Busy boat ramp season ahead

North Dakota’s boating season is upon us – finally. I hope we get enough nice weather to make up for the late spring. My guess is boaters who know summers can be short will do everything they can to get on the water regardless of the weather.

One of my boating goals this year is to remember to always put the plug in the boat “before” launching. I’ve gotten into the habit of removing the plug every time I leave a body of water. That’s one way to show that I am in total compliance with Aquatic Nuisance Species regulations. It’s also a way to show how forgetful I can be when the boat begins to fill with water on my next trip to the lake.

Don’t laugh too loudly. It can happen to you too!

In the forgetful category, I recall an incident several years ago when I heard a loud crash while in the backyard of my home. When I walked around the house to determine the cause, I saw a boat upside down in the street. The owner had forgotten to secure the boat’s tie-down straps after leaving a lake, clipped a curb a short distance from his driveway and flipped his boat onto the city street.

No. I have never forgotten the tie-down straps. Not yet, anyway.

I recall one other time I witnessed a similar sight. This time it was at a busy boat ramp where someone backing down the ramp had unhooked the safety chain and winch strap from a boat on a roller trailer. You guessed it, the boat rolled off and was sitting in the middle of the ramp. The story I heard was that a buddy of the boat owner thought he was doing him a favor by unhooking the boat.

I haven’t done that yet. Thank goodness for bunk trailers!

I’ve missed the target a bit with where I was going with this, which is this year’s reminder about busy boats ramps. Understandably, no one wants to wait in line at the ramp for a boat to be shoved off concrete, but those things will happen. Usually it is other things that raise the ire of those waiting in line to launch.

There’s not much you can do about someone with no patience and a short temper, but you can do what is best for all concerned when it comes to launching at your favorite boat ramp. It is a good idea to prepare to launch well before backing onto a ramp. Show courtesy by stopping well short of the ramp so that you can put the plug in, remove tow straps, and load fishing gear and the like before taking your turn on the ramp.

Few things will frustrate boat operators more than someone spending extra time on a busy ramp to load their fishing rods, toss their lunch in the boat, send a couple of text messages and chat with a guy on the dock about fishing.

Taking time to back down carefully and unload your boat is perfectly fine. So too is helping others at the ramp, but backing down a busy ramp before you are ready to launch does not play well with others eager to get on the water.

Now for a confession. Last year I came within seconds of setting a boat adrift. I was ready to leave the lake and arrived at the boat ramp where two boats were tied up, one on each side of the dock. Neither boat operator was anywhere to be seen. In the meantime storm clouds were gathering, the wind was coming up and rain began to fall. Nice. Very nice.

I was fishing alone and there was no room to tie up another boat, especially in a rising wind. To complicate matters, one of the boats was on the ramp side of the dock, which effectively eliminated anyone from using the ramp.

After waiting on the water for more than 30 minutes, with the rain falling more heavily and wind increasing, a pickup arrived at the parking lot near the ramp. Three guys got out and came down to the dock. They asked me if I wanted to load my boat. My rather loud reply was, “Yes, about 30 minutes ago!”

One of the guys said he was sorry, that he had to leave to pick up a couple of his friends. When I told him I was just about ready to untie his boat, which he explained was borrowed, he quickly moved it out of the way. Two other boats that were bobbing on the water not far from me moved in close enough to give the guy an earful, which he justly deserved.

Fortunately, everything worked out OK and the guy was understanding of the situation. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if he had been a combative grouch. It could have gotten pretty ugly.

We’re all likely to encounter a few testy moments at the ramp in the months ahead. We know that. The point is, think ahead a bit when using boat ramps and docks this summer. It will go a long ways toward avoiding a confrontation that can spoil an otherwise enjoyable trip to the lake. No one wants that.