Memorial Day was the annual kickoff for the summer boating season, so in the interest of keeping peace at the launch ramp, I thought I’d throw out some suggestions on how to be a good boater.
After all, we can all get along, right?
Start engine in driveway
This would seem be to be a no-brainer, but just last week I witnessed a guy launch his big fiberglass ski boat and then spend a half-hour trying to get the engine to turn over. Imagine the sad faces of the kids, as they sat in the boat ready for a day on the water, watching Dad getting frustrated because he couldn’t get the motor started.
Few things are worse than taking up a lane at the ramp while boaters are waiting to launch. For the casual boater whose rig has been sitting in the garage since last summer, please get the battery charged and do some test starts in the driveway.
Make sure the gas is fresh and hopefully has had Stabil added while sitting. If it seems like the motor needs service, get it into the shop ASAP. Boat mechanics are into the prime season and the wait may run into weeks instead of days.
If by chance the motor just won’t start after a few tries, please be courteous enough to pull it around to the unused side of the ramp while you continue to work on it. That way other boats can still launch.
Prepare before launching
This is another of the biggest mistakes the casual boater can make. Get everything on the boat before getting in line to launch: fishing gear, ice chests, inflatables, etc. Get the tie-down straps off and make sure the plug is in place.
When you get in line to back down the ramp, everything should be ready to go. It’s OK to stop at the water’s edge and unhook the cable from the boat; otherwise, get the boat in the water quickly and move the vehicle out of the way so the next person can launch.
Ideally, there should be someone to start the boat and move it away from the dock and return to pick up the driver after the trailer is parked. If not, just have the one holding the rope pull the boat to the unused side of the dock while waiting.
NEVER let the boat sit blocking the ramp!
Be aware that others are in line behind you; launching is not a good time to have a conversation with the guy next to you.
Observe No Wake zones
Almost every lake has a slow “No Wake” zone leading up to the ramp. These may extend out for several hundred yards. The purpose is to lessen the waves that are rocking boats at the ramp.
It’s especially important during the retrieve, when big waves can make it difficult to get a boat back on the trailer.
Some jet skiers seem challenged when it come to observing these areas. Maybe the thought is “Oh, my little personal watercraft doesn’t make much of a wake” – WRONG!
No matter what you are driving or riding, do NOT blast away from the dock at full speed.