How to Transport Your Boat Safely

by Veronica Jeans February 18, 2017 1 Comment

Seabrook Marina transportation servicesA boat is an expensive investment that can often be tricky to transport if the owner does not have a vehicle and trailer capable of hauling it. Boat transportation services are designed for consumers who want safe and efficient shipping.

Because boat transportation is a complicated process involving expensive cargo, consumers will want to make sure their boats are protected by finding a reputable, dependable company to ship their boat along their chosen route.

Take Time to Plan

Over the road boat transporting requires proper preparation, careful planning and attention to detail on the part of the owner, boatyard, and transporter. Typically, the preparation is the responsibility of the owner and performed by either themselves or the boatyard.  Boat transport companies do not typically prepare boats for transport, however, the good ones will offer direction and advice as well as look over the preparations performed before heading out on the road to ensure nothing was missed.

What matters most in boat transportation?

Choose an Experienced Boat Transporter

An experienced boat transporting company or owner/operator will have the necessary capabilities and connections with the Department of Transportation, State Permit Departments, marinas, boat yards, and ports to ensure a smooth transport avoiding costly delays. Their extensive knowledge of the interstate highway system as it pertains to transporting boats nationwide will avoid unnecessary stress to you and your vessel.

Experienced boat shippers/transporters will not move your boat under any circumstance if it is believed to be unsafe in any way. It is critical to the safety of your boat as well as the general public to choose a transporter that has the knowledge and experience to use the required private and police escorts and high pole cars when state regulations require them, and even sometimes when they don’t. Professional boat transporters also know how the boat must be supported, balanced, stabilized and secured. They know how to properly distribute the weight of the boat across all the axles of the truck and trailer as well as how to correctly secure the boat to the trailer.

Transporting boats across state borders often means paying for tolls. Shipping internationally also means that consumers will need to provide a host of custom forms subject to fees and taxes depending on the countries’ laws. Therefore, it is always a good idea to research the shipping route and to notify the shipping company accordingly.

Choosing the Right Marina and Shipyard

Here are some basic questions to ask when choosing a marina for your transport.

  • Do they have a travel lift, crane, or forklift to load or offload your boat?
  • If they load or unload using a forklift, are they capable of doing so from the side of the trailer?
  • If necessary, can they shrink-wrap your boat for transport if the transporter does not?
  • Do they provide disassembly or reassembly of any part required for transport?
  • Can they provide or assist with the preparation of the boat for transport?
  • Does the facility have enough overhead clearance, free from low-lying trees, branches, and wires?
  • Does the facility accept lowboy type long haul boat transport trailers with 6” of ground clearance?

General preparations

Before a boat can be transported, the shipper needs to prepare it. Most shipping/transportation companies offer quotes only after consumers provide them with the proper information.


All items in the interior cabin should be carefully inspected to make sure they are battened down securely, including hatches. All locker doors should be well secured and locked. All items on deck should be removed or securely lashed down. Normally the driver won’t have a key, so any loose items will cause damage. We recommend, you lock the cabin and keep the key. Fuel and water tanks should be run down or drained as much as possible. During winter months, water should be drained from water systems and RV anti-freeze added to prevent damage to those systems. All batteries should be disconnected and the cables tied off to prevent contact.


All electronics, anchors, hailers, horns, antennas, propellers, flag masts, outriggers, canvas, screens, cushions, lights, windshields or any item that extends beyond the stated length, width or height of your vessel should be removed, packed and securely stowed away to prevent damage. The carrier will not be responsible if they are damaged or if they vibrate off. Drain plugs should be checked and there should not be any water in the bilge while it is being transported.


Hatches should be tightly secured and sealed with tape to prevent damage from wind. The latches should also be taped securely to prevent the hatch from coming open while in transit. A boat rarely sits in the same position on the carrier’s trailer as it does in the water.


Cabin windows should be latched and taped from the outside.  All windshields and/or Plexiglas that protrude over the flying bridge should be removed, packed and should be well secured below.


Boat transporting overland requires thorough inspect of your boat hull. Check engine intake strainers, and all other through-hull fittings. Check drain scuppers, out-drives and all possible areas of attachment. DOT officers are checking boats for Zebra mussels at weigh stations and boat check stations. If zebra mussels are found, your boat will be quarantined. You will have to arrange for decontamination and it may cause delays that will include additional charges.


Boat, cockpit, windshield, hatch, etc., can be damaged, or do considerable damage, whipping or flapping around loose in the wind.  All canvas covers must be removed as they will tear or fly off during transport.


It is important to inform your transporter of any additional items to be transported with your boat not stored aboard the boat itself. There are some instances where other items are being transported in addition to your own and if not informed ahead of time there may not be enough room on the trailer. You also need to be careful not to increase any dimension (length, width, or height) of your boat by attaching additional items to it as the Department of Transportation considers this a divisible load and is not allowed.  If your bridge, hardtop, arch, or any other item has been removed for transport and cannot be placed somewhere suitable on the boat and safely secured remember to provide the dimensions to ensure appropriate transport space on the trailer.  If it must be placed on the trailer, a frame should be prepared for it to be secured to and the entire assembly can then be properly supported and secured to the trailer for transport. Electronics should be shipped separately or securely stowed in your cabin, with all cabin doors, windows, and any other access, locked.

Transporting Different Types of Boats


It is highly recommended that wood boats be inspected carefully and thoroughly prior to loading onto the boat transporting trailer. This is suggested because there may be inherent structural weaknesses that are not readily visible or detectable. Another option would be a well-designed cradle that will spread the weight of the boat over a much wider contact area. If you choose to transport your wooden boat without a cradle, make sure the transporter uses extra pads, crossbars, and other supports but remember, they will and cannot be held liable for any damage.  Wooden boats can also be expected to dry out, a coat of linseed oil will help.  Most boat transporting companies will ask you to sign a release of liability for wood boats.


Dinghies cannot be transported on its davits. The dinghy should be stored in the cabin, securely lashed and padded on your boat, or arranged to be carried in the belly of the trailer.  If you are shipping a dinghy on board or if you have had to remove any superstructure, these items should be well padded and secured.


Make certain that your windshield is strong enough to withstand the rigors and wind of travel. Confirm the seal is tight and screws holding it in place are not corroded. If there is any doubt, remove it and secure it below deck. In some cases, oversize boats are hauled backward creating an even greater force of wind pressure.  In these cases, it is highly recommended to shrink-wrap the boat.

Any inboard/outboard or outboard motors should be raised and locked.  It is sometimes prudent to place a 2 x 4 securely between your out-drive and bracket.  Whenever possible, you should consider removing the props and store them safely.


Make certain that all Masts are un-stepped and de-rigged.  All cables and spreaders should be padded and bound to the mast. All rigging, winches, wind indicators, and lights should be removed.  The strongest side of the mast should be left “clean” to rest on our mast stands. Have boom stands to carry the boom suspended over the belly of the trailer. Wrapping of the mast is optional, but should be considered to protect from dirt and road grime. Although the mast to stand contact point will be padded you should expect some chafing. If the mast is painted, it is almost impossible to keep the paint from chafing. The carrier will not pay to repaint masts if chafing occurs. The recommendation is not to secure the mast to the boat, because there is always space on the trailer for the mast, however it is your option. Should the mast be secured to the boat, transporters will probably not be responsible for any resulting damage to the mast or the boat.

Life lines, stanchions, winches, bow and stern pulpits should be removed if they render the boat over height.  On center board sailboats, make sure the board is secured and will stay up in transit. Keel sailboats may expect some separation where the keel joins the hull. This is not structural damage, but rather is the paint or filler cracking at the joint. Light built or racing sailboats may expect some hull indentation from the support pads. These indentations generally disappear when the boat is returned to the water.

Rudders, sticks, ladders, outboards, and anything else that can turn or flap in the wind, should be removed and/or well secured.

Protecting the boat

Keeping the boat protected, either by wrapping it to protect it from small dings and weather or by paying for some extra insurance, may be a chief concern for protective consumers. Most shipping companies will recommend taking a few extra measures to ensure the cargo is protected.

  • Insurance: Many shipping companies provide quotes with insurance already built into them, but, depending on the route the boat will take, additional insurance may be a good option.
  • Shrink wrap: Though canvas coverings should be removed, a consumer can use heavy duty shrink wrap to protect their boat from weather or small bits of debris that may cause slight damage in transport.

Extra services

Shipping companies that specialize in boat transportation often offer other services as well. Consumers should always look at the extra options to make sure they get the most out of their shipping experience.

Professional wrapping service: If the consumer does not have shrink wrap on hand, many transportation companies offer to wrap the boat themselves. This service will vary across companies, and price may depend on the size of vessel being wrapped.

Tracking: A few shipping companies allow consumers to track and monitor their boat as it moves toward its destination. Consumers wanting to follow their boat should ask a shipping company if it provides tracking support through GPS apps.

Company-provided trailers

Overland shipping requires the use of a trailer. For consumers who are shipping a boat from a harbor or who have purchased a boat without a trailer, transportation companies often have trailers on hand.

  • Adjustable trailers: Because boats come in all sizes, companies often use trailers that can adjust to accommodate various types of vessels.
  • Custom cradles: Some companies that do not have a large fleet of trucks and trailers available at their disposal will offer to build custom cradles to fit the consumer’s boat. These cradles keep the boat securely on its trailer for transportation.

Company qualifications

Few aspects matter more than a company’s qualifications when evaluating options for shipping boats. Consumers should make sure the company they work with has a good reputation and qualifications.

  • Licensed: For a shipping company to be licensed, it must be legally recognized as an entity. Fully-licensed shippers have multiple licenses from various state agencies, and some shippers will verify their licenses upon request.
  • Bonded: Bonding means that shippers are required to fulfill their contracts with consumers. A bond protects the consumer, allowing them to be reimbursed if the shipper does not perform its required service.
  • Insured: Shippers that are insured have their cargo protected in case of an accident. However, insured shippers vary regarding coverage. A consumer should make sure they have all the insurance information available in case they decide they need extra coverage.


Boats are expensive investments, and shipping them can cost a fair amount of money. Consumers should make sure their payments are secure, and sometimes shopping around yields better deals.

  • Online or instant quotes: With the right information, shipping companies can offer quotes instantly. Consumers with accurate measurements and planned routes can get immediate help with a quote either online or over the phone.
  • Online marketplaces: If the consumer prefers shipping companies to compete for their business, online marketplaces allow the consumer see various bids for services. Here, the consumer can compare prices, though information about the shipping companies may be limited.
  • Payment options: The best kind of payment is a secure one. Consumers should always make sure the companies they choose prioritize secure payments through checks or online transactions.

Excerpt from Consumer Affairs - Read more in Consumer Affairs about Transport companies and other tips.

Excerpt from Safe Harbor Haulers

Veronica Jeans
Veronica Jeans


Veronica Jeans is a Ecommerce Business Coach and Marketing Expert. She is passionate about helping businesses launch successfully.
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1 Response

Eric Chevillet
Eric Chevillet

September 04, 2017

Veronica, I was reading your article as when I come across a picture of my truck and trailer it always catches my attention. I am Eric with Safe Harbor Haulers LLC and I thought this post on my website may have some additional information regarding how to transport your boat safely. You can also find the “Process” page where potential shippers can read what to expect when contracting with a transporter. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions as advise is always free. Eric

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