Technology Can Ramp Your Boat

rear view mirrorDoes “jackknifing, pulling forward, backing, jackknifing, pulling forward, backing up, jackknifing again, cursing furiously, pulling forward, backing up, jackknifing, being furiously cursed at” sound familiar on your launch ramp while trying to launch your boat?

If so, Ford may have found the answer to eliminate all the frustration and embarrassment at the ramp.

The following Houston Chronicle article written by Shannon Tomkins talks about best practices at the Launch Ramp and Ford’s Solution to perfect, easy launches.

Shannon writes:

“Boaters who practice good launch etiquette, including readying their rigs before backing down the ramp, make life easier and more enjoyable for themselves and the boaters in line behind them.

Texas boaters tormented by frustrations regularly faced at crowded (and not-so-crowded) boat launches got a bit of encouraging news this past week when Ford Motor Company announced a new option will be available on its 2016 F-150 trucks: Pro Trailer Backup Assist, a feature that ties together the truck’s rear camera, sensors, electronic steering system and computer, allowing the vehicle to self-back a trailer.

A driver in a truck equipped with the new system won’t have to even touch the steering wheel to back a trailer- just engage the system, watch the camera screen on the dashboard and use an adjacent knob to guide the trailer. The system even controls speed and braking. Supposed to make backing a trailer so easy that even someone who never learned the skill of backing a trailer can do it, flawlessly, on the first attempt. No more backing, jackknifing, pulling forward, backing, jackknifing, pulling forward, backing up, jackknifing again, cursing furiously, pulling forward, backing up, jackknifing, being furiously cursed at …

This technology just may save some marriages and friendships. It certainly could help reduce one of the many missteps that can color what should be a pleasant, enjoyable start or finish to a day of boating or fishing with frustration, hard feelings and wasted time.

Bbacking down ramput it doesn’t take expensive technology for boaters to avoid being the cause of problems at boat ramps. All it takes is a bit of planning, knowing and abiding by the unwritten etiquette governing use of boat ramps and parking areas and, above all, being considerate of other boaters.

With Memorial Day Weekend marking the unofficial start of “boating season” across Texas, here are some suggestions offered to make things go much smoother at busy ramps:

Before leaving home, make sure the boat’s batteries are charged and the motor will start.

This seems so logical it shouldn’t even be a suggestion. But it’s common, especially early in the boating season when folks are taking their vessels out for the first time in months, to encounter boaters who back their trailered boat down a ramp, hit the key and find the battery dead or the engine won’t start.

The ramp or the dock are not places to trouble-shoot or repair a balky outboard. If it can’t be started in a couple of minutes and others are waiting to use the ramp, pull the boat out of the water, drive to the parking lot and work on it there.

Boat ramps are not a place to load gear into the boat or prep it for launching.

Backing a trailer down a ramp, stopping, then spending 10 minutes loading the boat is a sure way to get dirty looks, a few harsh words and maybe worse. Plus, it’s just plain inconsiderate.

drain plugBefore approaching the ramp to back down and launch, stop in the parking area or in the line of boats waiting to launch, transfer gear – fishing tackle, ice chests, etc. – to the boat, put the drain plug in, remove the tie-down straps, put the drain plug in, check life jackets and other safety gear, put the drain plug in and otherwise prep the boat so that it’s ready to be launched. This is a good time to check, again, to see if the motor turns over. Did I mention inserting the boat’s drain plug?

The same rule applies when trailering the boat at the end of the day. Back down the ramp, get the boat on the trailer, then move to the parking lot to unload gear, install the tie-down straps, pull the drain plug and otherwise prepare the boat for the trip home.

Wait your turn. If there’s a line of vehicles prepping their rigs and waiting to launch or retrieve boats, get in that line, even if your boat’s ready for launching and there’s an open lane on the ramp. Don’t even think about cutting in line. I’ve seen three full-blown fist-fights at boat ramps; two were triggered by line jumping.

Once you launch the boat, move it to a dock or otherwise out of the way so other boats can use the ramp.

A busy boat ramp is not the place to learn how to back a trailer.

The only way to learn how to back a trailer is to practice. Find an empty parking lot and practice. Or wait and buy a 2016 F-150 with the trailer-backing system.

You don’t have to be perfect at backing a trailer; it’s fine to have to make a couple of stabs at it. But if it takes more than two or three minutes to back down a ramp and people are waiting, it’s time to yield the lane or swallow your pride and ask for help. (Most experienced boaters are happy to assist others at the ramp; it’s to their advantage.)

empty trailerIf you know how to back your boat trailer and the person (spouse or friend) with you doesn’t, back the rig to the water’s edge where all the other person has to do is back a few feet to get the boat in the water. Then you can get in the boat and crank it after they back those few feet. Above all, don’t put an inexperienced trailer-backer in the position of trying to learn while you sit in the boat, shouting directions, both of you getting increasingly frustrated while other boaters waiting to launch or retrieve their boats shake their heads. This is a sure way to ruin what should be an enjoyable day.

Turn off your headlights. If launching or retrieving a boat in the dark on a ramp with multiple lanes, turn off your vehicle’s headlights as you back down the ramp. The angled ramp has those lights shining directly at the next rig trying to square up and back down the ramp, blinding them and making it impossible for them to see their trailer as they back it down the ramp. Parking lights are OK. Just no headlights.

Pay attention when parking. Boat ramp parking lots can be jammed on weekends and holidays, finding a parking space can be tough and boaters sometimes have to get creative. But make certain that wherever you park you aren’t blocking another vehicle and trailer or otherwise impeding traffic. This includes not parking your one-ton truck and pontoon boat trailer in the turn-around/approach of a multi-lane boat ramp, making it all but impossible for anyone to launch or retrieve a boat. (Yes, this happened on a Memorial Day weekend a couple of years ago.)

It really doesn’t take much to do things right at a boat launch – just a little planning, a couple of modest skills, plenty of patience and, most of all, consideration for other boaters.

Courtesy the Houston Chronicle

Most of us don’t have Ford’s new trucks with ramping technology, so we need step-by-step instructions to launch our boats to avoid becoming launch ramp entertainment. It is just so embarrassing!

Check out “Ramping Your Boat” e-lesson for Loading and Ramping Tips. Prevent problems on your trailer, on the ramp and on the road.

Ramping web

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