Boat Transport Preparation


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. Yacht 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. If you need assistance with preparing your vessel we can help by working with you to select a full service marina or boatyard to accommodate your needs. If upon loading we feel your boat is not properly prepared for shipment, we will bring it to your attention so that the areas of concern can be discussed before proceeding. In any case, we do not physically provide preparations for the shipment of your boat and therefore cannot accept responsibility for any resulting damage.


When you’re choosing someone for boat transporting, did you know that many companies are transport brokers or agents rather than boat transport companies?

Broker or Agent

A transport broker or Agent is definitely not a transporter or an owner / operator. Brokers / Agents do not have the operational and logistic capabilities transport companies have. They do not have trucks or yacht transport trailers, professional drivers, proper transport equipment, and in many cases not much transport experience at all. Transport brokers /agents are sales teams that book your transport with you and attempt to sell it to the lowest bidder. Then they tack on their markup and sell the transport to you at an inflated cost. Others quote you a rate then attempt to find a transporter that will provide the service while still leaving the broker / agent with some profit. The problem comes when they are not able to find a transporter for various reasons – low estimates, availability, resources, and the list goes on – in this case you can get stuck without a transporter on the day of your move. Many transport brokers / agents operate from call centers located anywhere in the country. When you call or email someone for a quote make sure to ask the company whether they are an actual transport company or a broker / agent. References are also a good idea. They can help you determine if the person you are hiring is, in fact, the person showing up to pick up your boat or if they sub out the job to others.

Boat Transport Company

Boat transport companies differ from owner / operators by employing salespeople who book your transport then schedule it with one of their hired drivers. In this case, you have little control of who is transporting your boat. It could be the veteran boat transport driver that has been transporting boats their entire career or the career driver who has very limited experience loading, supporting, securing, or transporting boats.

Owner / Operator

Owner / operators are small boat transporting companies that are there own salespeople that also drive. They are lone individuals, husband and wife teams and may even have other owner / operators that drive for them. They operate their own trucks, trailers and equipment, answer their own calls and emails, and do their own scheduling. They are specialized haulers of boats only. When you hire them you can feel confident that they will provide the highest level of service in transporting your boat. One drawback to them is they typically have fewer trucks and trailers. Their schedule is much tighter than the large transport companies that operate many trucks. It is very common for the good ones to be booked 2 to 4 months in advance. This is mostly due to that higher level of service you can expect from them so early planning is wise.


An experienced boat or yacht transport company or owner / operator will have the necessary experience working with The Department of Transportation, State Permit Departments, marinas, boat yards, and ports to ensure a smooth transport avoiding costly delays. They will further have extensive knowledge of the interstate highway system as it pertains to transporting over width and over height boats nationwide to avoid unnecessary stress to your vessel. They will not move your boat under any circumstance if it is believed to be unsafe in any way and are highly trained and experienced at boat transporting as that is all they do. 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 escort 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.


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

  • Do they have a travel lift, crane, or fork lift to load or offload your boat?
  • If they load or unload using a fork lift, are they capable of doing so from the side of the trailer?
  • If necessary, can they shrink-wrap your boat for transport?
  • 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 low boy type long haul boat transport trailers with 6” of ground clearance?


When requesting a quote to transport your boat, the dimensions you provide are extremely important. Please follow these guidelines for measuring your boat accurately.


Include bow pulpits, swim platforms, outboard motor brackets, outboard motors themselves (the length of the motors or out drives in the raised position). If on a trailer, include from the tip of the tongue to the end of the motor.


It is recommended to have the boat hauled out of the water for measuring the height as it is very difficult to obtain an accurate measurement otherwise. It is critical to measure from the lowest non-removable part to the highest non-removable part of the boat in order to determine the overall transport height. If your boat measures under 12’10” in height than there will, more than likely, be no reason to remove anything to reduce the height for transport over land. This is of course assuming you choose a transporter with the proper equipment such as a wide belly, low boy type trailer that can set the keel down low enough to pass under bridges safely (typically 6” – 8” above the roadway).


The beam of your boat is measured at the widest point of the boat including anything attached to the boat. Boats wider than 8 feet 6 inches are regarded as oversize loads and are required to have state permits as well as special routing.


It is important to inform your transporter of any additional items to be transported with your boat that are 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 overall 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 assemble can then be properly supported and secured to the trailer for transport. Electronics should be securely stowed in your cabin, with all cabin doors, windows, and any other access, locked.



All items in the interior cabin should be carefully inspected to make sure they are battened down securely. All doors/hatches should be well secured and locked. All items on deck should be removed (preferred) 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. We have seen instances where full fuel tanks have caused fuel to escape through the tank vent causing fuel to be spilled over the boat. If cold weather is expected the boat should be winterized to prevent damage. All batteries should be disconnected.


All electronics, anchors, hailers, horns, antennas, propellers, flag masts, outriggers, bimini frames, isinglass, canvas, screens, cushions, lights 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 fall off. Drain plugs should be checked and there should not be any water in the bilge while it is being transported. Lastly, the hull should be pressure washed and clean of any aquatic life. By law we are not allowed to transport vessels over the road with any growth attached to the boat.


Hatches should be tightly secured. The latches should also be taped securely to prevent the hatch from coming open while in transit. Be aware 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 isinglass as well as any windshields and/or Plexiglas that protrude over a flying bridge should be removed, packed and should be well secured below.


All hulls must be clean! 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.


Shrink-wrapping can protect your boat from road tar and dirt however if not done properly it can tear or fly-off during transit or otherwise cause damage as well. Keep in mind that the driver’s view is often obstructed by the boat itself, he can’t always see that the shrink-wrap has torn, nor can the driver hear the shrink-wrap flapping. If you choose to have your boat wrapped for transport we recommend using a qualified contractors or a marina to perform this service and ask that you make certain they are aware that they are wrapping your vessel for overland transport and not just for storage. You should also request that they leave the cleats exposed to ensure there is access to secure the boat to the trailer as well as having them leave an extra roll or two of shrink-wrap tape with the boat. This will be used to seal the holes after strapping the boat to the trailer along with any over the road repairs that may need to be performed during transport . Although we cannot be responsible for damage to your boat caused by shrink-wrap we will stop frequently to check it for damage and if possible perform any necessary repairs. If the shrink-wrap is too badly damaged it will have to be removed before the transport can continue. In any case you will be contacted and given your options before any service is performed that may include additional fees.


ANY BOAT BEING TRANSPORTED, BUT ESPECIALLY WOOD, NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO SUPPORT IT’S OWN WEIGHT. It is highly recommended that wood boats be inspected carefully and thoroughly prior to loading onto the boat transport trailer. This is suggested because there may be inherent structural weaknesses that is 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 we will use extra pads, crossbars and other supports but cannot be held liable for any damage. Wooden boats can also be expected to dry out, a coat of linseed oil will help.


Dinghies cannot be transported on its davits. The dinghy should be arranged to be carried in the belly of the trailer or worst case stored on the deck, securely lashed and padded on your boat. 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.


In many cases, due to the shape of the boat and trailer, powerboats over 36′ long will load out significantly lower backwards. 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. We have never had an issue with any boat or windshield due to transporting it backwards.

Any outdrive or outboard motor should be raised and locked. You should always remove the props and safely package and store them in the boat. Props are easily damaged and therefore you do not want them being one of the closest things to the trailer.


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. We also 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. We do not recommend the mast be secured to the boat, as there is a space on the trailer for the mast, however it is your option. Should the mast be secured to the boat, we will 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, ladders, outboards, and anything else that can turn or flap in the wind, should be removed and/or well secured.


Cradles or trailers can be shipped with your boat if arrangements are made ahead of time.


If your boat exceeds certain dimension, depending on the state, it may be labeled as a Super load or as California refers to it as a Variance Load. These boats are larger than traditional Oversize Loads, many exceeding 16′ beams and or 15′ tall, and require special consideration and planning. The permitting process is longer and more costly than a traditional Oversize Load as it often has to get additional approvals from county, district, and highway engineers as well as some cities and towns that we would have to travel through. Most require some sort of Police escort and or Utility Company in addition to the private escorts that adds a significant cost to the move. Many permit offices as well as Police departments are very vague as to the requirements and charges for these services so it makes providing an accurate estimate nearly impossible. Many companies charge well beyond what they believe the move will cost in order to simplify the process as well as bring in big profits. Others, who have less experience than what is required, charge what they believe to be correct then after realizing their mistakes attempt to cut corners in order to complete the transport without losing any money. As you can imagine, this only leads to disaster. I handle this process as fairly as possible by providing the best quote I can with the information that I receive after contacting every state and department involved. When changes occur that are beyond my control, and they will, I bill at cost, with no markup on my end, and provide copies of the actual invoices received as I feel that is the only fair way to handle the situation.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you. If you have any questions, please give us a call. Eric