Safe Boat Launching
April 6, 2016 2:07 PM | Tagged as Lake Springfield Marina, Launch ramp, Safety

   It’s getting to be that time of year again, soon every Saturday and Sunday will be spent on the water.  The lake will become busy and the ramps will become especially crowded.  Let’s go over boat launching safety and etiquette to refresh everyone’s memory.

   I know launching your boat can be the most stressful time of the day for most boaters.  The launches are busy; there are lines to get your boat in the water as well as lines to get your boat out of the water.  Make the most of this time and prepare your boat and trailer for the water.  Load the boat with all the coolers, towels, personal items, and equipment you will need for the day. Make sure the lower unit is raised to avoid scraping on the ramp.  Install the drain plug.  Release the securing straps.  Disconnect the trailer lights, and rig a line to avoid drifting after the boat is launched.  This is also a great time to check the battery to make sure it is charged.  Taking the time to prepare will make for a speedy launch and make room for other boaters.  Ramp etiquette is very important and will keep you in good standing with the other boaters around.

   Right before launching your boat, check the ramp conditions to find where the slippery area begins.  Roll down all the windows of the vehicle and have everyone, including pets, get out.  This is a safety precaution, in case something should go wrong, you will be able to escape the vehicle.  Also, make sure mobile devices are secured in a safe place and not stored in your pockets.  Nothing ruins your day like losing a phone to the water.  If you are new to boating you may want to practice backing your trailer up in your driveway or an empty parking lot before the big day (the first busy Saturday in the summer).  A helpful tip for maneuvering a trailer is to push the bottom of your car’s steering wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go.  While backing down the ramp, make sure to keep a tire stop handy in case you should need it.  Once the boat is floating, leave the engine of your vehicle running and don’t forget to set the parking brake.  Release the winch line and reverse the boat slowly off the trailer.

   As ramp etiquette goes, move the boat to a less crowded area to pick up your passengers.  Quickly get the vehicle out of the way of the ramp and to a designated trailer parking area.  I cannot say it enough, do not linger in the ramp area.  This will anger your fellow boaters.  If you follow these tips, you will be sure to have a safe summer of boat launching.  We look forward to seeing you all very soon at Lake Springfield Marina.     

Launch Ramp Blues
May 29, 2011 7:12 PM | Tagged as Launch ramp

Launch Ramp Blues

So there I was, sitting on my boat in the middle of an August afternoon. It had been a relaxing day on the water. A little fishing, a little lunch, a little nap. A little more fishing. I'd had enough fun for one day, and had motored back to the cove where the launch ramp was located.

I was alone, as was frequently the case. It was nice to be able to enjoy the solitude that comes with being all alone in the middle of a lake. Launching my runabout by myself was pretty easy, although it had taken some practice and repetition before I became proficient at it. This particular launch ramp usually was not very crowded, but this afternoon several boaters were lined up to put their boats in. I decided to hang out and idle my boat in the area until things cleared up a bit.

It can be very entertaining to watch all the action at a crowded boat ramp. People get nervous. They get in a hurry. They do things they would not normally do, like yell at perfect strangers, or jump in the water with their clothes on. Or they won't do things they are supposed to do, like put the plug in the stern drain, or remember to bring their boats' ignition key. Every boater has probably seen someone bring their boat out of the water with the stern drive lowered, if they haven't done it themselves.

No one is totally immune from this "excited boater" syndrome. I get pretty anxious when my boat is ready to get wet. And if there are people waiting for me to "hurry up and launch, already", I end up trying to do too many things at once.

So I wasn't at all surprised to be watching this one particular fellow, that afternoon. He was probably new to boating, owing to the fact that atop his shiny, new trailer sat a shiny, new boat. It looked like he had just towed it off the showroom floor. And this guy was moving just a little too fast. I was about to get an interesting lesson in physics.

Now, normally, when any boat is launched from a trailer on an inclined ramp, there is a short but important list of tasks that must be accomplished. Taken in the proper order, the launch will, most likely, be smooth and efficient. Taken out of order, the laws of physics tend to conspire against the boater.

Parked near the top of the ramp, this fellow scurried about, preparing his boat for its maiden voyage. His wife (I assume) and daughter watched from a safe distance, as he hurriedly tossed water toys, food, and other essential stuff into his boat. Next, he released the stern tie-downs, and threw them into the back of his sport utility vehicle. Next, he ran around to the rear of the trailer, and secured the plug into the stern drain.

And then came the mistake. While still parked at the top of this fairly steep ramp, this fellow disconnected both the trailer's winch hook and the safety chain from the bow. Now free of all tethers, his boat was finally ready to launch. And in record time. He climbed back into his vehicle, put it in reverse, and started backing down the ramp.

He might have gotten away with that, if it weren't for one tiny detail (two, if you count gravity). Apparently, he had the idea that the way to look like an experienced boater was to back down the ramp quickly, in order to demonstrate a command of trailering skills. That can be important when your wife, daughter, and other boaters, like me, are all watching.

And he backed down very quickly, indeed. Nice and straight, too. Why he decided to stop twenty feet from the water is a mystery to me. Maybe it was to double check that everything was ready. Physics, however, was not concerned with his motives. As he stopped, the boat kept going, flying off the trailer with impressive speed, and landing squarely on the dry launch ramp.

Now that had to hurt. I remember from my physics class that a "body in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force". I remember the word "inertia" being associated with that principle. I had not, however, recalled being treated to such an outstanding example of inertia at work.

Well, this fellow was understandably upset. His right hand smacked his forehead and stuck there, as if it had been crazy-glued. A crowd of about twenty people had gathered around to generously offer their condolences, and perhaps to suggest clever ways of returning the wounded vessel to its cradle.

Although cruising the lake with his family was no longer an option, this gentleman would, at least, have the opportunity to learn about another important aspect of boating; spending outrageous sums of money on repairs. Thankfully, there is always someone else to blame for such unforeseen misfortunes. After all, there was probably no label on the side of his trailer warning against such a possibility. And how likely was it that the boat dealer took any time with the customer, to explain trailering and launching techniques? How is an innocent boater supposed to know? After all these many years, I am now grateful that my physics teacher insisted that I stay awake in his class.

Sizing up the situation from my vantage point on the water, it appeared that this unlucky chap had assembled plenty of hands to assist him. And, with the ramp now blocked, pulling my boat out of the water would have to wait. I had no choice but to go back out and fish a little more.

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