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Outdoors Matters: Practice makes perfect
Hector Claudio Outdoor Matters mug
Hector Claudio is a Richmond Hill resident.

Whether you own a boat or just enjoy time on the water with friends, boat ramp etiquette is an important topic. Relationships can be made or broken at the boat ramp, and I cannot stress enough how this can test a marriage – LOL! Later on, it will be time to relax, but the brief moments of time that you spend on the ramp and dock will show you and everyone else around you whether or not you know what you are doing. So what’s the big deal about the boat ramp?

Hopefully the following tips will help you understand and empathize with one another. From the captain’s point of view, the moment of truth starts with the boat.

Let’s say you’re the captain and you’ve been working on your boat’s engine. (This is the point when your day can turn really bad, very quickly.) Suddenly, it becomes a spectator event and all eyes are on you.

Other boat captains, your guests and everyone around you might appear to be cordial. But make no mistake, if you take too long backing up the boat, back the boat up against the dock, or slip and fall into the water, you can bet people will be laughing – some with you, but most at you.

From the guests’ point of view, they don’t understand the dozens to hundreds of hours and hundreds to thousands of dollars you’ve invested in your boat, or the elbow grease, blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into your vessel. All they’re thinking about is getting to the beach or out on the water to fish.

Well here are some tips that will make you look like a champion and allow you to get on with what you came to do with your boat – have a great time with your friends and family: Tip 1: Boat ramp etiquette starts at home.

That’s your safe space, where you’re on your own time schedule and not rushed. Put the ear muffs on your engine and run your boat. Make sure it starts, make sure it idles and make sure you don’t hear any crazy sounds or see any issues.

Just five to 10 minutes of running your boat in the driveway can save you a massive amount of time at the ramp, and a lot of headaches.

Tip 2: Everything in life benefits from practice. Not everyone knows how to back a boat down the ramp, so take a couple of hours during the weekday and practice when it’s not so busy and you can learn about your vehicle and boat. Back up and down the ramp at least three times and ideally six to get acclimated. Make slow and steady adjustments when applicable. I’ve seen that driving slow and steady down the ramp is actually quicker than jerking your steering constantly left and right while trying to rush down – and you look a lot more like a pro. Those of you with those fancy cameras on the back of your truck – that’s cute. I will laugh at you and call for your man card!

Tip 3: Load everything that won’t fly away on your way to the water onto the boat before you leave home, and if at all possible, bring your guests with you to the ramp.

Often guests will say they’ll meet you there, which I advise against.

Most ramps I’ve encountered from Atlanta to South Florida are not equipped with enough space to deal with everyone’s cars. Suggest your guests carpool from the captain or someone else’s house.

If you have a lot of stuff, you need to judge accordingly on busy days and carefully decide whether or not you should be loading coolers, chairs, towels, food, fishing poles and any other thing you “might need” while you’re on the ramp.

Holding up the line just because you’re loading up lots of your stuff will definitely get you some unpleasant stares from other captains and, in our Bryan County area, that’s especially true on Saturdays or holidays.

Furthermore, captains please remind your inconsiderate friends to not park their cars in boat trailer spots! I’m telling you, that’s some serious stuff.

Tip 4: Develop a routine in your head for when you’re on the ramp.

Or for newbies, you can have a tiny checklist written down for your first trips out. Soon, it will become second nature to remember to take the trailer straps off, ensure your boat plugs are in and load those last remaining things that could have flown off.

In addition, I don’t advise having people remain in the vehicle while you’re backing down. Distractions are bad, especially if anything goes wrong, like a parking brake failure or some sort of human error.

That way, your kids won’t go into the water along with your truck.

Tip 5: Remember: slow and steady going down the ramp. Slow and steady getting your boat on and off the trailer. Slow and steady while moving your boat to a loading position or docking it.

Nothing at a boat ramp should be done fast, nor should you create a wake for other boaters.

To summarize these tips: approach a boat ramp with launching and leaving in mind, knowing that these basic principles also apply when returning to the ramp and getting the boat back on the trailer.

Basically, you’ll simply follow the instructions in reverse order.

The single most important thing to take away from these tips is to practice during non-busy times. That way you’ll gain confidence, learn from your mistakes and look like a champion when the day comes to get on the water.

Nothing spoils a wonderful Saturday more than arguing with your spouse or friends at the boat ramp and holding up the line, delaying your own and other people’s time to soak up the sun and breeze on the water.

Hector can be contacted at or

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