So you just bought yourself a brand new inflatable boat, and you can’t wait to take it out on the water.
The only problem is, you’re not sure how to actually get it into the water.
If you’ve never launched an inflatable boat before, you may be worried about how to do it without damaging your boat.
Fortunately, in many cases, launching an inflatable boat is easier than launching other types of boats because there are different ways to do it.
So how do you launch an inflatable boat?
What are the different methods?
And what are some tips for retrieving your boat at the end of the day?
Keep reading to find out more!
Table of Contents
Where Can I Launch My Inflatable Boat?
Before we dive into the methods for launching your boat, we should first talk about the location you choose for launching.
Depending on the type and size of inflatable boat, you may have different options for where to launch it.
Large, rigid inflatable boats will probably need to be backed into the water using a boat trailer and boat ramp. Make sure you’re familiar with backing your vehicle and trailer before trying to back down a ramp, as you don’t want your vehicle to end up in the water along with your boat.
For most other inflatable boats, you can use launching or transom wheels to put your boat in the water. To do this, you may still want to use a boat ramp, but a beach or smooth shoreline will work as well.
For small, lightweight, air floor inflatable boats, you may simply be able to carry the fully-inflated boat and set it in the water. In this case, you’ll be able to launch from just about any spot you want.
So as you can see, with most inflatable boats, you have options when deciding where to launch. Just make sure beforehand that you’re setting your boat down in a legal spot. If you see signs that indicate “no boating” or “no fishing,” you’ll need to find another spot.
How to Safely Launch an Inflatable Boat
As mentioned above, the type of inflatable boat you have will determine your options for where to launch it from. The same is true for the method of how you launch it.
There are two basic types of inflatable boats: air floor and rigid. Each type of boat has slightly different launching techniques.
As the name suggests, air floor inflatable boats have inflatable floors. They are generally lighter weight and smaller than rigid boats, making them easier to move and giving you plenty of options for launching.
Rigid boats have floor panels that are inserted when the boat is inflated. These panels are usually made of aluminum or marine plywood. They give you a much sturdier floor so you can stand up and move around while on the water, but they are usually heavier than air floor boats.
Let’s take a closer look at how to safely launch each type of inflatable boat.
Air Floor Inflatable Boat
Air floor boats often look like oversized pool floats. Some are small and light enough for one person to carry even when the boat is fully inflated. Others are much larger but can still be easily carried by 2 to 4 people.
To launch an air floor boat, pick the spot where you want to launch it. The water should be deep enough so the boat floats without scraping the bottom.
You may decide to transport the boat fully inflated or wait until you get to the water to inflate it. Either way, make sure the surface where you inflate it is free of sharp objects that could damage the air chambers.
Once you’ve found your launching spot and have the boat inflated, you can simply lift it into the water. Even with smaller boats, this may be easier if you have someone to help you, but it is possible to do it on your own.
The easiest way is to walk out onto a pier and set the boat into the water, but you can also launch from a sandy beach or grassy shoreline as long as the water isn’t too shallow.
Depending on the style of boat, you may be able to launch from a boat ramp using a set of launch wheels, but these are usually made for rigid inflatable boats with rigid transoms. It’s also possible to launch from a boat ramp without wheels by simply setting your boat into the water.
Again, air floor inflatable boats are easy and can be launched from almost anywhere, as long as the water is deep enough to float.
Now let’s take a look at rigid inflatable boats.
Rigid Inflatable Boat
Rigid inflatable boats are generally more well suited for serious boating, fishing, and use with a trolling motor. They are also heavier and require a bit more assembly, and you probably won’t be able to just lift them into the water.
So how do you launch a rigid inflatable boat?
There are a few different ways. You may want to use a trailer and a boat ramp for large inflatable boats, or you may be able to use launch wheels to roll your boat into the water from a boat ramp or the shoreline.
You may also be able to launch your boat without the use of wheels or a boat trailer. This is most easily done from a boat ramp.
If you’ve got a large rigid boat, make sure it is fully inflated with the floor plates installed and ready to go when you reach the edge of the water. Also double-check that it is properly secured to your boat trailer.
Carefully back the boat and trailer down a boat ramp. The trailer will be partially submerged in the water, but the back of your vehicle should not be.
Remove any securing lines or chains and guide your boat as it slides from the trailer into the water. Secure it to the shore or leave it with a friend while you go find a safe spot to park your vehicle.
Some tips for using a boat ramp to launch your rigid inflatable boat:
- If possible, use a spotter as you back toward the water.
- Keep your vehicle and trailer straight as you back up.
- Remember to unhook all of the safety lines and chains before trying to guide it into the water.
For more information on using a boat ramp, check out this video:
If you have a smaller inflatable boat and plan to use launch wheels, there are different ways you can do it. You can secure them to the boat either before or after it’s inflated; in fact, it’s perfectly acceptable to transport the boat with the wheels attached.
Unload the boat on a boat ramp or smooth shoreline free of sharp objects. If you need to finish inflating and assembling the boat, do so according to the directions in your owner’s manual.
When you’re ready to launch, lift up the end opposite the wheels (which will likely be mounted on the transom) and pull or push the boat so that the wheels roll it into the water.
Once you’re in the water, most launch wheels can be removed or folded so that they don’t become damaged or tangled with weeds.
If you don’t have launch wheels or don’t want to use them, it is possible to launch your rigid boat without them, as demonstrated in the video below.
Start with your boat uninflated. Place it at the edge of a boat ramp or shore so that it’s partially in the water, and inflate it.
By the time it’s fully inflated, the back half of it should be in the water. Lift up on the bow and carefully slide it down until the rest of the boat is floating in the water.
How to Retrieve an Inflatable Boat
So you’ve reached the end of a great day on the water, and you want to know how to get your boat out of the water.
Again, the exact method you use will depend on the type and size of boat you have.
Small air floor boats can simply be lifted and carried out of the water in much the same way as it was put into the water.
If you have a rigid boat with launch wheels, reinstall them or fold them back out as you near the edge of the water. Hop out of the boat and, lifting up on the bow, roll the boat up the ramp or shoreline.
If you don’t have launch wheels, position your boat so that it’s halfway out of the water on the shore or ramp. Deflate it, folding and rolling the chambers as you go. You will need to allow it to dry off, so once you’re away from the ramp, unfold it again and allow it to dry in the sun.
If using a trailer, leave the boat tied off or with a friend as you go to retrieve your vehicle. Back the trailer down the boat ramp as you did for launching. Guide the boat toward the trailer and slide it up into place.
Getting the boat onto the trailer may not be as easy as getting it off, depending on how steep the ramp is. Once it’s in place, secure it with the safety chain and any other securing lines. At this point, you’re ready to head home.
And there you have it!
Launching your inflatable boat doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or daunting process, as long as you do it properly for the type of boat you own.
If you follow the instructions in this guide, you and your boat will be out on the water in no time!