Saving Humanity One Boat Launch at a Time
Having spent the majority of my summers as a Registered Maine Guide working around Maine’s many boat launches, I hereby proclaim my expertise on the complex social calculus of getting your (damn) boat in the water in a timely and efficient manner. To fully appreciate the gravity of this often - overlooked combination of art and science, one must appreciate that every local public boat ramp is indeed the perfect testing ground of our current phase of evolution in the human experience on Earth. Therefore, in the interest of saving humanity, one boat ramp at a time, I offer the following four amendments to the social contract for would-be boaters in the interest of ensuring the domestic tranquility of our society in how NOT to be THAT GUY at your local boat launch.
First, understand that the common boat launch is the perfect testing ground of technology, ingenuity, social grace and primal survival instincts, all played against the perennial backdrop of our specie's enduring fascination and reliance on the Earth’s life sustaining waters. As these phenomena are largely unregulated and rely almost exclusively on humans working in unison toward a common goal, I set the following as guidelines for Boat Launch Etiquette.
The Goal: Approach, launch, park your trailer and clear the slipway in ten minutes (or less).
Rule 1: Know your boat, trailer, prime mover and master your Launch Procedure. Yes, actually practice with your gear and know how it operates, safely and efficiently. Boats are expensive (so are fingers and toes), so take the time to master your own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the launching of your boat. Of course, this rule would include backing course corrections and pull aheads or worse, accidents and jack knifed trailers. Go to your local Walmart parking lot and practice backing your truck and trailer.
Rule 2: Prep your boat, trailer, gear and truck BEFORE you occupy the boat launch. Most boat launches have a Staging Area for the purpose of organizing gear, prepping life jackets, removing transom straps, setting plugs, arranging fishing gear, loading coolers, prepping engines and the myriad of other tasks that a captain must complete before getting underway BEFORE occupying the loading platform. There is nothing more frustrating than watching boaters prepare for their day’s outing for 30 - 45 minutes on the launch platform, while traffic is backed up bumper to bumper waiting to launch. Include these prep procedures and checklists in your Rule 1 SOPs, less you draw the ire of everyone in the line of traffic you have created as you putter about the launch platform getting your act together at everyone else’s expense.
Rule 3: Park in Designated Areas appropriate to your vehicle's size (Attention Kayakers and SUPs Personnel). Parking space at Boat Launches is notoriously limited, especially for larger trucks and trailers, some of which can be 30 feet or longer. While I love my fellow kayakers, and Stand Up Paddle boarders, please do not park your tiny boat toting Prius in the middle of a 30-foot parking space reserved for fishing boat and party barge trailers. This inconsiderate practice creates undo congestion and hazards as large trailers must then occupy roadside, circle space or other available locations. One must also consider large trailer maneuver spaces that large trailers need to access the launch platform when you decide to park directly beside a trailer or on the approach loop in the traffic lane. It’s always better to park and walk twenty yards than have a 30 foot EZ Load boat trailer dragged down the length of your new SUV. Ouch.
Rule 4: Lend a Hand to Fellow Boaters Under Difficult Conditions.
Even the most polished boat launchers can struggle under difficult conditions, such as fierce cross winds or other inclement weather. Rather than complaining about how long a person is taking on the ramp as they fight through their load procedure, jump in and offer to get your feet wet to maintain the civil order of the launch. This is especially true of elderly boaters, or families with large boats that are difficult to load even under ideal conditions. Again, the social fabric of our society clings to the Golden Rule when we assert ourselves to offer assistance to others in the eye of the boat launch storm. Being kind to fellow boaters and evasive plant inspectors is fundamental to the harmony and sanctity of boat launches as the cornerstones of our civility.
In closing, like most aspects of our society, there is no enforcement agency for kindness, cooperation and consideration for others. What is certain, however, is that the consequences for failures in this regard are extended to all in the diminishing of our experience here on Earth as a unified boat launch family. Please do your part to support the social contract described above and participate in saving humanity one boat launch at a time!