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7 Unwritten Rules of Boat Ramp Etiquette

7 Unwritten Rules for Boat Ramp Etiquette

Growing up in Florida as a kid, I would spend almost every weekend out on the water with my dad in our family fishing boat, a 17 foot Mako center console. Our local boat ramp was just a couple of miles down the road and because we spent so much time on the water, we eventually perfected the perfect launching and loading strategy that would get our boat on or off the trailer in less than 30 seconds.

This was something that we had a tremendous amount of pride in, not only because it made us look good in front of the other boaters, but also because we never held up the line or caused others to have to wait around while we packed a cooler or loaded up the boat. That being said, when we were stuck waiting on other boaters for the same reasons, it was hard not to get aggravated. I would have to remind myself of how clumsy and disorganized we were when we first started boating.

Below is a list of 7 unwritten rules of boat ramp etiquette that will hopefully benefit others and help them avoid any awkward/embarrassing situations at the local boat ramp.

  1. Pull to the Side if You Are Not Ready - When planning a day on the water, there are a lot of things to check and prepare before launching your boat. This is something that should be done at home before getting to the boat ramp, not while you’re in the middle of the ramp with other boaters waiting to launch their own boats. If you do have to perform additional tasks at the boat ramp, like put your plug in or take off your straps, pull off to the side and let others go ahead so they can get their boats in the water while you are finishing up. This not only helps the flow of traffic, but it also ensures that you are doing everything correctly and safe because you are not being rushed.
  2. Turn Off Your Headlights – Another tip to keep in mind when loading or unloading your boat at the boat ramp, is to turn off your headlights while in reverse. The person adjacent from you that is backing up their trailer will thank you, because if you have ever backed up a boat with someone’s lights shining in your face, you know how difficult it can make trying to keep your trailer in line.
  3. Catch Up After You Clear the Loading/Unloading Area – I know that it is pretty common to run into friends at the boat ramp, but instead of catching up with them and talking next to your boat that is parked at the top of the ramp, make sure to move the conversation and your boat off to the side so that others can use the ramp.
  4. Don’t Hog The Ramp – Many boat ramps have multiple lanes to load and unload your boat, but each lane usually isn’t separated by a barrier or a line to mark where one lane ends and the next lane begins. This can cause the lanes to look like one wide ramp. When the boat ramp is crowded, don’t go down the very middle. That just clogs everything up for the people waiting behind you. Make sure to pull as far to the side of the ramp as possible so others can put in next to you. There is no reason you need to take up multiple lanes and it makes you look like you don’t know what you are doing.
  5. Have Your Nav Lights on When Your Boat Touches the Water – This rule typically only applies during the pre-dawn or dusk hours. Boat ramps can be very busy, especially during busy boating seasons or during tournaments and there are always boats idling everywhere. If you put your boat in without your navigation lights on, you are endangering those around you. It might not seem important if you can see the other boats, but keep in mind that they might not be able to see you
  6. Don’t Tie On to Other Boats Without Permmission – Boats cost a lot of money and the last thing you want to do is scratch someone else’s pride and joy. It might not seem like a big deal, but it’s important to be respectful and ask for permission before tying up to someone else’s boat if there is no more dock space left. It’s also a good idea to keep a couple bumpers aboard so you can tie them between your boats. It will provide some piece of mind for you and the other boat owner.
  7. If The Parking lot is Empty, Give the Other vehicles Some Space – If you are sneaking out for some fishing in the middle of the week, chances are the boat ramp is going to be pretty empty with just a few trucks in the parking lot. If this is the case, don’t park right next to another truck, put a space or two between you. That way, when it’s time to pull out, they won’t have to unnecessarily worry about maneuvering around your truck and trailer.

These are just a few simple pieces of advice that our team here at BulletProof Hitches thought would be useful to anyone who uses a boat ramp on a regular basis or even just occasionally. Keep these 7 rules in mind the next time you are at the boat ramp and maybe they will contribute a little bit towards making our world a better place.

It’s also important to keep in mind that we are all on the same team, so if someone is simply unaware or new to boating, it is better to help educate or help them out rather than being rude to them.