Boat Ramp Etiquette

Boat Ramp

Memorial Day weekend came and went, as it always does but for my family, things were a bit different this year. Usually, we spend what most folks refer to as the beginning of summer, with my father at his place on beautiful Lake Quachita just out of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

This year, we were not so fortunate. My youngest daughter, Tatum, had a Camp Fire outing planned with her group, so we couldn't make the trip. Although we were disappointed, there was one thing about the trip I did not miss, wasted time at the boat ramp. Let me explain.

 Each year, thousands of folks across the country see Memorial Day weekend as the time of year to knock the dust off the boat or personal watercraft (PWC) and head out to their favorite lake or river for a day on the water with family, friends or simply by themselves. Unfortunately, just getting the dust off of the boat doesn't mean it is "sea worthy" and can lead to a great deal of frustration and aggravation.

Each year at my dad's place we get up and head to the ramp early on Saturday morning for some fishing. Without fail, the ramp is crowded with boaters of all dimensions. Normally, this would not be a big problem, but on Memorial Day weekend, it certainly can be. This is when a majority of folks take their boats out for the first time only to discover that not only is the boat no where near "sea worthy," it won't even start. This is where the problem begins.

Rather than be considerate of others waiting to use the boat ramp and move out of the way, they stay on the ramp, for what seems like an eternity, trying to get their boat to crank or operate correctly. This is frustrating for the boat owner and aggravating for those waiting to get their boat, which will start, into the water. Although any mechanical device can fail to start, most of the time this situation can be avoided eliminating the frustrations and aggravations aforementioned.

A little bit of time and perhaps some well-spent money can usually prevent these types of problems. If you do not use your boat throughout the year and store it during the winter months, it is a good idea to have your boat or PWC winterized by a professional marine mechanic, if you do not know how to do it yourself. This can save tremendous headaches and perhaps a great deal of money for repairs in the spring or summer when you are ready to use your boat again.

So, you didn't winterize your boat, the best thing you can do at this point is to take it to a marine mechanic and have it checked out or summerized. Your mechanic can check your batteries, all of your fluid levels and make sure your boat will start, BEFORE heading to the lake. The mechanic should also check out your water pump, bilge pumps, fuel system, electrical system, all necessary safety equipment and lights to make sure they are functioning properly. He might even notice and remind you that your trailer registration tags and boat numbers are out of date and need to be current before heading out to the water, thus saving your even more money in fines from the local authorities.

I use my Ranger bass boat all year for both pleasure fishing and tournament fishing. From time to time I need to have minor repairs made to my boat. If I am at a B.A.S.S. tournament location, I use the service trailers the manufacturers send to the tournament sites. If I am at home and need some work done, I will go see Blake at Blake's Boat Repair here in Corsicana, Texas. He is up to date on the latest technology, equipment and tips for keeping a boat in good running condition. If you haven't had your boat checked out recently, go by and see Blake. He might save you a lot of worries on your next water outing.

As for the girl's (my wife and daughters) PWC, I have it winterized by Kenneth Napp over at Cedar Creek Watersports in Gun Barrel City, Texas each fall prior to storing it for the winter. Just before we take it out to Richland-Chambers or Cedar Creek for an afternoon of fun in the late spring or early summer, Kenneth will come by the house and carry it to his shop to get it ready for the summer. It has always been money well spent.

tom_lester_article_pic

I learned a long time ago that even though I have a background and education in mechanics, there are some things better left to the experts to keep my stuff running properly and keep me out of hot water with the girls (if their PWC won't run). Blake and Kenneth are just the guys the doctor ordered.

A good friend of mine in Cedar Hill, Texas told me when I purchased my first bass boat many years ago that a boat is nothing more than a hole in the water you throw money into. In some ways, Ricky Simms was right. Spending money on having your boat in top working condition is the exception to the rule, in my opinion. Plan ahead of time and spend a little money getting your boat checked out before heading to the water. It will be money well spent.

Like I said, I missed a lot of things not being able to go to my dad's for our annual Memorial Day weekend, but sitting in line at the ramp waiting on ill-prepared boaters is not one of them. Be a good boy, scout that is, be prepared.

Until next time, enjoy the Texas outdoors