Through trial and error as kids or adults, many of us learn skills that stick with us the rest of our lives.

150527 boat ramp courtesy

Don't pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch​

One of those skills that is quite useful this time of year and into the summer is backing a boat trailer down a ramp.

While I don't spend as much time in or on a boat as I've done in the past, the years that I worked as a game warden for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department often involved unloading and loading boats multiple times each day through different lakes.

With such consistent repetition, I couldn't help but become proficient at it.

While some people dread backing a boat in or loading one out, I almost kind of enjoy it.

I compare it to parallel parking, where some may drive around the block or park farther away from their destination to avoid having to slide in between two vehicles.

But I fully understand that point of view. I do. I've seen it firsthand. Parallel parking in LaMoure vs Fargo or Bismarck is a little different. So is backing a boat in once a year on Casselton Reservoir vs the same thing on Devils Lake on a busy summer weekend.

I realize how intimidating this routine can be to a weekend boater at a crowded ramp area even under ideal conditions. I appreciate the driver's thought process while backing the trailer, wondering if they need to turn left or right, sharp or wide.

What I never have understood are other boaters waiting in line, watching and laughing, yet not offering to lend a hand to someone who is having trouble.

Now, I'm not advocating evicting a driver and taking over. But there are plenty of opportunities to help and the fact is we're all in this together. No one wants to expedite the entrance or exit more than a struggling boat-launcher. And those waiting in line are losing valuable time they could better enjoy on the water or on the road, if they're just sitting there watching and criticizing.

Following are a few simple reminders to help ensure a fluent transition when launching and loading a boat.

  • Don't pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch.
  • Prepare for launching in the parking area. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie downs, attach lines and put in drain plug, before backing onto the ramp.
  • When ready, pull into line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous.
  • It takes at least two people to efficiently launch a boat: one to handle the boat and one to take care of the tow vehicle.

  • Don't block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.
  • As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.
  • Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible.
  • Get clear of the ramp. Pull into the parking area to finish securing your boat and unload gear.

One last reminder: The busiest Saturday in the middle of summer is probably not the best choice of times to teach boat backing and launching. Off hours in a parking lot, or slow times at the ramp, are better opportunities to learn and practice.

Once you've got it down, I can attest it's one of those skills you'll never lose and will always come in handy.