The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Director of Administration for Enforcement, Major Chris Huebner has some excellent suggestions for boaters who use these boating access areas.
When you’re approaching a boating access area planning to launch your boat, stop, pull off into the level preparation area and make sure everything’s ready to launch before you pull the boat and trailer to the actual ramp. Check to be sure that all your safety equipment is in order. Be sure the boat’s fuel supply is adequate and hooked-up to the motor. Be sure the boat’s registration papers are aboard and in order, the tie-down straps removed and the plugs installed in the stern of the boat. The Ice chest and fishing gear should be loaded aboard the boat at this point not after the boat is in the water.
If you’re waiting in line and see someone who’s slow or having trouble at the launch, go over and offer to lend a hand. Just holding onto a line to the boat as the boat’s backed into the water can sometime be a big help if the boater’s by himself.
Once the boat is on the actual ramp the entire launching operation shouldn’t take more that five minutes. If there’s more than one angler involved have someone move the boat off the actual launching area while the driver moves the car and trailer into the proper parking facility. This should leave the ramp area ready for the next vehicle and boat waiting to launch.
Retrieving the boat at the end of the day calls for similar common sense and good ramp etiquette. I’ve seen some real confrontations take place when boaters are in a hurry to get off the water as a storm approaches. Again, offering to lend a hand to a fellow boater when he’s needing help with the current or wind blowing the boat off center on the trailer. A little cooperation goes a long way when things get hectic around a boat ramp.
Once the boat’s solidly on the trailer pull the trailer off the ramp and into the prep area to square things away on the boat. Don’t accomplish this while you’re holding the entire ramp up and other boaters are waiting.
Probably the number one trouble encountered at a boating access area is the question of who takes precedence at the ramp. Is it the vehicle and trailer or the boat on the water? When in the boat retrieval stage the car and trailer takes precedence over the waiting boat. It’s the only common sense way to retrieve the boat when a crowd is waiting in line to take out.
The correct procedure when retrieving the boat is to let one person off to go get the car and trailer while the boat leaves the ramp clear for someone else to load. The vehicle and trailer waits in line (if there is one) for their turn and then and only then is the boat to approach the ramp to be loaded. If the boat has only one person on board the boat should be securely tied off away from the ramp while the solo boater goes to get the car and trailer. After he backs the trailer into the water he puts the vehicle into the park mode, sets the emergency brake and then goes to retrieve his boat and proceed to get it onto trailer.
After the boat is securely on the trailer, take the car, boat and trailer to the prep area to off-load the gear, empty your trash, and secure the tie-down strap on the boat. Do not tie the entire ramp up while you unload the gear and ready the boat for the highways.
One of the most memorable scenes that I’ve ever encountered on a boat launching facility happened many years ago at a boating access area on the Delaware Bay. It was during the 1970s and the spring run of the huge weakfish (grey trout to us Tar Heels) was at its height. Fishermen from all over the east coast were swarming along with these magnificent fish to the major spawning water near the Brandywine Light. It was early in the morning and the anglers had their vehicles (with boat trailers attached) were lined up literally for several miles trying to launch their boats and quickly get underway to the fish several miles out into Delaware Bay.
One particular boater was quite obviously not well trained at backing a boat trailer into the water and he tied up one of the ramps as he repeatedly tried to back the boat into the water, failed, pulled forward and tried to back straight in yet another failed attempt. Other boaters were gathering at the head of the ramp getting frustrated as the ramp was totally tied up while this inexperienced boater kept on trying to get the boat into the water.
As the waiting boater’s tempers boiled at the delay the driver of the car also became frustrated and each of his unsuccessful attempts grew worse. This was doubly complicated by the drivers very obnoxious wife who stood by the ramp nagging the inexperienced boater with such comments as “I knew you shouldn’t have bought this boat” or “Can’t you do anything right you XO**#*###.” The more the wife screamed at her unfortunate husband to worse his attempts at launching the boat became.
The wife’s untimely screeching and carrying-on started to have an effect on the boaters who were waiting in line too and they began to feel sorry for the poor guy who was making such a mess of launching his boat. A sympathetic crowd of bystanders started to gather around to watch what was going to happen next.
The driver who was having trouble finally had success, got out of his car and walked back to release the line holding the boat to the trailer. As he walked back the car, the trailer and the boat all started to roll backward and the entire car, boat and trailer rolled into the water and began to float off with the outgoing tide.
This really set the wife off into a fury of insults aimed at her frustrated husband who had remained patiently quiet up to this point. Seeing the entire car-trailer-boat float away he turned and slowly walked up to his obnoxious wife and decked her with a well placed punch.
In today’s world he’d have been charged with spousal abuse but to that crowd of onlookers some 35 years ago, the guy was now a hero and the waiting anglers gave him a resounding cheer.
This ugly but, at the time, amusing scene could have been avoided if someone in the crowd of waiting boaters had gone over to the inexperienced boater and offered to help him back his boat into the water.
A little common sense and etiquette at the boating access areas can go a long way.