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No Stress Boat Loading (and Unloading)

By Bob Jensen - July 1, 2003
I just got back from the lake. It's a Sunday afternoon and we wanted to take the boat for a ride. No fishing this time, just a nice cruise around the lake. The weather was beautiful and lots of other folks had decided that boating and fishing were good things to be doing on this day. The lines at the boat ramps were long, but things were going nicely, at first anyway. Everyone was getting the boats, jet-skis, and pontoons in and out quickly and safely.

Then, all of the sudden, here it came, a van and a new boat that was freshly waxed and washed. It raced by the line of vehicles waiting to launch just as another rig was pulling away from the ramp. It backed into the ramp area, the doors opened and two youngsters and a man and woman exploded from the van. The kids took off into the woods, the man headed for the nearby men's room, and the woman started yelling at the kids. When the man returned and the kids were rounded up, they started loading their gear from the van into the boat. They had a lot of gear. Everyone waiting in line immediately knew that that ramp was going to be unusable for a while. Fortunately there were a couple of others available.

Loading and unloading boats doesn't need to be stressful. The entire process should take just a few minutes. The key is to be organized and ready when you approach the ramp.

First off, if you have trouble backing a trailer, find a place to practice, then become adept a backing. A little practice will speed the process up significantly.

When you get to the ramp area, remove tie-downs and transom savers from the boat/trailer and load all your gear into the boat before you even approach the ramp. Make sure the keys are in the ignition and the plug is in place. Now approach the ramp and back down.

I almost always fish with someone else. It works great to have one person back the trailer down the ramp with the other person in the boat. Use hand signals, don't yell. Yelling can confuse other people who are also backing down.

Once the boat is far enough in the water to launch and the boat motor is running, the person driving the vehicle should

"The entire process should take just a few minutes. The key is to be organized and ready when you approach the ramp. "
come back and unsnap the boat from the trailer. While the vehicle is being parked, the boat driver should move a short distance away from the dock and wait until the vehicle driver returns. Idle back to the dock, pick up your partner, and take off. Quick, easy, and safe, that's how it should be done.

When loading the boat, just reverse the process. Approach the dock, let the vehicle driver out, back away from the dock, wait for the trailer to get in the water and load the boat. The vehicle driver should make sure the boat is firmly attached to the trailer before pulling it away from the ramp and out of the way before unloading gear from the boat.

Modern trailers make the loading and unloading process simple. The Shoreland'r trailers that are so popular with many boaters enable a boater to push the boat off with one hand and load the boat by driving it into place.

If the person you're with doesn't know how to drive a boat, teach them how. That will speed up the loading/unloading process, and it's also just a good idea.

The keys to loading and unloading quickly and safely are being organized and being patient. Don't block the ramp any longer than you need to. Try to be at the ramp area at a time when it may not be too heavily used. If someone looks like they need help, offer to help. By keeping these ideas in mind, we can make the loading and unloading process a pleasant experience, and that is what boating and fishing are all about.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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