NO Truck BRAKES…on the Boat Launch!

  • Saved by a Smartphone App
  • Add $14 for Trailer Tow Care
  • Sleep better at night

By Mike Schoonveld

Launching a boat from a trailer isn’t supposed to be an exciting task. Getting in the boat, heading out to the lake, catching some fish, now that’s fun and exciting. But just backing down the ramp and floating ol’ Wave-Whacker off the bunks is a rather mundane chore.

Unless the brakes on the tow vehicle decide it’s time to malfunction! All of a sudden the slow descent down the ramp, the boat floating free, and the rest of the procedure turns into a power launch. That’s what happened to me recently.

I suppose I was lucky. A few minutes earlier, I was speeding down a busy highway filled with other cars and trucks. Had the brakes failed then, I would have been in a bigger pickle than just shooting my boat off the trailer. When the boat floated free, the last ounce of brake fluid left in the system actuated just enough pressure to slow and stop the truck. I didn’t want to power-launch the tow vehicle!

So now what? The boat was floating nicely. The truck and trailer were safe in the parking lot. There was a little puddle of brake fluid dripping from the ruptured brake line, and I was 50 miles from home. What would you do in this situation?

Here’s what I did.

I pulled out my cell phone, scrolled through the apps showing on the screen until I found the icon with the BoatUS logo. I clicked on it. In a few seconds, I was connected with a person who was ready and able to help. I told her the problem, provided the marina name and location, and I told her there was no hurry. I’d traveled to the lake to go fishing, the boat was floating, my fishing partners were due any minute and the truck wouldn’t be any more broken in early afternoon than it was right now at dawn.

As the information was relayed back and forth, she went to work. Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang and Terry, from a local towing company, was on the line.

“I’m sure this is a bit strange,” I told him. “I imagine most of the time when you get a call it’s because someone needs your help and needs it as soon as possible.” I explained what happened and then asked, “Can you meet me at the marina at 1 PM?”

The meeting scheduled, all I had to do was concentrate on picking the best place to fish and the best lures to use. We had a great fishing trip, and I was back at the dock in plenty of time to meet up with Terry and the tow truck.

I’d already moved the truck and trailer to a deserted spot in the parking lot and disconnected the trailer. When Terry arrived, we quickly hooked up the trailer to his flat-bed and he backed my boat trailer down the ramp. Soon the boat was loaded, the gear stowed, and the boat and trailer were road-ready.

We then disconnected the boat and trailer, winched the truck up onto the flatbed and chained it secure. Then we reattached the boat and trailer, and I was on my way home.

I’d called the garage where I take most of my vehicles with mechanical issues and made an appointment. So we dropped the boat off at my house, and then hauled the broken-brake truck to the mechanic.

Once done, I asked Terry what the procedure was to pay him. “All taken care of,” he said. “The boat place paid me with a credit card.”

“Just curious,” I asked. “What’s the bill?”

“Hook-up fee, mileage, truck and trailer at five bucks per mile, comes to $600,” Terry said.

I buy a BoatUS membership each year for the same reason I belong to the National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and other groups. I believe in their mission.

I add $14 to my annual dues check to get the “Trailer Assist” option from BoatUS (the smartphone app is free). I trailer my boat thousands of miles each year and there is a myriad of things that could go wrong. Tires, wheel bearings or blown brake lines on the tow vehicle. Is it worth it? You do the math.

It’ll make a great gift at any time of year for someone you might know that trailers their boat. Go to for details.