With the summer boating season quickly approaching boat ramps and loading docks will be crowded and very busy. As the Tournament Director for our club, I feel this is a good time to review boat ramp and loading dock process / etiquette. In particular this should be helpful for all the new members in our club. However, this information is also intended for all boaters and non-boaters in our club. While summer is the busiest time of year this subject applies all year long and transcends our club tournaments.
Start of Tournament
- Preparation: As a club we do a good job in getting our boats prepared in a staging area and are not blocking and/or interfering with other boats trying to get to the ramp. Bass fisherman in general are good about this basic rule.
- Backing in at Ramp: Backing in during darkness or lowlight conditions can be a challenge. In addition, many ramps (Keith’s Bridge is a good example) are cocked on an angle so you cannot simply pull up and then back straight down the ramp.
- Recommendation: In the morning it is usually best if the experienced boater efficiently backs his trailer partially into the water, stops, and then puts on the parking brake. The boater then gets in his boat and the non-boater finishes backing the trailer in to float the boat off the trailer. The non-boater then simply pulls the trailer out from the ramp and safely parks the rig.
- Loading Dock: While the non-boater is parking the rig (generally in darkness) the boater needs to maintain some distance from loading dock until the non-boater is at the loading dock ready to be picked up. Therefore, the boater and non-boater need to communicate in some fashion so the dock pick up can be made quickly and efficiently.
- Position as group for Blast-off: As Tournament Director I will have my boat positioned away from the dock near open water. Boats should stay behind my boat while listening for tournament instructions, safety check information, and boat release order.
End of Day – Weigh-in
- Loading Dock: When the boater drops the non-boater off at the loading dock it should be done quickly and efficiently as to not tie up the dock. Therefore, be prepared as you are approaching the dock. The non-boater should have the truck keys in pocket and ready to jump onto the dock. The boater should then get away from the loading dock and allow other boats to easily access the dock. While this seems common sense, we had “congestion” at the Keith’s Bridge loading dock at our last tournament when we had over ten boats. Certainly, other boats can contribute to dock congestion. However, we can control our own club’s process which will lead to much more efficiency getting our club boats loaded prior to weigh-in.
- Loading Boat onto Trailer: While this might outwardly seem like a “simple” task, it often takes place at a busy boat ramp. In this situation the non-boater is dropped off at the dock and goes and gets the boater’s rig. If the non-boater is fully capable of getting the boaters rig and backing in at the ramp all is good. No problem and the boater quickly loads his boat on the trailer, secures the bow strap, and the non-boater pulls off the ramp to a safe area away from the ramp.
- PROBLEM: Very few people that do not own boats (or have other trailers they tow regularly) are capable of efficiently and safely backing someone else’s boat and trailer out of a parking space and down a boat ramp. This is not meant as an indictment of anyone in our club. Rather I think it’s simply being honest and it’s best to not put anyone in a potentially bad position at a busy boat ramp. It can be embarrassing at a minimum for many people to be put in this situation. Also, all boaters have tens of thousands of dollars in their trucks and boats and nobody wants to inadvertently cause damage to someone else’s rig.
- SOLUTION: As the Tournament Director I will always be set up at the ramp at the time of weigh-in. I will look to “recruit” a couple fully capable “drivers” (could be non-boaters) that can take the keys from anyone coming off the water to get their boaters’ rig and not confident in doing so. In doing this, we can avoid putting somebody in an uncomfortable position and also be much more efficient at the ramp actually getting our club boats out of the water. The driver of the rig also must be in tune with the boater as the only boater knows the “sweet spot” on where the trailer is exactly in at the appropriate depth to allow effective trailering.
I believe our club is at its strongest position since I joined in 2014. We are vibrant and growing club because we have a great bunch of guys. Guys that enjoy friendly competition and also are willing to help each other be better anglers. I hope nobody takes exception to my suggestions at the boat ramp as they are only meant to make boat ramps activities more efficient. These suggestions are with everyone’s best interest in mind.