Boat Ramp Courtesy
It is really nice that most navigable waterways through out the United States can be accessed via public boat ramps that are generally free of cost or cost very little to utilize. On the other hand, getting on and off of these boat ramps can be rather frustrating sometimes simply due to individuals who either don’t know or don’t care about about common boat ramp courtesy’s. I could tell you dozens of boat ramp horror stories that range from fights to trucks being submerged over the roofline but lets save those stories for a fishing trip and get into some helpful tips that you can use while launching and retrieving your boat. The following is a simple list of do’s and don’ts to help things go smoothly down at the boat ramp.
- Don’t load and unload gear on the boat ramp – Most all boat ramps have loading/unloading areas and parking areas where you can load gear such as rods, tackle, tubes, water ski’s, coolers and so forth. There is no reason to do this at the top of the ramp where you will block access and make it impossible for others to use the facilities while they wait on you.
- Don’t prep your dock gear on the boat ramp – This is the same as above: use an area away from the top of the ramp to tie on fenders and dock lines, install plugs and remove straps. Basically, when you pull into the ramp lane your boat and gear should be ready to go.
- Don’t leave your boat at the very bottom of the ramp on the launching dock – Whenever possible try to tie your boat up towards the end of the dock so that other boaters have room to launch their boat at the lower part of the ramp.
- Don’t leave your boat unattended at the launching dock – The launching dock is designated for temporary docking only; if you need to leave your boat at the dock for any length of time please leave a designated driver with the boat to move it off of the dock if things get busy.
- Don’t have a lengthy conversation with your buddy at the bottom of the ramp while others are waiting. – This is pretty much self explanatory but I can’t believe how often I am waiting to get my boat in or out while a pair of bozo’s stand at the bottom of the ramp chit chatting about their day on the water.
- Don’t park your car in the loading zones just above the boat ramps and go out fishing for the day – Is that extra 20 steps really gonna kill you? Most boat ramps have designated or at least implied parking areas and loading zones; they are there so that people have room to load/unload their boats and also room to maneuver trailers in and out of the ramp lanes.
- Don’t push a wake near the dock – This is dangerous and also illegal; you are responsible for your wake.
- Don’t trash out the boat landing – Of everything on this list this topic probably gets under my skin the most! Why? Because it is the easiest to control! We all know not to litter, we all know not to go poo poo on the toilet seat, we all know that broken glass is dangerous…the list goes on but my point is that at the very basic of being semi-courteous we should try to keep the boat landings clean. It has gotten so bad at many of our local landings that the Department of Natural Resources was forced to post signs that state “if the trash cans are full take your garbage with you” and yes people still leave a pile of beer cans right next to an overflowing garbage can.
- Don’t swim at a busy boat ramp – You would think that this would be common sense but nearly every week during the summer I see people jumping off of the dock and swimming near the boat ramps…very dangerous.
- Don’t cut the line – At busy times an informal line generally forms as trucks wait for a turn to use the boat ramp; please utilize the line.
- Don’t throw dead bait, fish or animal carcass’s and shrimp heads at the top of the ramp – This goes right back to trashing out the boat ramp. It is a commonly accepted practice (at least in most coastal areas) to discard fish carcass’s, used bait and shrimp heads back into the water but please throw this material off the deep end and pop the eye balls and air bladders first…there is nothing like the smell of rotten fish at the top of a boat ramp early in the morning. Moreover, a boat ramp is NOT the place to discard animal carcass’s from your latest hunting trip!!
- Do allow boats that are pulling out to have first priority whenever possible – This one can get sticky but by allowing boats that are pulling out to have some priority you free up more space on the launching dock for boats to put in.
- Do check the bottom of the ramp before launching – So often there is bad stuff at the bottom of a boat ramp to include: a kayak that some guy just launched and left sitting while he parks his car, kids playing, logs that float in…you name it and you might hit it if you don’t take that extra moment to check.
- Do maintain your boat and trailer – This should go without saying but keeping your equipment in good working order helps things move smoothly for everyone else…Im sure that we have all seen the guy who spent 15 min at the bottom of the ramp trying to figure out how to get his 1972 Johnson started.
- Do have a basic understanding of maneuvering your boat in close quarters – Close quarters boat maneuvering is the most challenging part of boating for most boaters and lots of practice helps but if you have no clue in how to operate your boat please don’t put the rest of us in danger. Take a boaters safety course or hire a professional to teach you how to operate your boat. Another great way to get some practice is to go out on a weekday (when the water ways are not busy) and motor to a section of safe water where you can place out a few buoy’s to practice maneuvering between (this is how I learned to drive a twin engine inboard).
- Do have a basic ability to back up your trailer – I totally understand that not everyone is going to be perfectly proficient at backing a trailer down the ramp but once again a little practice can go a long way. Before ever attempting to back in at the boat ramp (where lots of eyes will be staring down on you) try taking your boat and trailer to an empty parking lot and practice backing in and around a few plastic soccer cones until you get the hang of it.
- Do have the correct trailer for your boat and proper vehicle to tow it – Anyone who has spent any time at the boat ramp knows what I am talking about here. If you are not really sure if your trailer is big enough for your boat or if your vehicle has enough power to pull it then it probably doesn’t. Stop by any boat service center or trailer shop and they will let you know if you have the correct equipment.
- Do help those who are having trouble – Things happen and when they do a little help can go a long way. I have seen boats slide off the trailer into the drink and down current goes the boat with no passengers…well it looks like another rescue mission.
- Do watch your children and pets at the boat ramp – Boat ramps are busy places and many drivers are out of their element while backing up a trailers so from a safety standpoint please keep kids and pets close.
- Do understand how external conditions effect your launching efforts – Wind and current are the two most critical factors that need to be accounted for when your boat leaves the trailer so you should always account for how they will affect your launch.
- Do stay calm – Yes stay calm when dealing with the knuckleheads that you will surely encounter at the boat ramp but I am really talking about staying calm in your launching efforts. If you make a mistake; keep your head, reposition and try again. Getting nervous or trying to rush will only get someone hurt.