Boat ramps seem to be the migratory gathering places of a subspecies of human that by some flaw in Darwin’s Theory have managed to survive and propagate. This special breed of human stokes a cauldron of confusion, anger and ignorance that almost always boils over on most ramps. Impossible to discern after infiltrating groups of fly fishermen, trollers, water skiers or sightseers this subspecies is almost invisible until you try to launch a boat. Sunshine seems to bring “these people” and their floating crafts together in great numbers at water entrance/exit points over the course of the summer. Interjecting themselves into the social quagmire that is a boat ramp is often catastrophic. Just one member of this genus at a boat ramp has the same effect as several different outlaw motorcycle gangs showing up at the same tavern. At a minimum, head shaking and cussing ensues. In some instances men swing coiled fists, women scream and babies cry as all social order breaks down because of “these people’s” inability to display common sense and consideration within 200 ft. of a place to launch or load a boat.
Personally, I try to spend no more than 30 seconds on a boat ramp. My brother and I actually have made a game of it by timing ourselves. Our personal best is about 15.2 seconds. Time starts when the pickup starts backing down the ramp and ends when the pickup is off of the ramp – loaded or unloaded. All it takes is being ready, having a system and not doing the; “Squirrel!” thing. Easy enough for most, but not for all. Here are some simple rules, hints and suggestions that will keep you from being one of “those people”.
Boat Ramp Do’s and No No’s
“S.O.S. We are taking on water!”
– Have your drain plug in before your launch. Simple huh? Not really for some people. Watching a boat slowly sink in the middle of the ramp is kinda fun until you realize this is going to keep you from experiencing the callibaetis hatch you have been hearing about all week.
Lesson: Put your plug in the boat before you launch and have a spare handy.
Hmmm….How did that happen?
– In my lifetime I have seen two large boats sitting in the middle of a ramp 15 or 20 feet from the water. Both rolled off of the trailer as they were being backed in.
I have yet to find a reason to detach said boat from said trailer until the boat is in said water. The damage was almost as costly as it was embarrassing.
Lesson: Don’t unhitch the loading rope or safety chain before you unload and make sure they are hooked after loading.
– If you are so rotten that no one will fish with you or you just couldn’t find someone to go with you, please move your boat to the side of the ramp after launching. The same goes when you are getting ready to load. Don’t use the goofy line; “I’ll just be a few seconds,” as you run by the seven foot tall guy in the death metal shirt with the 70’s style ski boat hooked up to a monster truck. One of two things might happen. Your boat might be in the middle of the lake when you get back or he will be letting his four pitbulls named Killer 1, Killer 2, Killer 3 and Daisy drink while off their leashes right next to your boat. True story.
Lesson: Move your boat away from the ramp immediately after launching so someone else might use it.
Your gonna get strung up!
– I witnessed a fly fisherman tell a fish and game officer that he would only be a minute while he strung up his fly rods as his boat sat parked on its trailer in the middle of the ramp. Needless to say, after threading three rods, tying tippet and flies on them while taking bites from a sandwich intermittently, the cop was not very pleased. I know this because he was leaning against my truck grousing to me through my rolled down window for the duration of this event. The offending angler finally launched and his wife finally pulled the trailer off of the ramp. She slowly drove past our happy little band humming along with the radio, only stopping once to tune in the station better. Seeing the grimacing cop watching her, she smiled and waved in total oblivion. The officer told me to go ahead and launch before him. “I think he is due for a boat inspection;” he said as he headed towards the dock where the guy had just tied his boat up. We didn’t see the offending boater and his wife pull away from the dock until 45 minutes later.
Lesson: Rig your rods either in the parking lot or on the water once off of the ramp.
– Put your gear, coolers or whatever in your boat before you launch. Same goes for your anchor.
Lesson: Be organized and you won’t have someone giving you grief while you are running back and forth to your vehicle. This will also save you from forgetting something like the flies you have just bought or your fishing license.
Why are you here?
– Some float tubers, paddle boarders, kayakers and canoeists seem to naturally gravitate to where they can totally stop all activity on a ramp – the middle.
It is still baffling to me as to why these craft, which can be carried to anywhere on the water’s edge and launched, need to be right in the middle of things. I guess everyone wants to belong….
Lesson: Determine if you and your craft really need to launch from the boat ramp. Many lakes and rivers have alternative launching areas for canoes, small rafts, paddle boards and float tubes. Just look for them or the signs directing you to them.
– If you are going to leave the ramp area either coming or going move your boat off to the side or the dock. This common sense and consideration is possessed by most people. However, there is one memorable incident where a group of 7 kayakers had left their boats strewn across a very small ramp at my favorite lake while they had lunch. There was a very angry older man standing at the ramp staring at the boats with his boat backed up and almost touching the plastic torpedoes when we arrived. We asked around for the owners’ whereabouts but they were nowhere to be found. So my brother and I started moving the boats to the side. The older man had a somewhat vindictively, viscous grin when a young woman appeared and asked us what we thought we were doing not so nicely. I didn’t get to answer because the older angler had suddenly started backing his boat down the ramp. She had to scramble to get the two remaining boats out of the way.
Lesson: A boat ramp is not a moorage or a parking spot and if used as such expect your craft to be moved.
“Where’s my truck and trailer?”
– Use your parking break when you are parked on a boat ramp.
Lesson: Do I really have to tell you this one?
These are some simple concepts that are often lost in the moment because of excitement or the pure joy at the prospect of spending the day on the water. The number one lesson of all is to be considerate of others. All of us don’t want our time wasted, have equipment destroyed or have a confrontation that could have easily been avoided over something dumb that happens on a boat ramp.
p.s. practice backing your trailer in…..just saying….
About the Author
Sean was raised in Northeastern Oregon in the Wallowa Valley. It was there that he learned to hunt and fish. After receiving his history degree from the University of Oregon, Sean guided fishermen from Alaska to Chile. There were a few interludes where he sailed as a crew member on a ship and even worked in the craft brewing industry. Eventually he found his love in writing about the outdoors. His articles and fiction stories have a unique style and voice that conveys his love for the natural world. Currently he is the main writer for Always A Good Day, freelances and is working on a book of fiction.