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Boat ramp rules: Don’t be that guy

On Saturday nights in the summer you’ll find my wife Angela and I at the harbor near the public boat ramp. We arrive early so as to grab the bench closest to the boat ramp. Oftentimes we’ll arrive with a pizza for dinner and a show. Why? Because boat ramps are where the unimaginable comes to life. Some antics defy gravity.

One time we watched a two-wheel-drive minivan back down with a twin-axle trailer. The goal was to haul a 38-foot Bayliner up the ramp but two wheel drive plus ramp slime caused the rig to lose its way. After the second attempt, the minivan and trailer jackknifed across both lanes. The ramp was shut down and man was there was a lot of cussin’ and fightin’ coming from folks waiting to haul.

But Angela and I had our eyes on something far more interesting. The young man walked down the gangplank. He was loaded to the gills and carried coolers and tackle boxes under each arm. Both hands were full of trolling, casting, fly, and spin rods—this fella was going fishing. With that assortment of gear he could catch everything from snapper blues to giant tuna. He had a little pep in his step, and he spun when he hit the dock finger. He looked towards his boat and then, off in the distance, just tied up on another dock finger, he caught a glimpse of two attractive young ladies in bikinis. They were sitting on the bow of their boat and the smiled and waved at him. He smiled back.

The last words anyone close to him heard was, “What’s up, ladies?” Shortly thereafter he ran out of dock. Splash, Romeo was in the drink. His head disappeared below the surface and then he’d pop up, spray out a mouthful of water, take in a deep breath and disappear again. He didn’t want to drop his tackle boxes and rods and tried valiantly to kick his way above the surface for air. He dropped his gear just shy of drowning. Angela tossed him a line and pulled him to shore.

Then there was the driver of a jacked-up pickup that backed down to splash his even bigger boat. As he neared the water’s edge, he tapped the brakes to offload the boat into the drink. Instead, the trailer held on to the boat and pitched his buddies to the deck. Some screaming and yelling commenced, but the truck pulled up to the top of the ramp and tried to launch again. It was met with the same results. The boat stayed attached to the trailer.

Wouldn’t you know, the crew in the cockpit failed to disconnect the tow strap and unhook the safety chain? It was the driver who realized the tactical error and when he did he came unhinged. He was white-hot, livid, and pick a favorite expletive and it probably flowed from his mouth. He got into his truck, tore up to the ramp, and removed the two safety precautions from the bow ring. He wasn’t in the truck for but a second when he floored the gas pedal and burned a patch that would rival a teenager with a hot rod. About half way down the ramp he jacked the brake and the boat flew miraculously in the air.

It landed on the ramp some 20 feet from the water’s edge. The position was above the tide line, which meant a crane would be needed to pick it up. No swears filled the air there was nothing but silence.

I could tell you about the guy who ran his credit card through the pump at the gas dock. He placed the fuel nozzle in his rod holder, clipped off the trigger, and returned 15 minutes later. I’m not sure how the gas didn’t ignite when the bilge pump kicked on, but a flood of regular unleaded passed through the scuppers and into the harbor. Not only did the fella return to a $1,500 gas bill, but he found an EPA officer waiting to chat.

I could tell you about the guy who backed down the ramp to haul his boat. He thought his truck was in 4-low, that the engine was in park, and that he depressed the e-brake. None of that was true and upon his exit from the vehicle his truck and trailer rolled back into the drink.

And then there was the man who floated his boat off of its trailer. He did a nice job but forgot to attach the bowline to the bow cleat. The boat drifted by the dock and out into the harbor. He had to swim to catch his boat and when he came aboard he discovered one thing; he left the boat keys in the console of his truck.

I could read from the list of curse words I wrote down when the captain started installing his battery at the base of the ramp. Folks ripped him pretty good so that list is long. I bet there are some duplicates.

Boat ramps don’t need to resemble a goat rodeo. All you need to launch and haul like a boss is a bit of practice and some general organization. Transfer all of your gear from the truck to the boat before you occupy a spot in the launch line. Practice backing down your trailer in the offseason. Clearly define the help you need from your crew. There’s no reason to be part of a boat ramp dinner and a show. But if you see Angela and I sitting there, then bring along a pizza—sausage, pepperoni and mushroom will be just fine.