Boat Launch Etiquette

This was an extreme situation, but I once pulled up to the ramp to put my boat in the water and a Zodiac owner had just pulled his inflatable out of the water and onto the ramp. He and his companion then proceeded for at least half an hour to disassemble and pack up their boat right there on the ramp with me obviously waiting.

As I said, this was an extreme situation, but there are numerous shorter term delays caused by people who don’t know, or don’t care, about being reasonable to others.

Most boat launches have some grassy area next to them where operations such as disassembling a Zodiac could take place.

Failing that, a caring inflatable owner could just put his boat back into the water for five minutes while the waiting crew launched their boat.

Aside from the uncaring attitude (“it’s all about me!”) the problem is that people too often aren’t ready to launch just yet, but pull onto the ramp anyway. If nobody else is there, or on the rare occasion when there is a lineup, that’s okay as you can complete loading the boat without losing your place in line.

In most cases, the tie-down straps can be undone before you are on the ramp. The drain-plug only takes a few seconds to put in place, but if it’s one of many “just a few seconds” operations it should be done before getting onto the ramp. Coolers, extra clothes fishing tackle etc. should be in the boat before being on the ramp or put into the boat after launching if the shoreline allows beaching or docking.

Where to park the vehicle and trailer is the next move to consider. Squanga Lake launch is at the bottom of a reasonably steep hill so a vehicle/trailer turn-around area is located right by the ramp. Sadly, this space is usually filled with trucks and empty trailers where boaters use it as a parking space rather than leaving it open as a turn-around.

Accurately backing the boat trailer is actually fairly easy with practice, but it’s amazing how clumsy we can be on some occasions. Practice makes it easier to perform when there is the pressure of a lineup at the ramp and an audience. Space for practicing maneuvers is available after hours at any of the big-box store parking lots or even your own driveway.

Try forcing yourself to only use the mirrors rather than looking around to see where you are going. Having a spotter outside the vehicle really helps expedite the launch and also makes the operation safer.

Launch and retrieval can be ornery and even dangerous in a stiff current or choppy conditions. If it’s too rough , think about going to a different place. In reasonable but challenging conditions, back the trailer so the rear end is angled into the waves or current to make it somewhat easier to get onto the trailer. Having a spotter/assistant makes the operation easier and quicker.

Some Yukon boat launches are in deplorable condition with huge cracks or settled slabs which can easily damage your trailer. With our changing water levels some launches, for example the Squanga Lake launch, require you to back right off the end of the ramp before your boat can float. Some trailers get hung up off the end of the ramp and towing them out of that situation can often do damage to axles, fenders lights etc.

Take a moment to check out the ramp condition before undertaking a launch. Your “hung-up” trailer also blocks others from using the ramp.

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