The biggest hurdles new jet ski owner’s have is launching and boarding their jet skis from a trailer.
It can be tough, but I want to show you what I do so that you can have a better understanding when you get ready to go out on your jet ski.
First – Gear Up!
Before you even leave the house – grab the key. I’ve been playing with PWCs for a while, and to this very day, I’ll still forget the key to the watercraft.
It does suck to have to drive all the way home to get the key. And no, you don’t want to keep the key in the jet ski for security reasons, learn more about jet ski security here.
Besides the key, make sure to have all your gear, like a life jacket for each rider, whistles, and all the stuff to keep you legal on the water. If you don’t know what accessories to have on your waverunner, then click here.
Make Sure It Starts Up
Even if you follow my advice about keeping a solar charger on your jet ski when you’re not using it, it would still be wise to fire it up before heading out. You can run a jet ski out of the water for about 15 seconds, but you only need to fire it up for 5 seconds just to make sure it starts.
When you start the engine, you want the starter to sound like it has plenty of energy. If it sounds like it’s struggling or doesn’t feel as strong as it used to, then it won’t start in the water. Keep in mind that starting it in water is harder to do since the water creates more drag on the system.
Make sure the drain plugs are in.
Not checking the straps is a big one for people to miss. Always check the front strap and your rear straps before heading out. You want them secure and tight.
Also, never trust a strap. I’ve lost count of how many straps have broken on me from regular use. I even had straps break on me when I was heading down the road and lucky enough, I’m a slow driver, and the ski did not come off. This is why you need more than one strap holding down your watercraft.
I have a total of 3 straps, one for the front where we winch it on the trailer and two for the rear. You can get away with a total of 2, but I’ve learned my lessons on redundancies.
To make this process painless and fast, use pull tight straps like this one here*.
Make sure the drain plugs are in.
Before you head to the ramp to the boat launch, go ahead and fill up your jet ski at the gas station. Gas on the lakes can be expensive, and some even require you to be a member of their “club.”
If you’re wondering if you can run ethanol in your jet ski, I cover that here.
While at the gas station don’t forget to pick up bottled water. It gets hot on the lake and you must stay hydrated!
Pull To The Side
Don’t head directly to the ramp. Always pull over to the sides where they have unloading areas or pull into a parking spot. You must be courteous to the other boaters, and you don’t want to be “that guy” who pulls up to the ramp and unloads there.
When you pull to the side, make sure your drain plugs are in. You may have noticed I’ve been repeating this drain plug thing often. It’s for a good reason – if it’s not in, you’ll sink, and no warranty will cover that. (insurance might not cover it either). Just make sure the drain plug is finger tight, never over tighten.
Some watercraft will have one or two drain plugs. If you’re not certain how many you have, consult your owner’s manual or call your local dealer.
I like to take off my rear straps at this point, but I keep the front strap ATTACHED. Never loosen the front strap until the rear of the PWC is touching the water.
Backing The Jet Ski Trailer
When you have everything you need for your ride on your jet ski, you can head towards the ramp. If it’s busy, wait your turn for a ramp to come open.
For backing up the trailer, there is no magic way to do it, just a lot of practice. But I do have some tips.
- If you have a truck, lower the tailgate and look behind you. This is vital if you have a single jet ski trailer, as they’re hard to see out the mirrors. If you have an SUV, then lifting the hatch and lowering the rear seats will do the same.
- If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to steer, then place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, this will feel more natural to you.
- Don’t use the backup camera as some of them can confuse you and distort the image.
- Keep straight as possible. When you pull up to the ramp, swing around so that you’re perfectly straight with the ramp. Do this even if it means you feel like you’re far away from the ramp. The straighter the trailer is the easier it is to back up.
- If you feel like you’re going crooked, then you are. Pull up to straighten back out.
- Go slow.
- NEVER unlatch your trailer to readjust it. Ramps are on hills straight to the water, and gravity will take over and put you and everyone at the ramp in danger if you remove the trailer from the vehicle.
- Practice. On a weekday, go out to the ramps and practice backing in, or go early in the morning when no one is out. This is the only way you’re going to get good at this.
–One more time, make sure the drain plugs are in place. And yes, I do check my drain plugs 2 to 3 times before I get into the water. Call me crazy, but jet skis are hard to wrestle back on a trailer when they have sunk.
How Far To Back The Trailer?
You want the trailer as far back as possible without getting your car/truck too much in the water. You’ll also want to disconnect the trailer lights from the vehicle.
Here is a video showing me backing the trailer up, so you can see where I stop so that I can board the Sea-Doo…
Looking at the picture below shows you the best depth to have your trailer, just a little bit of the fenders and bunks sticking out. This is also ideal for reboarding the trailer as it is enough to catch and hold you without having to break your back cranking the jet ski up.
At this height, you will need to push the watercraft off a little bit. Most of the weight is in the rear, and most of the rear should be floating a slight bit. If you’re having trouble pushing it off, keep it attached to the front hook and back up a little more.
If you have someone riding the jet ski, then push it off just a little bit and have them hop on. Have them put the watercraft in reverse, disconnect the front hook, push them off, and then have them turn the engine on and go.
If you want to get real fancy or don’t have reverse on your jet ski, then you can disconnect the front latch, push the craft completely off and rotate it around. Have the rider hop on and let them drive away.
If the ramp you use has docks on the side, you could push the ski off, and with a dock line walk it over to the docks and tie it off.
When it comes to your car or truck, you want to avoid going past the exhaust. You’ll know the exhaust is submerged by the sound it makes when underwater. Most cars won’t be harmed by the exhaust going underwater, but when you do hear it, then you have gone too far and need to pull up. If you’re constantly going in too far, then pick up a Receiver Tube Extender like this one here*.
Make sure everyone on the watercraft has a life jacket on before they even get near the jet ski. It’s best only to launch one person from the trailer, and all other people who want to ride should meet the jet ski at the dock.
How To Drive A Jet Ski
Once the jet ski is in the water, and you’re ready, you can now drive it.
Loading Jet Ski Onto Trailer
Back the trailer up to the depth that I showed you above, where you have a little bit of the trailer fender and bunks sticking out of the water.
Driving the jet ski onto the trailer can be scary, but it’s not as bad as you think. The goal is to go slow, like super slow. If you have a jet ski with brakes, then just go back and forth with the forward and reverse/iBR so that you’re barely moving. Aim for the center of the bunks.
Once you have made contact with the trailer, turn the engine off and have someone ratchet you up using the front strap. Make sure to latch the front hook so that it ‘clicks’ when you turn the handle. The clicking when rotating the handle lets you know it’s secure and helps with pulling the craft up.
If you’re by yourself, then hop off the side carefully and pull the craft up with the front strap. When you start to become more comfortable with the jet ski, you can start to give a little bit of gas to get it up the trailer more and then hop off. Don’t do this if this is your first time or don’t feel comfortable, as it’s easy to overdo it. -Consider this as a warning, as I’ve seen this happen and have been on the receiving end of this very thing. It’s not funny, and extreme caution must be held when at the ramp.
Since we’re on the topic of caution, always be aware of your surroundings when on the ramp. I’ve had my leg crushed by a boat and the jet ski I was getting off. Someone panicked and went full power in reverse because they could not get the boat off the trailer, and they had the steering wheel all the way over to me, and when they broke free, they pinned my leg. When you’re at the ramps, always be aware of your surroundings, go slow, and don’t panic. And my leg is fine now, if anyone is wondering.
Pull off To The Side
When the ski is completely on the trailer, and the front is LATCHED, you can pull off the ramp and to a parking spot.
Pull the drain plugs out. If you have a lot of water coming out, then you have issues. If you have less than a cup of water come out, then you have no issues.
Reconnect the rear straps back to the jet ski and trailer. Reconnect the trailer lights and make sure they all work before heading out.
Get all the gear out of the jet ski and into the car and head on home. I like to double-check all 3 of my straps before hopping in the car and driving off for good measure.