitely true for sailing the boat, but also for transporting it. If your boat is too big for you to lift on your own, get others to help you. Do not try to lift a boat that is too heavy for you! There is no point in getting injured or damaging your boat because of a macho attitude.

2.) I assume you already have a boat; transporting it follows some basic procedures that are the same for all types of sailing dinghies. Take off the canvas and rigging and store it appropriately in your car (or on the trailer). Remove all loose parts from the hull.

3.) When it comes to transport tools, you can choose between two main options: Roof racks or road trailers. The latter ones come in all kinds of sizes and you only need to take care that your car matches the trailer; if your boat and trailer are very heavy, take good care to have functional brakes and a check the external over-run brakes on the trailer. Roof racks are cheaper and very straight-forward to use, but suitable only for smaller dinghies.

4a.) Transportation with roof racks: Support car and boat with towels or other “buffers” to avoid scratches and other small damages. Turn the hull over and lift it, bow forward, over the back of the car. Then lift it up on from the stern and push it gently forward, until the weight of the hull is evenly distributed between the typically two parts of the racks. Finally, fix the boat and double-check that it doesn’t hang loose anywhere.

4b.) Transportation with road trailers: To a certain extent this might vary from model to model, so you should always read the instructions before using the trailer the first time. Make sure to match trailer, boat and car in size. Some trailers have an integral trolley that will help you to move the boat in and out of the trailer – and in and out of the sea. If your trailer doesn’t come with a trolley, you should make use of the rollers that support the hull’s weight whilst un- or uploading. Double-check that the boat is fixed on the trailer and that all loose parts are not loose anymore.

5.) Before you start, you should also make yourself familiar with the new dimensions of your vehicle. It happens once in a while that sailor’s do not dismount masts and get caught in electricity lines. You don’t want that. If in doubt, “insulate” metal parts with a sheet. You vehicle will be a lot heavier, too, so start slowly until you get used to the new feel when breaking or accelerating.

6.) When you unload your boat from your roof-racks or trailer, simply reverse the procedure I described above. Apart from volunteers, there are tools that will make the launching of the boat easier. These include rollers that can be inflatable and very convenient. Or trolleys, not only the mentioned integral ones, but light trolleys for the launching itself. The procedure of launching a boat to the sea is described in another article.

Further Reading

Back to "boats"

Launching a Dinghy to the Sea

Wikipedia on Dinghy Sailing

DMOZ on Boat Transport