KEVIN TATE: Courtesy on the water begins at the boat ramp, or not

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

It’s pretty easy to tell who’ll be a menace on the water. It’s only necessary to watch how they behave at the boat ramp, easily the most congested few feet of pavement in the state at certain times of day.
With a long checklist to run through, it’s easy for anyone to forget there are others waiting but, as veteran fisherman and outdoor writer Bobby Cleveland will attest, there are though.
“Never procrastinate at a boat ramp to the point of domination,” Cleveland says. “Do not pull into the ramp until you are completely ready to launch. Ice chests need to be loaded. All securing straps and motor-toters need to be removed. The battery should be checked and the fuel bulb primed. Children need to be squared away on where to wait and should never be allowed to roam freely around boats, trailers and vehicles. Launch the boat quickly and get out of the way. Never, ever allow a novice to back a trailer at a crowded ramp.
“On the other end, when the trip is over, load your boat quickly and pull completely out of the ramp area before unloading and making final security checks.
“I have actually seen boaters come to physical confrontations over ramp courtesy.
“I have watched people launch boats and their vehicles at the same time on four different occasions. Two times it was because the security tie-down straps were not removed from the transom, causing the boat to fill with water and pull the vehicle down with it. Once it was because the guy was in a hurry, launching solo, and he jumped out of the car to grab the boat rope and forgot to put the truck in park.”
The fourth instance, Cleveland says, is the one worth writing home about.
“A wife was backing a trailer, with her husband in the boat, and both started yelling at their children who were playing between boat and vehicle,” he recalls. “Losing her concentration, her cell phone rang and she reached over to answer it. Water was coming in her open window before she realized she had gone too far.”
A better story than that one, though, is one about a guy who thought he had it made.
“There was a guy who apologized before launching solo that he was a novice and would appreciate our patience, along with any help we could offer,” Cleveland says. “He did it perfectly, however, and was so proud that he was smiling ear to ear when he walked off the end of the pier into the water, instead of making a left turn to go where he had tied his boat.”
Bottom line: There is never a time in boating when you can afford to lose your concentration.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point