Boat Launch Observations
One of the cheapest entertainment days you can have is to
take your lawn chair & your favorite beverage and spend a afternoon just watching
the goings on at a busy boat launch.
The thing some people don't understand, and should be in big capital letters on a huge sign at the top of every boat ramp......
Your TRAILER is in line, not your boat.
(1) One afternoon at the Nisqually River boat launch when
a boat owner tried to recover his boat & take it out, he could not get his
pickup truck's engine to restart. The tide was coming in, the boat was on
the trailer, but the starter would not engage. Thinking a loose battery
wire may have been the culprit, the owner, raised the hood trying to identify
the problem, His whole rig was blocking the launch however. Shortly
a new large Zodiac with a new large motor propelling it came in, & the
person operating this fine piece of equipment was irritated that he could not
load his boat & get out of there ASAP. The Zodiac was then pulled up
on the beach & it's owner headed to the parking lot.
The stranded pickup owner asked if the Zodiac owner would help
out & give him a pull up the launch. Mr. Zodiac owner also had a brand
new SUV. The answer was no, that is your problem. OK, when Mr.
Zodiac owner proceeded to fume back at his SUV, the stranded pickup owner
finally discovered that his starter switch was failing & by jiggling the key
while twisting it, the pickup finally started.
The pickup owner's wife noticed that the Zodiac was becoming
disconnected with the beach & since it was not tied to anything, it was
starting to drift away by the incoming tide. As the now running
pickup pulled up to the parking lot, he stopped & told the Zodiac owner the
launch was now free. However he mentioned that the Zodiac was
Mr. Zodiac owner asked, "What are YOU going to do".
Mr. stranded pickup owner said "nothing, as you would not help me".
He did add, "Do you have a watch", the response was "Yes, but
what does that have to do with my boat floating off"? Mr.
stranded pickup owner's response was, "Be back here in 6 hours & your
boat MAY come back down river, IF THE INDIANS ON THE RESERVATION UPSTREAM DON'T SEE IT FIRST",
& he drove off.
(2) You will see guys try to launch their boat without
taking the tie-down straps off. When the wife says "I think it is
still tied to the trailer" he mumbles some unkind things to her & burns
rubber back up the ramp. This usually seems to be done during a
mid-afternoon, sunny day by some overweight guy wearing shorts, thongs, a
skippers cap & a know-it-all (for a short while) look on his face.
(3) Then there is the hippie who is launching his boat
using a van. He for some reason he can not see out the mirrors, so he has
his buddy open the rear doors. Now then he backs down into the water &
hits his brakes to slide the boat off, all their camping gear, sleeping bags,
ice chest, food, clothing etc. also comes sliding out the rear of the van into
the water thru the open rear doors, & there is a mad scramble to recover all
this before it floats away.
(4) Or the non-thinker who is helping his friend at the
Deep River launch, and with the boat backed down near the water, he holding the
winch handle, positions the clicker in the off position. He apparently was
going to walk down with the boat holding onto the handle. As his friend
starts backing down, the boat & trailer moves faster than he anticipated, he
looses grip of the handle. Soon the weight of the boat slides it off the
rollers with the winch line still attached & the winch handle spinning like
a airplane prop. This non-thinker then tries to grab the handle. WOW
- THAT HURTS he utters after the handle hits his arm above the right
wrist about 8". The way it swelled up I was sure it had been broken.
However some dedicated fisherman have to take care of fishing first.
When we came back in they were there also taking out, he said no that he did not
think he would even see a doctor. Possibly a few beers have a better
medicinal usage than the average person can believe .
(5) Then there was the old man who apparently had just bought a new Bayliner Trophy, &
again apparently his first launching is at a the Westport
launch on the first day of salmon season. He gets the boat off the trailer
& tied to the dock fine. He then takes his pickup up to the parking
lot. When he gets back to the boat he then takes out the convertible top
& puts it on, next is the plexiglas windows, then his antennas, then his VHF
& depthfinder viewing head, then his salmon net, then raises his kicker
motor, then gets his rods out & assembles them all while the many other
frowning fishermen are trying to launch & negotiate back past his location
tied to the end of the dock for 30 minutes. He stands there in his new
boat & smiles at everyone who has to back out manipulating around him.
He apparently had no clue that what he was doing effected most all the others
using the launch that morning. This guy apparently never heard about
prepping his boat in the parking lot before launching.
(6) Or the guy who forgot to lock his boat trailer hitch
onto the ball. Later it was found that he had parked the boat &
trailer in a friends lot the night before, so had only traveled a few miles in
this condition. The boat was large enough & a heavy enough tongue weight
that he made it to the launch & unloaded OK. But upon returning & winching
the boat back onto the trailer, the weight of the boat on the trailer's rear
section, raises the hitch right up off the ball. The only thing that saved
the day was that the trailer had surge brakes & he had the emergency cable
snapped onto the bumper. This emergency cable put the trailer brakes on as
the trailer & partly loaded boat started back down the ramp by themselves into
deeper water. He managed to reach arm
deep in the water & place a block behind a trailer tire to keep the trailer
from going deeper. He then unloaded the boat. Then carefully backed down
the pickup & re-hooked the hitch onto the ball, locking it this time, and
starting the loading procedure all over again. Luckily the timing
was so that the launch was not congested at that time.
(7) Then the guy who had a boat that slid off the trailer
easily. When he stopped partway down the ramp to unhook the winch line,
the boat proceeded to launch itself on the concrete ramp. He then winched
the boat back onto the trailer. Then proceeded to pull up the ramp to
inspect the damage. This time either without snapping the safety hook or
without one, the pickup jerked upon starting up & the winch clicker stop
broke. Of course the boat launched itself all over again. This
whole fiasco must have really chewed up the bottom, as there was fiberglas
imbedded into the ramp after he finally drove away.
(8) One morning at the Westport launch in the fall of
1998 at low tide a poor guy backed down & there was a drop off of about
18" off the end of the blacktop (found out later that a large crab boat had
tied up to the dock right south of the ramp with its engine & prop turning.
This washed the gravel out & moved it back to form a hump about 15' beyond
the blacktop). He backed down far enough that he dropped his rear pickup
tires into the hole off the end of the blacktop, his rear tires had water near
the top of them. At the same time his trailer raised up with it's tires
now sitting on this hump. He was far enough away from the dock
that he could not really get to a position on the dock to pull or push the
boat off the trailer. His boat motor starter had died so he could not get
the outboard started to back the boat off, and the tide was coming in. A
friendly fisherman who was also launching in the other lane and had a 4 wheel
drive Blazer, after unhooking his trailer in the lot came back to the launch
& pulled him out.
(9) Then there is always the guy who comes into the dock
too fast & he rams another boat. Of course it is always a new boat that gets
hit by an old tub, and he is one of those "know-it-alls" who also
doesn't have insurance, & no money.
(10) There is also always the guy who can not back a
trailer. He is all over the upper ramp, pulls ahead & tries it again a
half a dozen times before he finally gets it going down the ramp somewhat in the
right direction, only to finally be located in the middle of a 2 lane ramp. The
suggestion would be to do some practicing in a bank parking lot on a Sunday
morning. Oh well, maybe we all have had those days in our early years
before we too got it perfected.
(11) There is then the guy who is assigned to get off the
boat when coming into the dock to tie up the boat, he however does not take with
him the rope attached to the bow. He jumps off onto the dock, then turns
around only to find the boat drifting away, he grabs the boats rail, the boat is
large enough & the wind is blowing the boat away from him. He can not
pull hard enough, so there he is with his feet on the dock his body outstretched
with his hands on the boat rail -- for about 2 seconds, & then comes the
(12) Or the other guy who did about the same but did not
leave the boat. This one did some fancy scrambling hanging onto the bow
railing with his feet still on the boat, but his hip pockets dipping into the
water before he could manage to get back aboard. Next time he took the bow
(13) Then there was the guy with the brand new Ford
diesel pickup and a new boat at Zittle's in Olympia, who launched boat, trailer
& pickup all at one time. Moral of this story is don't rely on the
(Park) position of your automatic transmission.
(14) One day in the fall of 2000, at a popular launch, a
new 16' aluminum boat with a 28 hp Evinrude. This guy was getting the boat
ready while his partner was parking the trailer. He got the motor down,
his gear ready & hit the starter, the motor did not start after numerous
cranks, he then grabs the throttle / shift lever & pumps it about 3 times.
Tries to start it again, same response from the motor, same response from the
guy. After numerous go-arounds of this, the motor finally sputters.
One more go at it & it does start on one cylinder at first, then finally
settles down to running. Maybe he is not aware what that the fuel line
pump bulb is for, or that you push the key in to choke it on that model , or the
fast idle lever is there for a reason. Am I missing something & you
can "pump the throttle" on an outboard motor like you can your old
with a carburetor ?
(15) And there is the fisherman lawyer who forgets or
misplaces his drain plug. But he is like many diehard fishermen want to be
on the water at or before daylight. This guy for some reason lost or
misplaced his drain plug. The boat shops/marinas are not open that early
in the morning. One of his bright thinking fishing buddies suggested they
scrounge the Safeway dumpsters for wine bottle corks, hoping that if the police
come by, they could convince him of their intentions. No police that
morning, they found a cork & it worked.
(16) The morning of the 2000 Gig harbor salmon derby, a guy launched his
fiberglas boat on the ramp. This one had his kicker motor down, the lower
unit on it got busted up badly. A bystander suggested he get the hull
inspected before he tries to put it back in the water. The guy must
have thought that was good advise & drove off. Later in the day the
same bystander brought his boat back in, only to see the crunched boat taking
out also. Mr. crunch & partner came away with 2 salmon, while
bystander had none. So maybe the fish-gods do look out for some people.
(17) There is one guy who got his head in way of a
spinning winch handle, 3rd hand info is that he got a major concussion, was
totally blind for a while, & finally lost the sight of one eye.
(18) This guy had just bought his first boat, motor &
trailer from a dealer who had their business on the water near a public launch.
The dealer had given instructions on how to operate the boat. The first
time this new boater took his new toy out for a trial run, he was disappointed
in that it would not go faster than a fast troll no matter how much throttle he
applied. The dealer he had bought it from was on a nearby dock, so he
motored over & tied to their dock. Went up & invited the mechanic to
come down & look it over to find the problem. The mechanic had him
start the motor, everything sounded fine. Then the mechanic started to
look it over for any other problem. What he found was the new owner still
had the tie down straps on the stern and the winch cable to the bow, and under
the straps was the trailer still attached to the boat.
(19) The summer of 2000 at Trident Cove launch on
Hood Canal, any of you who have been there are aware that is does not have lots
of room to pull in & back down the ramp. One of our PSA members
was waiting to bring his boat in. He took it long enough waiting for these
ding-a-lings trying to back up to reload their boats. He (only stands 6'
4" weighs 300+), got out of his boat, left his father in his boat on
the water, & walked up the ramp where he physically picked up the rear
of the trailers to align them with the ramp each time the (driver) backed it off
to the side. If the driver got it off the second or third try, he
would pick it up & or skid it over to the center again. He did
this to most all of those there that afternoon, one by one.
It was this or wait another hour or more before he could get his own boat out.
When it was his turn, he backed his trailer down, his father ran the boat
up on the trailer. It was locked on & they were out of there in less
than 3 minutes.
(20) Then there was the guy who tried to power load his
boat onto the trailer at the launch. 18 footer or so, large motor, heavy
throttle hand. When he gunned it to run it up on the trailer, he got too
much throttle, the boat jumped up the trailer, over the bow chock & onto
the back of his pickup canopy. Surprise.
(21) A guy brought down his huge "cigar" boat
and put in the water and then screamed out across the Sound. A while later
he came back from his outing and proceeded to back down his shiny brand new
Dodge Ram pickup & trailer to the water. He didn't back his trailer
into the water, apparently because he had heard to not get the bearings wet, and
only put his truck into park without setting the emergency brake.
Well...he started winching up his huge boat and the truck popped out of gear and
slid all the way into the water, up to the top of his cab. Meanwhile the bow of
the boat is sticking down into the water and the stern was way up in the air.
All the while his wife was yelling and screaming at him the whole time.
They had to get a scuba diver to unhitch his boat from the trailer and a tow
truck to retrieve the pickup.
(22) Then in the greater Seattle area on a nice week-end
day, at a 2 lane launch, with the tide mostly out. There was the guy who
removed all his tie-down straps, winch cable snap & safety chain, before he
backed down the ramp. He did put his wife in the boat. She was
standing near the stern. As he proceeded to back down to the water, he
happened to tap the brakes enough to launch the boat onto the lower end of the
concrete ramp. Wife got launched out of the boat & onto the concrete
near the water's edge, with enough injuries that a ambulance was called.
The boat's out-drive got a bad case of brokenitis. He of course was not
even seeing any of the other prospective boaters waiting in line.
Now on the other lane of this launch 2 guys were proceeding to
launch their sail boat. Since the tide was out, they had to back farther
down than usual, & got the trailer tires over the end of the concrete &
into soft muck. The sailboat was large enough that they could not move the
trailer any farther either way with the vehicle they were using. When
asked by waiting boaters if they had called a tow truck. The 2 guys said
no, that they thought they would wait until the tide came back in.
Apparently this particular launch flattened out on the lower part where they
were parked, & when the bystander mentioned that, plus the high tide marks
on the piling, & that considering the depth of the keel, that the vehicle
may well be under water before the boat will float off. No, they thought
their original intentions were accurate & would wait it out Now the
whole launch was blocked for quite some time by people who needed their heads
(23) If you see a wide eyed skipper coming back to the launch
rather rapidly shortly after he has just launched, give him room quickly.
It is very possible he has forgotten to replace his drain plugs. This does
not necessarily have to be a smaller boat. As witnessed of a 26' Bayliner
at the Westport launch in the late summer of 2001. The most obvious visual
thing on this boat was that BOTH bilge pumps were working at capacity.
He had gotten just outside the boat basin when he realized the boat was not
responding to the throttle & steering as usual. He looked over the
sides and saw both of the automatic bilge pumps doing what they are supposed to
do. Then came the frantic dash back to the launch, waving off of a then
launching boat & the frantic run to the parking lot to get his trailer back
in the water ASAP. He only lost an hour, but the pumps were not large
enough capacity to keep the saltwater out of the I/O engine's
starter. Overhaul time the next day.
(24) Then again at the Westport launch, there is the guy who does not understand that
you get in line to launch or take out. About 3 PM when many fishermen were
coming in, his young guy (about 35) with a new ThunderJet comes blasting into
the launch from the wrong side, (RH side) does no prepping, pulls ahead of the
pickup & trailer who is next in line (LH side) to take out. He RAPIDLY
pulls in, backs down enough so the jet unit is into the water, in the middle of a 2 lane
launch, then pulls the engine cover, primes the motor, gets it started. He
then shuts it off, removes his tie-downs & backs it into the water.
His older partner then holds the boat next to the dock while the young man
drives off to park the pickup & trailer.
All the while the boaters at the dock behind the Thunderjet, is
still waiting to take out. The next thing seen is the is the young man
comes back on foot & stops at the pay box, gets his launch envelope, fills
it out, deposits it in the box, then RUNS back to the parking lot to put the
stub in his pickup window. As he comes running back to the launch, he says
to the driver of the next in line waiting pickup, "I suppose you are waiting for
me" The immediate answer was HELL YES. He now runs down
& jumps into the boat, sits down in the captains seat, but has to
immediately jump up & pull the boat keys out of his rear pocket. Now
he has a problem maneuvering away from the dock and around the waiting boats as
it is a inboard jet unit & not that good at backing up in tight quarters
with a wind blowing. If he had waited 5 minutes, done is prepping, &
let the waiting pickup get backed down, the waiting boat would have been gone
& he would have not had as much problems.
(25) Labor Day Weekend, 2000
As we approached the Everett docks, we could sense the chaos of
new boaters. There was a strong wind and accompanying current
cross wind pushing half the people into the docks and half of them away.
At capacity, we kept it floating while we watched the zoo of boaters
trying to get themselves attached like flies in a wine glass crawling up the
sides just to fall back in. There were boats attached with bowlines
only, floating perpendicular to the dock while the wives clung on narrowly.
by Jonathan Freeman
(26) One late afternoon at the Everett Docks
Seems two hillbilly guys decided to try their hand at crabbing
and drinking. Mind you we didn't see any crabs so maybe their cooler
full of beer wasn't worth of being tainted with something from the sea.
Long story short, we were in line behind them waiting for this 14'
fiberglass floating bar to get loaded up. Every time
Hillybilly #1 pulled forward the boat listed badly to one side and wouldn't
get on the trailer straight. Fortunately he didn't take off down the
road like that, possibly worried about the cooler sitting there on the side it
kept listing to. They tried at least half a dozen times, changing
nothing and getting the same result. In the end it took some bald spot
scratching and brawn to lift the boat from the rear onto the rollers when it
could have been easily solved by moving the cooler to the center of the boat!
by Jonathan Freeman
Locked out on the Ramp Launch
Went to launch at Beacon Rock yesterday am at about 6 am, I backed the boat down, into the water, all good so far, I then hopped out, and closed the door, not noticing that my right elbow brushed the lock closed, I then pushed the boat off of the
trailer, and tied her up to the dock, I then walk around to the driver door again...oh ####!!! The door was locked, and extra key was ...home.
Trouble, all door's locked, though driver's window was down two inches, hope here.
I looked around, found a 4 ft branch with a crook in it, other's are at the top of the ramp, watching. I managed to get the 2'' diameter branch thru the window, and crook it to touch the button that
controls the windows, managed to release it, yeah, looking good so far, I then reach across to the passenger side, and hit that button for the passenger window...down she came....yeah!!! open up that side, get driver door open, pull on out....only took three
minutes, very happy to not have to bust window, lesson learned, yes.
always have an extra key, it will not happen again...I was lucky.
Any other's have this happen to you???
copied off iFish message
board & submitted
Here are some boat launch etiquette suggestions that may help
(1) Be considerate of others. If you are experienced, offer to help if
it seems appropriate.
(2) Even if you ran the boat a week ago, it is best to put on flushing muffs at home
and run the motor/s to pre-test the engine/battery condition.
(3) It helps to speed things up at the launch, to stash a couple extra launch
fee packets in the
glove box! Have it filled out & $ in ahead of time.
(4) Get in launch line, (which may also be takeout line), get ready in the
remove tie-downs, check the drain-plug, pump up the motor primer bulb, raise the
put all gear from the truck into boat, get the dock lines & fenders ready, etc.
DO NOT take
off the safety chain or release the trailer winch from the boat until you are at
the waters edge.
(5) If there is mass confusion with many fishermen taking out
in the afternoon the same time
other recreational boaters are launching, & there are multiple docks, there may
be one dock
more appropriate for launching instead of all being take outs.
(6) When your turn, take the next launch spot that is ready, not necessarily the
side you would
(7) Have both a bow line & stern line ready so that your helper can control the stern
of the boat
if there is a wind or current.
(8) The back down the ramp, launch & vehicle out should take not more than 5
(9) If you have a passenger or helper, instruct them as to requirements once the
boat is in the
water. Once launched, move the boat to the far-end of dock before parking trailer.
(10) Park vehicle/trailer square within parking lanes. Align the nose of
truck with other parked
vehicles. Don't block the parking lot for others.
(11) Get back to boat as quickly as possible & the boat way from the dock as
soon as possible.
(12) On the haul-out, TRAILERS are what is in line, NOT the boat. At a
busy launch, let a
out & he get the
towing vehicle & trailer in line. Don't jump to the shallow-end of the
assuming that nobody
else is in line for that dock. There may be many boats maintaining position
staging area until
they see their truck/trailer backing down, so give them room to maneuver
(13) When backing in multi-lane ramps before daylight, once in position and
backing, turn off
headlights so that others may see as well. Parking lights/marker lights are fine
while backing and
while sitting at waters edge.
(14) If you're new to this, make a check-list. Learn backing a trailer BEFORE
you get to the
launch. Have separate lists for: before leaving home, in ready line,
before leaving dock, before
arriving at dock, before haul-out, and before drive-off.
(15) If you have a camper loaded on the towing pickup, have a helper guide you
down the ramp
if need be.
(16) Smile, stay-cool, offer to help, and remember that this is supposed to be
One thing that I have done that helps on reloading
my boat, is to make up some chocks that I
place behind the rear tires of my pickup when loading my 4200# boat back
on the trailer. The one thing different is that I placed a 36"
3/8" rope on one side of these chocks with a screw eye into the
chock. The other end has a snap on it, the snap is attached to a hole in
the underside of the rear bumper. With this set-up I can then with my old
standard 4 speed transmission, allow the pickup to rock back into the chocks,
put it in compound & without the need for the extra foot to control the
throttle, drive up the ramp, with the chocks bouncing along following me.
I have heard of a few boaters that only use one behind
the drivers front tire. They then attach a small rope long enough to bring
it into the drivers door. As they drive up the ramp, all they have to do
is pull the chock up & out of the way.
When retrieving the boat with a manual
transmission, set the emergency brake and leave it. Get the boat all loaded on the trailer and
ready to pull out. With the emergency brake still enabled, put it in 1st and S-L-O-W-L-Y start letting out the clutch as you give it gas. When the engine starts to bog down, immediately pop the emergency brake, and you will
pull the boat/trailer right up the ramp without even spinning a wheel!
Also one thing to consider is that if you are trailering a
heavier boat & your towing vehicle has an automatic transmission, is
when you are reloading the boat onto the trailer at the launch, upon initially backing down
the ramp, when you stop, place your emergency brake on BEFORE
you put it in PARK. What this does is remove some possibility of damaging the parking
brake dog in the transmission. In reloading the boat, there is a good chance that
the weight of the boat will drag the vehicle back slightly, binding this
transmission locking dog. Have you done this & have trouble getting the the shifting lever
out of park, and when it does come out, it makes a loud snapping noise?
The emergency brake is designed to hold 80% of the vehicles weight on a 10% incline.
That is why the owners manual recommends that you apply the e-brake anytime you park on an incline. It keeps the stresses to the
transmission dog to a minimum.
If you would care to have your
observances or experiences listed here please e-mail me LeeRoy
Wisner at with a detailed listing
Last Updated 07-04-2006
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