A holiday weekend on the water is a great way to make memories with family and friends. It can also be one of the most busy weekends as well. To stay safe and not cause any issues on the water, here are a few tips to make sure your holiday weekend is one to remember.
With one of the top 3 boating holiday weekends on the horizon, a brief refresher or some basic boating and launching etiquette is always welcomed.
Memorial Day weekend is one of the top weekends in our nation for recreational boaters, The Monday off gives you that chance to turn Sunday into your second Saturday out on the water. Your local sandbar will be buzzing with people, floats, stereos, laughter and an all-out good time. Local waterfront restaurants will be jam packed with boats and people as well as the local boat ramps and marinas.
To kick off Memorial Day weekend, I want to go over some of the proper boat ramp and boating etiquette. If you pay attention to these few steps, it will make your time at the boat ramp, out on the water and with the family more enjoyable and much safer.
SOME QUICK TIPS FOR THOSE BRINGING CHILDREN ON THE BOAT:
The Boat Ramp
Backing a trailer into the water can bring out the best and worst of us. Husbands and wives yelling at each other, strangers arguing over parking spots, people loading their boat in the middle of the ramp holding up the line all making tempers flare. If you use these below steps, you can avoid some of the mess and look like a pro while doing it.
Once you get to the ramp, pull into the trailer staging area. Most boat ramps have these, if not, park in an area away from the main ramp launch line or pull into an empty boat and trailer parking spot. When situated, you want to start getting the boat ready to launch.
A.) Get lines ready (try to make the decision on which ramp you will use so your lines are on that side)
B.) Put bumpers in place.
C.) Make sure the transom straps are undone.
D.) Start loading the boat with all your gear and storing it out of the way.
E.) Turn the battery switch on and remove any type of engine brace.
F.) Make sure the keys are in the boat.
G.) THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Make sure the plug is in!
BE SURE TO HAVE ALL YOUR NECESSARY SAFETY GEAR ON BOARD:
Once you have the above done, talk about the plan for launching with the people in your party. Will someone be in the boat, or holding on to the lines as you are back down? Get this all set up so once it’s your turn to launch you are in and out as fast and smoothly as possible. You’ll notice I didn’t mention unhooking the boat in the above list. I like to wait until the transom of the boat is in the water in case there is an emergency, or if you have a slick trailer, the boat won’t slide onto the concrete. If you are on the dock with the lines, or in the boat, make sure you have a spotter or can communicate openly with the person operating the vehicle so you can help guide them in the water and let them know when the boat has floated off the trailer.
If you’ve made it this far you look like a pro! If the ramp docks are long enough, walk the boat down to the far end so that once your trailer is out of the water, the person behind you can get their boat in and start enjoying their weekend.
These simple steps and being aware of what’s going on around you at the ramp will make the day much more enjoyable, less stressful and safer. Even with 30+ years of boating experience its something I try and practice every time I’m at the ramp.
Out On The Water
Once we depart the ramp is when the real fun starts, it’s a holiday weekend and you are on the boat! Does it really get any better than that?
There will be a ton of holiday only and inexperienced boaters on the water so you need to make sure you are practicing the safest boating you can. Abide by all local posted speeds and day boards. If there aren’t any signs always use that as it’s a no wake zone. No wake means No wake, Minimum wake means keep it under shin high. You are responsible for your wake and any damage or harm it can cause. Plus, you are out on the boat away from work, so there’s no need to go fast in these areas! ENJOY the ride! Make sure you are always aware of your position to people in the water and passing on the left side. When in a marina or around docks, only go as fast as you want to hit the dock. The waterfront restaurants and bars will be buzzing so be safe when approaching them. Heading to the sandbar? Make sure upon approaching you are aware of your engine trim and the water depths, keep an eye out of kids swimming around and other people’s anchor lines. Have your gear ready prior to arrival, this way you can act quickly and not be playing bumper boats as you are trying to find your anchor. I’ve learned over the years that tying a life vest to both your anchor lines is a great way to keep it from getting run over or someone kicking it while walking around in the water.
If you plan on running your stereo at the sandbar, make sure it’s on a designated battery so you always have the juice to start the engine and get home. Also please be aware of how loud your stereo is, just because you like a song, doesn’t mean everyone around you does.
Returning To The Ramp:
After a long day out on the water, you just want to get the boat out and get home. When leaving the destination, you want to leave the same way you came in, slow, aware and not throwing a big wake. Make sure you have a plan for your anchor lines and are VERY aware of your engines’ location in relation to people in the water and other boats. Leaving can sometimes be more stressful than arriving so being prepared is key to a safe departure. Once everyone is back aboard and you are on your way home, it’s great to do a once over and make sure everyone is secure as well as their belongings before you get up to cruising speed.
When getting to the ramp, start getting the boat ready to be trailered, pick up any loose trash, remove cushions, get everyone’s stuff packed up. The more you can do here, the less you must do when the boat is out of the water on the trailer. If there is a scenario where there are two people on the boat who can operate it, I like to drop someone off and let them run and grab the truck so that I’m not holding up a spot at the dock. If not, tie up away from the main ramp dock and grab the truck and get in line. Once you have the boat out of the water, go to a parking spot or staging area and start getting the boat unloaded and ready for trailering. DO NOT DO THIS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RAMP. You want to get in and get out of the way, safely and quickly. Doing this in the middle of a ramp can and will cause issues and be dangerous.
I hope this few tips help you enjoy you weekend out on the water and provide a short guide line to safe boating and trailering on a normal weekend and especially on a holiday weekend!