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Growing Some Boat Launch Manners

By: Mark Romanack

The author feels that everyone who uses a public boat launching facility owes it to other fishermen and women to learn the proper way to launch and load a boat onto the trailer.

​At Fishing 411 TV we spend a lot of time using public launching facilities. I’ve seen it all and I’ve also joked a lot that a guy should bring a lawn chair and a six pack to a boat launch just to watch all the drama and stupidity unfold! For reasons I’ll never understand, a significant number of people who own boats do not have even the basic skills needed to launch or load that boat.

​Most of us take “driver’s training” when we are about 16 years of age, but as far as I know there is no one training boat owners how to back up a trailer, how to arrive at the launch site prepared, how to load a boat back onto the trailer without wearing waders and the list goes on and on.

​If you have no skills at backing up a boat/trailer, a good suggestion would be to consider a little practice at a wide open parking lot where you can figure out how to use your mirrors to keep the boat backing down the launch ramp straight.

​Recently Jake and I were at a boat launch that was exceptionally busy. A large percentage of the anglers were of the type that believes it’s appropriate to launch their boat, then tie the boat off to the dock while they unload gear from the vehicle that should have already been in the boat. Eventually they amble off to park the vehicle then of course stop off at the restroom facilities for a leisurely morning constitutional.

​Of course, there is always the guy who launches his boat and ties off to the dock only to discover he can’t get the motor started since the last time it was used a year ago! Meanwhile everyone else is forced to wait in line to launch their boats. Talk about frustrating.

​Just for the record, the way to use a boat launch is to have all of your gear in the boat before you get in line to launch. Make sure your straps are removed and the plug is in the boat. Put one guy in the boat and another driving the tow vehicle. Have the guy in the boat tap the ignition switch to make sure there is power to the battery.

​When it’s your turn to launch, back the boat in and stop just before the boat is about to float off from the trailer. Give your buddy a chance to start the engine and give you the thumbs up the engine is running, then back up a little more until the boat floats off the trailer. Now pull the trailer out of the launch and park the vehicle. Meanwhile, your buddy should idle out away from the launch docks and free up the launch for the next guy in line. When the guy parking the vehicle returns to the dock, simply idle in and pick him up before heading out for a day of fishing fun.

​This routine is so simple and efficient, I’m dumbfounded that more people have not figured out how to use a public access site without becoming public enemy number one!

​At the end of the day when everyone is tired and ready to head home, a similar process should be performed. Idle up to the dock and let one guy out of the boat to fetch the vehicle and trailer, while the other guy idles out away from the dock so others can do the same. The guy with the tow vehicle and trailer needs to get in line and wait his turn to back down into the launch.

Before the fun of fishing can begin every angler needs to become familiar with the skills associated with launching and loading a boat.

When the trailer is getting close to the water, the guy in the boat idles up to dock and using the outboard drives the boat up onto the trailer gently until the bow of the boat is about a foot from the boat trailer winch. This is not “power loading”, this procedure is simply the most efficient way to get the boat onto the trailer bunks. To finish the loading process, have either the driver of the vehicle winch up the boat the last few inches, or have the guy in the boat step out onto the spare tire and winch up the boat until the bow eye hits the bow stop.

​This is how considerate people launch and load their boats so as to free up the launching facilities for others to enjoy. If you’re not following this procedure you’re part of the problem, instead of the solution.

​I can’t tell you how frustrating it becomes to come in at the end of the day only to see boats tied up to the dock blocking others from loading their boat. If you question what I’m saying just visit a launch facility when a tournament is taking place. You’ll see hundreds of boats launching and loading in a fraction of the time it would take a few weekend warriors to do the same.

​I think I’ve heard every lame excuse for why an angler feels the need to tie his or her boat to the dock. The most popular one is that people say they have to tie their boat to the dock because their wife or fishing partner can’t drive the boat. The last I looked a boat drives a lot like a car except the wheel is on the opposite side! Come on, anyone can easily learn to drive a boat well enough to idle out away from the dock and then idle back over to the dock when it’s time to pick up your partner.

​If you fish by yourself, launch the boat until it is almost floating free. Get in the boat, start the engine and using the engine pull the boat the last little bit off the trailer and idle over to the “mooring docks” to tie off your boat while you park. If the launch facility doesn’t have mooring docks, there is usually a place along the shoreline where the boat’s bow can be idled up onto the shore. Rarely is it necessary to tie the boat to the launching docks.

​Now that some boats are equipped with auto-deploy and auto-stow electric motors it’s even possible to launch your boat until it floats free, then deploy the electric motor using the key fob. Once the boat is floating idle the boat a short distance away from the launch where you can put the electric motor in “anchor” mode while you park your vehicle.

​To add insult to injury on this particular day there was a conservation officer at the launch checking anglers. He was checking folks at the dock instead of having them load their boat and pull into the parking lot where he could check their license and fish without holding up the launch facilities.

​I’m never disappointed to see a conservation officer doing his or her job, but there is a better way of checking anglers and fish than doing so at a busy boat launch. Simply check people after they have pulled their boat from the water.

​So if it seems like I have very little patience at a boat launch, it’s true my blood pressure goes up a few notches when I see people needlessly tying up a boat launch. Everyone is busy and at a boat launch everyone is in a hurry to get out fishing or get home after a long day on the water. A little bit of advance preparation and some simple launching manners goes a long ways towards keeping the peace.

​I’ll just wrap up this rant by saying if I was appointed the “boat launch police” I would be writing one hell of a lot of tickets.


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