Guest Editorial by Frank Sargeant
OK, I'll admit it; I have been among those who enjoy sitting on a beach chair, sipping a cool one and laughing at the boat ramp follies that take place at most ramps nearly every weekend, where ever you do your boating or fishing. It's amazing how many ways boaters can find to bollix up the simple process of launching or loading their boats.
On the other hand, I'll also admit to having been the bollixee more than a few times over a long boating career. And just when you think you know it all, that's the day you'll pull off the worst bonehead stunt ever. Can you spell d-r-a-I-n-p-l-u-g?
Avoiding problems at the ramp is a matter of having a mental checklist, and at the head of that list should be that you will not interfere with other boaters, particularly during times when the ramps are busy and the lines are long. Second is taking an organized, methodical approach; do everything the same way, every time, and problems will be rare. And third, if you're new to launching your own rig, put in a bit of practice time at home in backing up your rig.
First, do no harm, as the physicians like to say (except when it comes to the patient's wallet). When there are a lot of people wanting to use a ramp at the same time, as there surely will be late on a Saturday afternoon as supper time approaches, you have to do your part to keep the whole army creeping forward.
To start, both the skipper and the first mate are going to have to forgo the pleasures of the barley in order to handle the loading procedures efficiently and calmly. Probably more problems result from intoxicated boaters than from any other single source at the ramps. (Just as a tiny aside, you are not supposed to be driving the boat, or the tow vehicle, if you've had more than a tiny whisper of the sauce, in any case. DWI or BWI, it's all the same to the courts.)
Second, you approach the ramp locked and loaded. That means tackle and gear are in some semblance of order so that you can easily move around the boat. You know where your bow and stern lines are; best is to have them already attached to the cleats, and of course all knots and tangles should be cleared. It's a good idea to have a couple of bumpers at the ready, too, to cushion your boat from the dock, or from other boats in areas where the boats have to raft up waiting to load.
Get your tow rig into the line for the ramp, leaving a driver in the boat if possible. When it's your turn, you put your trailer in the water, as promptly as possible. Yes, there is some art to backing in a trailer. It gets a lot easier if you put your right hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, leave it there, remembering that if you move your hand right, the trailer will go right. Move your hand left and the trailer will go left. It's best to learn to back up by watching the trailer in the rear view mirror. That way when you get old and stiff like me you won't have trouble turning around to watch it. Start with the trailer straight, and make small corrections-it gets easy after a few hundred attempts.
Once the trailer is in the water, the boat driver brings the boat around. This works a whole lot better than waiting until you've worked through the lineup of boats before you go to get your tow vehicle-although, if you're boating alone, you won't have much choice, of course.