How to Tie Down a Boat to a Trailer (Safely and Securely)

How to Guides

Ratchet strap used to tie down a boat to a trailer

Knowing how to tie your boat down to the boat trailer is one of the most important boating lessons you can learn. Do it wrong and you could destroy your boat and damage other cars on the road. Losing your boat off the trailer could even seriously injure someone or cause a fatality.

The Importance of Boat Trailer Safety

Every year there are accidents on Australian roads caused by poor trailer maintenance, failure to secure the boat to the trailer or not securing the trailer to the car correctly. Inattention and complacency are the main causes of these incidents.

Both novices and experienced boat owners are at risk. The inexperienced boatie could easily miss a step they’re not aware of, whilst the experienced driver may become complacent and forget to secure something in a hurry at the boat ramp.

Correct Boat Trailer Tie Down Points

Some boaties use ropes crisscrossing their boat to secure it to the trailer and keeping all their camping cargo inside the boat. This is incorrect and could cause hull damage over a long trip.

There are three points where a boat should be tied down – the stern on both sides of the boat and at the point of the bow.

The stern is ideal because it has heavy-duty reinforcement compared to other areas of a boat. When the stern is tied down, the hull has more contact with the trailer’s rollers.

The trailer area forward from the stern of the boat is built to flex, so tying a boat down in this area with the potential for boat & trailer to move in different directions could actually cause hull damage. Alloy boats and dinghies can have the hull pull away from the seats, and when that occurs, the boat’s strength is compromised. Fibreglass boats can get small cracks in the sides of their hull and bulkhead.

Tying down the bow as the third point of contact allows the boat and trailer to flex independently of each other.     

How to Choose the Right Ratchet Straps

The best way to tie your boat down is by using ratchet straps. Rope you have lying around might look like a cheap alternative but not if they damage the boat or works their way loose while you are driving.

Nylon straps shouldn’t hurt the boat’s finish like rope can, but we do recommend using cut-up pieces of old foam or rubber mats as padding between the boat and strap to protect your boat’s finish.

Ratchet Straps for Tinnies

Due to the size and weight of tinnies, you don’t need to go overboard with your tie down straps. A 25mm light weight webbing strap is all you need to keep the boat secure. This strap comes with a plastic coating over the S hooks.

There are stainless steel hook straps available that are recommended for use on the rear of the boat. They come in 1.5m and 4.5m lengths.

Ratchet Straps for Mid-Sized Boats

A thicker strap is needed to hold a larger boat, so instead of a 25mm strap, the medium duty ratchet strap is 50mm. Large coated S hooks keep the boat in place.

This ratchet over boat tie down strap is 5.5m in length. It has the S hook at one end and a handy swivel J hook on the other to make it easy to secure the strap to the trailer.

How to Use Ratchet Straps

Knowing how to thread ratchet straps and how to release ratchet straps is essential if you are going to use them properly.     

Learn how to use your boat tie down straps at home when you aren’t under pressure. Doing it anywhere near a boat ramp for the first time could end in disaster. An hour or two spent practising and getting them set up to suit your boat and trailer will be an excellent investment of time.  

Threading Ratchet Straps

Step 1

Place the webbing through the slot in the centre of the ratchet buckle rotating the spool.


Step 2

Pull the webbing through but leave some slack.  


Step 3

Raise and lower the handle to start ratcheting


Step 4

The webbing will lock in place and increase tension in the strap.

To Release Ratchet Straps


Step 1

Pull and hold the release tab on top of the ratchet to release the ratchet function.


Step 2

Open the ratchet so the buckle lays flat.


Step 3

Take hold of the webbing on the non-fixed side and pull to release.


This video is a good reference:


Tips for Towing Your Boat Safely

Towing  a heavy load decreases a vehicle’s acceleration, braking and manoeuvrability. Drivers need to anticipate what another car or pedestrian may do much earlier than when they aren’t towing. The extra distance helps to stop smoothly as jerking movement can cause a trailered boat to shift or even destabilise and tip.   

Know the Towing Regulations in Your State

Every Australian state and territory has different towing regulations so if you buy a boat and/or trailer in one state, don’t assume they’re compliant everywhere. Regular visual checks of your boat and trailer are necessary.

Stop and Inspect Your Trailer on Long Trips

On long journeys make regular stops to check the boat hasn’t moved on the trailer, and the straps are still secure. Pull well off the roadside to check the trailer coupling hasn’t come loose as well as the trailer’s safety chains, electrical connections and tyres. Finally, check for excessive heat that could be the warning sign for wheel bearing failure.

Be Aware of Weight Distribution and Weight Limits

The way you load your boat should also be carefully considered. If you only have a rod and bucket, you don’t need to worry but if you are transporting heavy equipment like air tanks, eskies and full petrol tanks, consider where you place them in the boat. Many skippers put all the gear at the back of the boat to keep the driving area clear but ideally, 60% of the weight should be at the front of the boat and only 40% at the rear. Towing a boat that is too heavily weighted to the back can sway in crosswinds or high speed. Weight should also be distributed evenly on both sides of the boat.


If you have any queries about the right tie down ratchet straps for your boat, contact the experts at Boat Accessories Australia by calling 1300 308 161 or contact us online.

Category: How to Guides

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