Calling all newbie boaters! Here are a few tips that should assist in making your first trip down the ramp smooth and free of any embarrassing gaffes in front of your boating peers.
Every experienced boater undeniably once started here; nervously backing down the slip for the first time (often with impatient onlookers shouting suggestions), desperately hoping to avert disasters such as jack-knifed trailers or reversing your tow vehicle too far into the water and losing control of the whole rig. However, although nervousness is usually a good thing as it instigates caution, there’s no need to fear any calamities as long as you follow these simple guidelines.
1. Practice Makes Perfect.
The saying might be older than most mountains but there is certainly none truer. Before even thinking about taking on the ramp at your local lake or dam, pay a visit to an empty parking lot to perfect your trailer manoeuvring and reversing. Practise backing the trailer into an empty parking space, and also use this time to figure out basic hand signals with your boating partner. The boat ramp will often be too noisy for verbal directions to be understood, so it’s generally a good idea to establish simple hand gestures to indicate ‘stop’, ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘straighten’, ‘start over’, etc.
2. Preparedness averts Peril and Prevents Peers from getting Peed off.
Apologies for the excessive alliteration, but it’s true; not only will you avoid potential disaster by preparing well, but it would go a long way in not cheesing off your fellow ramp users. There is usually a long queue of people waiting to get down the slip and onto the water, and if everyone would prepare their boat while it’s still on the trailer in the parking area, it would certainly lend a hand in stemming flaring tempers and resultant squabbles. Make a checklist and ensure things such as the engine, fuel, safety gear, mooring lines, fenders, etc, are all ready so you can drive the boat straight off the trailer without needing to hang about. Arguably the most important bits to remember before backing down the ramp is unplugging your trailer towing light assembly from the vehicle’s electrical system, undoing the hold-down straps, and most crucially, making sure the drain plugs are in!
3. Slow Your Roll!
We’ve mentioned that fellow water users might get a bit antsy if one takes too long on the ramp, but this generally applies to boaters doing things on the slip they could’ve taken care of while in the parking lot. The boating fraternity isn’t a heartless bunch and if they sense you’re a beginner they would forgive you for taking it slow. So, take it easy! Your movement down the ramp should mainly be controlled by your brake pedal. Depending on the gradient of the ramp, you should make very little use of the accelerator and rather bump the brake pedal, continuously checking where you are in relation to the ramp. All adjustments should be made with the brake pedal applied. Make slight turns of the wheel to get the trailer going in the right direction and then release the brake – this gives you optimum manoeuvrability in the shortest distance.