Avoid boat ramp rage (by observing ramp etiquette)

By: Steve Starling


Launching a boat one handed I’ve become adept at the one-man launch! Launching a boat one handed
Single hand boat launch and retreat Singlehanded launch and recovery requires practice but can be done. Single hand boat launch and retreat
Winching in boat at launch ramp You may need to winch on to save your prop from dinging the ramp. Winching in boat at launch ramp

Ever been stuck behind someone who took forever to launch their boat at the ramp? Chances are they’re not across proper boat ramp etiquette. The good news is that it doesn’t have to end in tears.

Avoid boat ramp rage (by observing ramp etiquette)
A busy boat ramp can be very stressful.

If you want to prompt some lively discussion, ask any keen boat owner to recount a few sorry incidences of poor boat ramp etiquette they’ve witnessed over the years. Sadly, most of us have seen far too many examples in our time.

In fact I know a few cynical older hands who get out of bed early and drive to their local ramp (without a boat) on busy mornings just to watch the inevitable dramas unfold. This beats most reality TV shows hands down! Easter Sunday and Boxing Day are sure bets for "ramp rage" action, but any long weekend with a favourable weather forecast is sure to have its share of riveting viewing for the morbidly voyeuristic.

The most common misdemeanour witnessed involves those misguided folks who back their rigs down the launching ramp first, then stop to undo tie-down straps, remove trailer lights and outboard rests, fit bungs, organise ropes, tilt motors and even load gear from the vehicle into the boat. This is all poor form and frustrating for others waiting patiently in line to launch or recover their own boats. If the perpetrator has also managed to reverse so poorly that his semi-jack-knifed trailer and vehicle now occupies two or more lanes of the ramp, the crime is significantly magnified. Words are likely to be exchanged … sometimes it escalates beyond words.

 

Boat ramp etiquette

The obvious reasons for increased ramp tensions relate partly to a surge in total traffic volume, but also to the fact that a lot more occasional and first-time boaties tend to hit the water at these times of year. The combination of pressure, stress and inexperience inevitably leads to trouble.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand everyone has to learn the ropes. None of us are born with the knowledge to do this stuff. But the application of a little common sense and some pre-match practice goes a hell of a long way towards alleviating game day disasters. If you’re new to boating, and to backing trailers in the tight confines of boat launching areas, pick a quiet time mid-week (or a weekend when the weather is too poor for most people to go fishing), head to the ramp and practise, practise, practise! In particular, learn to rely on your mirrors when backing a trailer, rather than constantly stretching your neck and turning your head like a paranoid ostrich.

 

How not be a numpty

Work out a routine for the real thing, too. Most boat launch ramps feature preparation bays where you can park and do all those last-minute things before backing down to the water. Use this space to ensure all the fuel, safety gear, fishing tackle and so on you’ll need for the day are securely stowed in the boat before you back down onto the ramp.

This is also the place and time to undo all those tie-downs, screw in the bungs (you weren’t going to forget that, were you?) and tilt the motor up off its travelling rest. Naturally, don’t disconnect anything critical that might allow your boat to slide off the trailer mid-ramp!

Don’t be afraid to kick the motor over too and briefly fire it up. Two or three seconds of dry running won’t hurt it, and if the battery is flatter than a pancake (or you’ve inadvertently activated the kill switch), you want to know now before hitting the water.

Make sure you have a rope (it’s called a "line" in nautical parlance) tied to the bow cleat too. Remember it’s usually best to leave the winch cable and any last turnbuckles or other fastening at the bow of the boat connected at this stage. As mentioned you don’t want the boat sliding off the trailer halfway down the ramp (highly embarrassing and potentially expensive!). But check to make sure these final points of attachment are only finger tight and if not, loosen them now with a pair of pliers. Removing them when it’s time to push the boat off should take seconds, not minutes.

 

Help your fellow boaters

With practice, preparation and a positive plan, everything should go smoothly and your time on the ramp will be minimised.

But things can and will still occasionally go wrong – for you and others. If and when they do, don’t be afraid to ask for help or to offer it to those who are obviously in need. We were all beginners once!

Boast ramp rage doesn’t have to be a part of the boating experience, especially if we all pull together and apply a bit of that sadly uncommon quality known as common sense. 

 

See the full version of this story in Trade-A-Boat #470, on sale October 1, 2015. Why not subscribe today?

 


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