How to transport your yacht cross country?

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated March 8, 2023

Some people own yachts just to cruise around the bay. Dip their toes in the blue and be home in time for supper.

Others dream of the azure Pacific east of Miami, or chasing striped marlins off the Baja peninsula, or sailing out into the wild Gulf of Alaska. They know a yacht is more than a possession; it’s a key to adventure.

But the difficulty of transporting it over land can take the wind out of the most determined adventurer’s sails.

But here’s news: it doesn’t have to stay a dream. What seem like risks can be handled easily with a little preparation, the right equipment and the right services. And it doesn’t have to break the bank either.

Make cross country yacht transport work for you. A few tips is all it takes.

How to prepare a yacht for shipping cross country ?

Before a yacht leaves its current location, the owner is responsible for ensuring it’s in the right condition for travel. Some of these preparations are common sense, some may not be. Make sure you’ve accomplished these three things before handing it over to a reputable service like CitizenShipper.

Number one is making sure any gear that can move or get dislodged on or below deck is tied or taped down securely. Big items like tenders of PWCs can do a lot of damage if left unrestrained – not just to the yacht but to themselves. Safety padding may be necessary for these items. Also make sure the hatches are dogged down and the doors are securely fastened. Anything that leaks should be sealed to avoid water damage in transit.

Secondly, anything that can hold fluids needs to be drained. Fuel, water and waste tanks should be empty before shipping, in case of leaks or to prevent the trailer tipping as it rounds corners. The drain plug should also be removed to allow any rain that falls in transit to drain right through. Speaking of draining, disconnect the battery and stow the cables separately to prevent accidental ignition and loss of charge.

Lastly, take a picture of your yacht from all angles. If the yacht is damaged in transit (an unlikely event) you will need evidence of its condition prior to shipping. This will help with any potential claims. Another reason to do this is in case the yacht needs some reassembling done at its destination. Now you can easily check which part goes where, saving you time.

Your shipping service will ask for the dimensions of your yacht before sending a suitable trailer. You may not know the measurements offhand but you will need to provide them. Here’s how to find out.

How to measure your yacht ?

First of all you’ll need to know what to measure. The shipping company will need three measurements from you, and measurements should be taken of the yacht in the condition in which it will travel. Those key measurements are length, height and beam. The length of a yacht is the distance from the very tip of the bow to the centre of the stern; the height is measured from the base of the keel to the highest point of the yacht that cannot be removed; and the beam is the yacht’s width at its widest point (rub rail included).

Some yachts are too big to be shipped, or will require special permits to be transported cross country.

  • If a yacht exceeds thirteen feet and six inches in height, perhaps because the mast cannot be removed, it will need to travel on non-interstate routes, and the low clearance will complicate the route as arches and bridges will need to be avoided.
  • A beam greater than eight feet six inches will certainly require road surveys and permits. There may be added costs too: if the roads are too busy for a wide yacht to pass down without obstructing traffic, the driver will need to wait until the roads clear. Sometimes this can be hours.

Finally, it’s worth finding out what you can about the destination. Is it a marina or a storage facility? If the destination has a website, you’ll surely find what you need to know there. That information is the exact clearance needed for your yacht to enter.

If you’re shipping the yacht yourself, you’ll need a trailer suitable for it. There are plenty on the market to fit any specification. Here’s what to know to make an informed decision.

How to choose a cross country yacht trailer ?

The Bow Eye to Transom/Drain Plug measurement is the most critical measurement when selecting the proper trailer for your boat. This does not include the swim platform or bow pulpits. When choosing a trailer, this is one of two main measurements you’ll need to check against its specifications.

The other is boat weight. Although you should aim to transport your yacht “dry” (without fuel or water weight), it’s the “wet” weight you should be checking in case of emergency hauls. That figure can be found in your owner manual, or online. This calculator might help.

There are two types of yacht trailers to consider: bunk trailers and roller trailers.

Bunk trailers are the simpler option, with fewer moving parts, and often cheaper. They also tend to have a longer life. The disadvantage is in getting your yacht onto one. With a ramp and in good tide conditions, it’s relatively easy to submerge the bunk trailer and drag the boat on top of it. Without a ramp, this can be a challenge. And the corrosive properties of saltwater can make the trailer vulnerable to damage. In all other respects, a bunk trailer is a safe and sturdy means of transporting your yacht.

For shallow ramps or at low tides, roller trailers are your best bet. Particularly if you don’t know the terrain you’ll be facing when you cast off. They are often more expensive; but, if you plan to transport your yacht often, they have a critical advantage. Roller trailers do not need to be submerged so deeply to release or retrieve a vessel. Therefore the damage caused by exposure to salt water is greatly reduced, making maintenance costs much lower overall.

The question yacht owners should ask is: Do I expect to use my trailer regularly? If yes, a roller is economically sound. If no, a bunk is just the thing. Consider carefully before making a purchase.

Advice on how to hitch the trailer to a vehicle is available here.

And that’s it!

Bear in mind any shipper, no matter how well-reviewed, is subject to the vicissitudes of weather. High winds, deluges, may occur on any journey.

Make sure your pride and joy is protected from the elements before setting off. Beyond that, you can have faith that a good shipping service will have your yacht where you want it to be, when you want it.

Interested in being a transporter? Get FREE access to our courses here 👇
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After that, it’s adventure ahoy. Make the most of your key to freedom. The limitless blue awaits.

Happy sailing, captain!