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Courtesy at the Boat Ramp

By Bob Jensen - August 1, 2007
The idea of courtesy at the boat ramp is something that should be thought of early in the season, but in reality, anytime is a good time to think about getting your boat in and out of the water quickly but safely. There is no need or reason why a ramp should be tied up by a boater loading or unloading for more than a couple of minutes maximum.

On a recent weekend at a popular Midwest lake that I was visiting, it was late in the afternoon and a storm was quickly approaching. We headed back to our take-out point, a three-wide ramp. We arrived in plenty of time to beat the storm, but two of the ramps were tied up for ten minutes apiece by boaters who were loading their boats. If the storm would have been a violent one, this could have been a dangerous situation. As it was, no one got hurt and no boats were damaged. However, at least thirty boaters had to wait while two boaters kept the ramp tied up.

When putting your boat in the water, you should have everything in the boat before you even approach the ramp.

Do not disconnect the winch strap from the boat until the boat is in the water, especially if you have a roller trailer. I've seen several boats dumped on the concrete because the winch strap was disconnected too soon. A boat dumped on the concrete really ties the ramp up.

When the boat is in the water, the boat driver should idle away from the dock while the tow-vehicle is parked. When the vehicle driver has parked the vehicle and is on the dock, the boat driver eases into the dock, the partner gets in the boat, and away you go.

When it's time to load the boat, ease into the dock, the vehicle driver gets out, the boat is again eased away from the dock until the trailer is in the water, and you put the boat on the trailer. With a little practice, loading and unloading is very easy.

When the ramps are busy, you should not tie up to the dock while the trailer is being brought to the ramp. That just ties up that ramp so no one else can use it. By idling away from the ramp, you keep the ramp open and traffic moving.

"When putting your boat in the water, you should have everything in the boat before you even approach the ramp. "

Some folks use the excuse that their boating partner can't drive the boat or can't back a trailer into the water. Except in extreme cases, that's a bad excuse. Your partners, if they're not children, need to know how to drive the boat. What if something happened on the water and you couldn't drive the boat? Everyone in the boat should know the basics of boating, and adults should know how to handle the boat if they're going to be in it.

A good trailer makes loading and unloading so much easier. The Shoreland'R trailers that are so popular across the Midwest are extremely easy to load and unload, and they also provide your boat with the utmost in protection.

Loading and unloading your boat doesn't need to be a stressful event. Use common sense and consider the other boaters waiting to get their boat in the water and you'll be on your way to a fun day on the water.

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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