Boat Ramp Etiquette

April 12, 2016
Boat Ramp Etiquette

Boat ramp etiquette is important and is oftentimes overlooked.  Actually what we need to do should not be too difficult to achieve.  On the other hand, if we don’t follow a few simple unwritten rules, the Boat Ramp can be a nasty place.  Long waits and traffic jams can be prevented if everyone practices common courtesy at the ramp.   In addition to this we should include retrieving the boat as important as the launch.


To start with, call the marina or authorities for that ramp and ask a few questions.  They may have some great advice with regards to time, days, and locations.  For Instance, they might say to you “if you get here around noon, the north ramp is nearly always empty”.  Whereas they might tell you “Fridays are absolutely crazy here, I would shoot for Thursday if I were you”.  Certainly great advice would you agree?  While it costs you nothing, you’ll be speaking to the most experienced individuals. 

With the intention of keeping things moving along, practice backing up your trailer.  For example, take your empty trailer to a parking lot where there is space.  Stay far off to the corner of the lot where no one will bother you.  Here is a tip.  While using a pickup truck, put the tailgate down and look back.  Similarly, when using a SUV, put the lift gate up and look back!  It’s ok to look back, as a result, you’ll get a better feel for the procedure.   Don’t get discouraged this will take a little getting used to.


Though considered rules, we should accept these as simple courtesies.  

Firstly the two most experienced people should do the launch & retrieval.  Secondly have all of your belongings that are going with you bagged and ready for quick and easy transport.  Consider what you can do at home before you get to the ramp.  Thirdly move with a purpose but don’t hurt yourself.  You may want to have an index card with a couple of reminders.  By the way, things like having the boat keys and installing the drain plug are kind of important :).  

Most importantly you should subscribe to the theory of “Get down the ramp, get the boat off, and get out of the way!”  You should be moving with a little pep in your step.  It’s when others see someone kind of lollygagging back and forth the “claws” come out.  For instance, you shouldn’t be casually walking back up to the car in the parking lot to get towels while your truck is on the ramp.  That is a no-no.     


Boat ramp etiquette includes retrieval.  Above all when talking about retrieval is use your winch!  Do not powerload your boat onto the trailer.  I call this one the James Bond move.  One it’s bad for the boat, two bad for the trailer, three bad for the ramp, and four bad for the environment    

Powerloading leaves a huge void at the end of the ramp.  This “divot” can undermine the ramp and cause it to break apart.  Furthermore, the opposite effect is a mound of sediment about 25 feet away from the bottom of the ramp.  People run into this mound and bend or break their propellers.  A powerboat is nearly rendered useless with a bent propeller.  On the other hand, you should be aware of the existence of this mound, especially at public launches.  So, once at the trailer turn the engine off.  Then un-clip the winch hook and secure it to the bow eye.  Finally begin to crank the winch to get the boat back onto the trailer. 

Once we are up on the trailer we can remove the drain plug as part of the clean, drain, and dry initiative.  Please do not wait there for every last drop to drain.  Pull away for final inspection, cleanup, draining, and prep for transit.

When retrieving, do not pull your vessel into a launch lane until the towing vehicle is at the ramp and ready to go.  As a final point, the line is formed by vehicles with trailers and not vessels in the water. Drop off the vehicle driver and wait offshore clearing the ramp for others who are ready.  Never block a ramp with an unattended vehicle or a vessel in the water.  Move either away from the ramp area immediately.  Plan accordingly.


Above all, be smart, be safe, and remember there are no egos when passengers’ lives are in your hands.

Please visit our Public Course Schedule to view all of the classes we have available for you.  Zoom Classes are available now.  There has never been an easier way to get your Boating Certificate

Here is some great information about Boat Ramps in Connecticut from the DEEP:  Boat Launches in Connecticut