Public boat ramp launching tips for beginners

When you’re new to boat operation, there are several moments of truth that occur as you begin to accumulate experience: docking, anchoring, trailer loading on a windy day, navigating a tricky waterway, etc. None is more intimidating than public ramp boat launching. Seasoned boaters can regale you with a litany of mishaps, follies, horror stories, and altercations that they’ve observed by watching people launching a boat at a busy public access site.

Veteran boaters make boat launching at a public ramp look easy. Truthfully, it’s usually not difficult, but nerves, peer pressure, and impatience can affect the process. The following tips will help you negotiate this routine, especially if it’s new to you.

Practice First. Don’t make your first attempt at launching be at peak time, when everyone is trying to get on the water. The better you are at being able to back your boat trailer up, the easier it will be to get it in the boat ramp lane and into position for boat launching. Where can you practice trailer maneuvering? How about an empty parking lot at a mall? Put some cones or plastic tubs outs for lanes and learn how to back between them. Being able to maneuver your boat trailer well is critical to a smooth boat-launching experience. Major Tip: learn to use your side mirrors. Also, when you do make your first visit to the launch ramp, try to do so at an off-peak time, like mid-morning on a weekday.

Have (and use) a checklist. There are certain things you always do when launching a boat, and you don’t want to overlook any of them. Here’s the checklist I use. If you keep it handy and refer to it, you’ll avoid problems.

Be ready. If you’re in line to launch a boat but have to spend ten minutes trying to find a missing drain plug, people waiting are going to get upset. At a busy ramp, you (and companions, if you have them) should be ready to get out of your vehicle, quickly get things together, remove boat tiedowns, grab dock lines, and get on the ramp.

Launch slowly and carefully. Here’s a detailed review of all aspects of how to launch a boat from a trailer. Don’t rush, especially when you’re new to this procedure.

Be courteous. Sometimes courtesy (and patience) is in short supply at a boat ramp, but you don’t need to be part of that problem. Therefore:

• Let someone launch ahead of you if they’re ready and you’re not

• Move your boat well out of the way while you’re getting/parking your tow vehicle

• Grab the bow line of someone who is launching without companions

• Politely help someone who is struggling to get a boat on/off a trailer

• Properly park your vehicle and trailer in the designated space and so it is not taking up more than one spot

The boating experience is much more enjoyable when things go smoothly at the outset.

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