by Gary Brown
From the age of 10, someone in my family has always had some kind of boat. I can remember my dad and uncle taking me fishing at low tide underneath the wharfs at Millers Point in Sydney chasing leatherjackets in a small dingy that we use to carry across the road from where uncle Alec use to live. The terrace house is still there, but the wharf has long gone. The first boat I brought was made of masonite. Yes masonite and it was extremely heavy, but water tight. That was until dad put his foot through the bottom while rowing against tide to get to one of our favourite fishing spots. We use to launch it off the sand at Dolls Point as this was the closest we could get it to the water. My next boat was a three and a half metre aluminium boat with a 9.5 McCullough outboard. I didn’t have enough money to buy a trailer so dad use to put it in the back of his ute and take it down to the ramp for me. That was until we gained enough courage to go out though the surf at Gerroa to fish a few of the close inshore reefs. Now days I have a 4.44 aluminium Anglapro Outlaw with a 60 HP suski outboard. What I have found out over the years that when I go launch my boat that most of the other boat users know how to use a boat ramp, while plenty of them have no idea at all, let alone any respect for anyone else who is using the ramp at the time. Recreational boating is a great way to spend some time on the water. It doesn’t matter whether you are fishing, water-skiing, sailing or just sightseeing; it is a great activity for family and friends to enjoy their leisure time together. So in this article I am going to let you know what I have experienced over the years and if you are new to boating it will help you be a better boat user, especially at ramps. Here are my tips: • Before you leave home make sure that the motor will start, by giving it a quick go. Especially if you haven’t taken the boat out for a while. There is nothing worse than getting down to the ramp, putting your trailer into the water and the motor won’t start. I have had the experience of another ramp user decide to take the cowling off the outboard and try and carry out a service on the outboard while the boat, trailer and car were still on the one laned boat ramp. When politely asked to move the boat he looked at me as if I was strange. • Before you leave home check that the bearings have been regularly serviced. Nothing is worse than doing a bearing on the way to or back from the ramp. • Make sure that you either put all the fishing tackle in your boat before you leave home. There is nothing worse than having someone back down the ramp and then proceed to unload their car of all the fishing gear or whatever else they are taking with them. Either do it at home or pull up clear of the ramp so you are not blocking the traffic. Not when you have just backed down to the water. • Make sure that you have put the bungs into the boat. Time and time again I have seen other boaters who have been in a rush to get the boat off, only to come back after parking the car to find their boat sinking. They then usually panic and rush back and get the car and trailer, back it down in front of everyone and then proceed to try and winch the boat back onto the trailer while the water is still flowing in. The easiest thing would have been to quickly put the bungs back in (as long as it was safe to do so) and then get the car and trailer. • Now this is something I have done before. Before backing the trailer and boat into the water you will need to remember to take off the tie downs or strap at the back of the boat. Nothing is funnier than watching someone trying to push or back a boat off a trailer who still has the tie downs or straps still on. It is quite embarrassing when you do this yourself. • Don’t queue jump. Nothing annoys anyone more than someone coming around in front of you and backing down. • If you have never or only a few times backed a trailer try practicing your backing during the week at the ramp or maybe somewhere else. When I taught my son how to back the boat trailer I use to take him down to the local football car park during the week and teach him how to back into to car park spots. There is nothing worse than having someone try time and time again to back the trailer down the ramp, only to have them take up three lanes. I have actually offered to back a boat and trailer down for a guy. • Make sure that you leave the safety chain on the boat until you get the trailer into the water. I have lost count the amount of times someone has either being backing or retrieving their boat only to have it come off the trailer. • A number of boat ramps in Sydney Harbour have been upgrading over the past year or two. There are now a number of them with floating pontoons down the middle of them. If you are going to tie up to it make sure that you go to the end of the pontoon and either tie up the front and back of the craft or have someone there to hold it. Nothing is worse than as you are backing your boat down the ramp the boat that is only tied up at the front swings around in front of where you are. • If you have never used a particular ramp before you should check it out at both high and low tides. I came across one in the Georges River that at hide tide it was a great ramp, but at low tide the water a metre drop at the back of the ramp to the water. • Boat ramps can and will be very slippery at times so care needs to be taken when you are backing the boat down a bit quicker and then put your foot on the brake to shoot the boat off (as I do with mine). Make sure that you don’t do this too quickly as you and the car may end up in the water as well. Especially if you have forgotten to take off the tie down straps. • If you are launching your boat in the dark, turn off your lights and only have parkers on. Leaving them on makes it so hard to see the ramp and other ramp users. I am sure that there are many other things that you need to take into consideration when using boat ramps. All I would suggest is that patience is a virtue.
After you have taken your boat off your trailer don’t leave it so close to the end of the ramp that no one else can launch their boat