Some Tips on Boat Ramp and Launching Etiquette


We’ve all been there; you roll up to the boat ramp ready to get your fishing on and end up behind a line of trailers. The exasperation can be heard throughout the area. There’s that one guy on the ramp undoing tie downs, loading gear into his boat, and all of the other things he could have done before hitting the ramp and pissing off everyone.

If you don’t like that guy and don’t want to be that man or woman, follow the steps below:

It is a good idea to prep your boat away from the launch area so that you aren’t holding up other boaters. Remove all of the tie-downs, leaving the winch line. Load any additional items or gear that you want to take with you into the boat. If you use any travel supports, remove them too. Put the trim up and please insert the drain plug.

“Hey, did you put the drain plug in?”, heard at the nearby boat ramp the other day as a guy was backing a trailered boat into the water. If launching alone, attach a line to the bow to steady the boat when you’re ready to let it go. Doing this prior to reaching the ramp is also a big time saver.

Moving onto the business of launching, back the trailer into the water far enough so that the trailer tires are in the water and not so far that the axle bearings are underwater. The cooling water intake holes on the lower unit of the boat’s engine should be submerged.

Now apply the parking brake in your vehicle. Another recent incident at the nearby public boat ramp involved a big truck slipping into the water and disappearing because the driver didn’t set the emergency brake. This required divers and a big tow truck to retrieve the vehicle. Talk about a hold up at the ramp and a public shaming! Locals were relentless! Don’t be that guy and set your emergency brake before you get out of the truck to launch.

When ready, gradually release the winch line and slowly pull the boat off of the trailer and into the water. Secure the boat away from the dock and promptly move your vehicle and trailer away from the launch. This enables other boaters to make their way onto the ramp without you in the way.

When it’s time to go in, it’s a good idea to have someone at the ramp spot for you to help watch for people and other boats in the area.

Next, get your vehicle and trailer ready and pull into the ramp area to wait your turn. When it’s time to go, back into the water until two-thirds of the bunks or rollers are submerged, while keeping your tow vehicles tires out of the water. Set the emergency break and get out and attach a bow line to the boat. When that step is completed, cautiously drive your boat close enough to attach the winch line.

Attach the line, turn off the engine, and tilt it up. Crank the winch line to pull the boat onto the trailer. Keep your face away from the line when cranking because if the line breaks, it can cause serious injury to you.

When the boat is secured, pull away from the ramp and begin prep for hitting the road. Begin by removing the drain plug, drain water out of the bilge, and drain any live wells. Clean your boat with freshwater before leaving the area so as not to spread any aquatic species and as a rule, you should always remove any plant materials from your boat. Check your states’ regulations for specific rules pertaining to plant matter and aquatic species.

Remember to follow proper boat launching etiquette when at the boat ramp so that you aren’t “that guy”.

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Ocean Priselac

An avid mountain and bodyboarder who lives by "if you don't go, you'll never know," with an affinity for wildlife and animal rescue; surf forecasting is a huge part of Ocean's life and was a winner in Red Bull's Project Swell several years ago. The 2014 LB2CAT was her first jet ski competition and can't wait to do it again!

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