With the open water season nearing in all parts of North America, it's time once again, to pull the cover off the boat and make that fateful trip down to the launch ramp -- or does it have to be a fateful venture?
Launching a boat can be an enjoyable, easy and "fright-free" experience, and with a little pre-planning and paying attention to detail, you will relish the trip to the ramp, and in no time become a "master launcher."
Before You Leave Your Drive
There are a few steps to take before you hit the road, which can ensure your trip to the ramp will be a safe and pleasant journey. Check the pressure on your trailer tires to make sure that they are at an optimum level. It is also a good idea to check that there is sufficient grease in the bearings and hubs. I learned this lesson the hard way one morning when my wheels seized up half way to the launch. (It is a mistake I will never make again though.)
Tie-down straps and safety chains should all be secure, as should the lock on the trailer hitch. Make sure your side and rear-view mirrors are set properly. If everything is up to par ladies and gentlemen, then you may now start your engines!
At The Ramp
Once you arrive at the ramp, your first step is to find a quiet spot away from the launch area, (preferably in the parking lot if one is provided), to load up your gear. Don't, and I repeat don't, park your rig in front of the ramp. This is a pet peeve among many anglers, as it causes line-ups and creates what I've coined "ramp rage" among others waiting to back in.
Straps can be untied at this point if your boat is sitting on a bunk trailer. If you are using a roller trailer, then the best and wisest course is to leave the front strap attached until you have backed down into the water. (I have heard horror stories of folks that have undone all of the straps, only to find their boat lying on the concrete as they descended the ramp.)
The last step is to make sure that the plug is securely in the back of your boat. This is extremely important (for obvious reasons) but I can assure you that someone always forgets to check. Don't let it be you.
Once you have done all the appropriate checks, it is now time to back in. Backing a boat into water can be either a simple task for some, or a downright difficult one for others. A few simple tips can make sure it goes smoothly. Back the car or truck up in a slow and deliberate manner. This will make it easier to control, and will force you not to overcompensate with the steering. Another key is to make small movements with the steering wheel. The bigger the movement -- the easier it is to lose control.
If you have a bunk trailer then the trick is to back the trailer in so the water covers the bunks, which enables the boat to float free. Roller trailers need not be backed in quite so far, as a boat can be pushed off one of these quite easily. If you are with someone, have him or her hold a rope attached to the front of the boat while the boat is being taken off the trailer. If you are by yourself, then it is best to tie a rope to the bow and proceed to push the boat off.
Finally, if you see someone that needs a hand in launching his or her boat, freely offer your help. That also goes for saying if you need help yourself, to actively seek it. Most anglers will be more than happy to oblige.
Have fun this fishing season and realize that launching your boat can be done without achieving a headache, or cursing all the way back to the car. Follow these steps and you will actually look forward to your time on the ramp.
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