What happens on the lake stays on the lake. What happens at the boat ramp gets talked about all over town.
It gets obvious in a hurry that some skippers are more skilled than others at getting the family yacht in and out of the water. That’s especially true on summer weekends when launch ramps are busy with boaters eager to get out on the water.
Some episodes are funny to watch and make for good talk down at the coffee shop. They’re funny unless you’re the one waiting to launch. Ramp rookies don’t have the launching skills that experienced skippers have. People who’ve just bought their first boat may not be aware of the unwritten rules of boat-ramp etiquette that veteran captains follow.
Boat launching that’s done properly should only take a couple of minutes. Being considerate of others at the ramp is just common sense.
A beginner’s guide could start with Rule No. 1. Don’t hog the ramp.
We see it over and over each weekend. A party will back their boat down the ramp to the water’s edge. Then they’ll stop and spend 10 minutes getting life jackets out, stowing ice chests, getting skis or tubes ready and getting Fido on board. All the while, others wait in the parking lot to launch.
Ramp etiquette dictates all these things be done in the parking area, not on the ramp. Don’t back the boat down the ramp until it is absolutely ready to come off the trailer. That’s important because nearly all the ramps on our lakes accommodate only one vehicle and trailer at a time. The less time you spend on the ramp, the more your fellow boaters will appreciate you.
Drive your vehicle and trailer off the ramp quickly so the next person can launch.
Most ramps at Beaver Lake have courtesy docks for people to tie their boats after launch while they wait on the vehicle driver to park. A good Rule No. 2 is, don’t tie the boat to the ramp side of the courtesy dock. That crowds the ramp for the next person or may completely block it. Tie up to the opposite side so others have ample room to launch.
On the other side of the coin, veteran helmsmen who could launch their boats blindfolded will hopefully be patient with new boaters. Getting testy with someone who’s having a tough time at the ramp just gets both parties irritated. Every boater at some point had to learn how to launch a boat and take it out of the water.
A good idea for new boaters is to practice backing up and maneuvering the boat and trailer before going to the lake. Find a large public parking area and practice there when the lot is empty. Maybe put out a couple of traffic cones and work on backing the trailer between them.
There’s one ramp that’s good for launch practice on the water. That’s the big wide ramp at Prairie Creek park on Beaver Lake. There’s room for six or eight rigs to launch side by side. Pick a slow time, like a weekday afternoon, and practice launching your boat, then getting it back on the trailer. The ramp is big enough there’s plenty of room for error until one gets the hang of it.
Taking the boat out of the water seems to give new owners the biggest fits. Most every boat trailer is designed to be backed about halfway into the water, then the skipper simply drives the boat on to the trailer. There’s no need to pull out 10 feet of the winch strap and crank the boat on to the trailer.
With a little practice and some patience, it won’t be you they’re talking about down at the local cafe.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com
Sports on 07/24/2018