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How to Launch and Land a Boat

Most people who use boat ramps expect a fairly smooth entry and eventual exit from the water. What happens between the two is what creates memories of a great day, whether it’s fish caught or some other type of family adventure.

Recollections of such good days on a lake or river would most likely not include details of a routine boat launch and load. On the other hand, trouble at the ramp, either yours or that of someone else, can ruin a day on the water before it even gets started.

I spend a great deal of time trying to provide tips and pointers for taking kids fishing and how to reduce the odds of a not-so-good outdoor excursion. However, from time to time it’s a good idea to think about the process of getting on and off the water, so no matter what happens, a day with good potential doesn’t turn into a bad one for anglers, boaters or anyone else using one of the hundreds of water recreation areas in North Dakota.

Honestly, if you’ve ever launched a boat more than a time or two, you probably have a story about a ramp-side snarl that kept you on or off the water for longer than you anticipated. A great day of fishing can be overshadowed by a boat slipping off the trailer -- yes that does happen – or a truck slipping out of park and into the water.

The mental picture might make you chuckle, but for the people waiting in line to begin their day, it’s no laughing matter. And if there’s a fast-moving summer storm rolling in from the hills, efficiently landing boats and exiting the ramp is more than simply courteous, but at times may prevent boat damage or even injury to people.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department receives a number of complaints every year about overly aggressive behavior at boat ramps. But for every person who voices their displeasure with someone holding up the line, there are people who could stand a little more efficiency in their launching or loading efforts.

Take a look at these few reminders and see if there’s something you can do, either in preparation or in patience, to make the process a little less stressful.

Launching

  • Prepare for launching in the parking area. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie downs, attach lines and put in drain plug, before backing onto the ramp.
  • When ready, pull into line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous.
  • It takes at least two people to efficiently and courteously launch a boat: one to handle the boat and one to take care of the tow vehicle.

Loading

  • Don't block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.
  • As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.
  • Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible.
  • Pull into the parking area to finish securing your boat and unload gear.

And finally, if someone in front of you is having trouble, offer to lend a hand. If you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people enjoying the great outdoors are more than willing to help. We’re all in this together.


Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email:dleier@nd.gov


 

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