boat launch etiquette

being considerate
Here in PA, for the past 25 years at least, paddlers have been required to pay for the same state “launch” permit that the power boaters must, even though there are rarely appropriate accommodations constructed for us at the public ramps (with some notable exceptions). Though we chafed at and unsuccessfully fought that legislation, one good outcome of its implementation has been that the power boaters now recognize and mostly accept that we pay to support and use this infrastructure just as they do.

Honestly, even at some of the busiest ramps and during the most congested times, like at the ramp at Riverfront Park, upstream on the Monongahela, close to the downtown Pittsburgh waterfront where there are often major on-the-water events like festivals and boat shows, the power and paddle boaters share the space surprisingly well. If somebody is oafish and hogs the ramps, others in the area will quickly step in and confront them firmly but courteously. I am often impressed by how well the power boat trailer loaders self-organize to line up and how efficiently they get their craft in and out of the water. We kayakers and canoers can and do stay offside as much as possible, loading and prepping for put in on the grass and then swiftly running the boats down as one trailer pulls out and the next starts to jockey into position, or while they are securing their boat to the trailer before hauling out. If I see paddlers lining up multiple boats across the ramp or dawdling I speak up and ask them to be more aware of the other traffic that needs access to the facilities.

It would help if the organizations that design and maintain boating access areas would invest a small amount in making separate areas that would work for paddle craft. In the aforementioned Pittsburgh park, an early attempt to do that was poorly considered – they placed it quite a ways from parking, down a somewhat steep and muddy path that was prone to being overgrown with knotweed and poison ivy, and then for a “ramp” they laid rough-cut ashlar blocks along the bank, spaced so widely that it was easy to turn your ankle or even get a shoe stuck between when trying to get a boat in the water. The spot also had no lighting and landing after dark (as we do each year after paddling down to see the fireworks on the 4th) proved really difficult. So most paddlers have reverted to the ramp designed for trailer loading. But it is possible to co-exist if everybody is considerate.

And I do agree that an unattended boat should NOT be left blocking reasonable access to a ramp by others.

No flame, but your logic escapes me

– Last Updated: May-03-15 1:10 PM EST –

I can understand how near-misses could make you feel about power boats, but what does that have to do with choosing to avoid boat ramps? That's like having a near-miss with an airplane flown by a "barn-stormer" and using that as empirical evidence that one shouldn't go into airplane hangars.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I've seen a few motorboaters who seemed to be inattentive and presented a danger. I worry about that danger once I'm way out in open water, but at the boat ramp there is no way they can endanger you.

Sure, there are always…
idiots. But my favorite boat ramp story happened to me and a buddy on a ramp on the Gasconade River in Missouri. We had put his jetboat in that morning and fished until mid-afternoon. It was a hot weekend day, and by mid-afternoon when we got back to the ramp, it looked like half of Pulaski County was swimming ON the ramp, because it was the only thing resembling a beach on that big, deep pool. Had to be 50 people crowded onto the ramp both in and out of the water, most of them hairy and tattooed (and I’m talking about the women as well as the men) with beer and cigarette in hand. As we idled into the ramp area, forcing some of them out of the way, all of a sudden a woman shouted, “The baby! Where’s the baby?!” There was a sudden commotion in the area, and the a guy reached down into the water to arm’s length and came up holding a baby, less than a year old, water streaming from it.

“Ah, she’s okay,” he said. “Jist a little skeered, that’s all.”

…I think I saw those folks here on the St. at Black Bridge (LOL)? “most of them hairy and tattooed (and I’m talking about the women as well as the men) with beer and cigarette in hand.” Thanks for the chuckle (LOL). Dead serious, though, sounds like a high proportion of our county?

Some tangential thoughts
I agree that canoes and kayaks should NEVER be put in the middle of a boat ramp. They ALWAYS should be off to the side while packing for launch or while going to your vehicle.

The OP is a female, and indicates she needs to use wheels to move the kayak and to line up the kayak directly behind her vehicle for loading. It may be that condideration should be given to three things:

– Light wheels that you can carry in or on the kayak, so you can immediately attach them at the ramp.

– Practice using different techinques for carrying the kayak and loading it on the vehicle.

– If physical strength is a limiting factor, consider getting a MUCH lighter composite paddling craft, such as a sit-on-bottom pack canoe like a 12-16 pound Hornbeck.

rate of travel
while we move at a relatively slow pace, power boaters do not…

A warmer of fluids myself, I was truly taken aback watching power people roar off from the east side boat ramp on Gandy Blvd Lower Tampa into the seemingly limitless expanse of south bay before them.

70 mph to the ramp then

Like roaches under the sink…

into the water

roar roar off they go at 7000 rpm from 2-3 winds from 1000 to 9G then into the horizon

They do this at Lake Dorr.

This is the power boaters world view.

maybe your subhuman had to use the Head ?

NEVER leave your kayak/canoe/raft alone on or near a boat ramp. Just isn’t done.

In facto, if the is only one access, a line of power boats, clearly you should not use this ramp. Or water ?

Steep boat ramps are amazing STEEP…or slippery. At Gandy I watched 2 rigs slide in…boat and all. why ? awww you know…

There is a beaut below New Mahdrid…almost as good as the one down to the Rio at Roy Bean’s

The Macho Picchu of boat ramps

to that effect

I missed that completely
Not having ever paddled with someone who uses boat wheels, and with all those years before I knew any kayakers when people used the word “wheels” as slang, I read going “to get my wheels” as going to get her car. Wow, I feel kind of dumb about that. Still, proper etiquette would have been to leave the boat off to one side, just the same as is the case for someone walking off to get their car.

boat ramps scores better

Florida’s ramps have beaches on sides so the ramp is usually unneeded. The confined ramp I use is at Flamingo. Everyone there is courteous from sub-humans to tourists.

A wonderful place.

There’s a Jewish Touring Group stops by throws poisonous spiders in my rig.

Shoot me?

– Last Updated: May-03-15 7:35 PM EST –

I've been shot before; twice as a matter of fact.
I'm still here; shooter's aren't.
I ain't skeered.

Gunning someone down for putting a bumper sticker on the front window of your truck might be a hard sale in court.


No harm no foul. Just go paddling

Find another way to launch and retrieve
Blocking a ramp is asking for trouble. It is an in-your-face kind of action.

Park nearby, unload the kayak onto a cheap dolly, wheel it to somewhere along the water where it will not obstruct anyone else or be out of your sight for long. Or carry it. Just don’t leave it on the ramp.

I would have thought this was common sense. The guy who moved you boat was out of line, but so were you.

Is there another approach?
The trailer is attached to the truck, the trailer has to be somewhat into the water for the boat to be winched onto it which means the truck pretty much has to be blocking the ramp.

Or is there some truck/trailer/ramp configuration that works differently than this?

Should not make a difference

– Last Updated: May-03-15 11:16 PM EST –

They make little wheels that will fit into a boat hatch. Wouldn't work to get it thru heavy sand, but plenty to slap under the stern. I've used them in a situation like that, as well as to get my boat on a paved surface from car to the back door in winter pool sessions. While I usually prefer to lug the thing directly if it is a short distance, I could also use wheels.

Sorry - from a small older female, they make tools for this. Being a girl is not an excuse to leave your boat in the way.

laundromat law
Kind of like leaving your laundry unattended in the washer or dryer at the laundromat. Gotta expect somebody is going to move it.

…laundromat law…I like that.

Kayaks should always be tucked to the side, if only so someone doesn’t accidentally back their trailer over them while getting down to the water.

My favorite ramp story is the two guys fishing from lawn chairs at the put-in to Little Neck Bay. They actually gave me a hard time for paddling under their lines to take out at the ramp. They never even got up.

this is very simple
Don’t occupy the launch with your stuff unattended. Get in, unload your boat, park your car, bring the cart with you, and get in the water and out of the way. A boat launch is a potential bottleneck.

You don’t have to fuss over what kind of people you think power boaters are, you don’t have to fuss over what someone does to someone else’s truck. And you might even make a friend!

Must be you
I and my husband have spent lots of time paddling around recreational as well as working fishing boats. In over a decade maybe two not so good experiences, and none of them elevated to what you describe. Recreational power boaters can and should be assumed to act carelessly. And working boats well may be coming home on autopilot at the end of their day. But none of this is malicious, it just behooves people in paddle craft to be aware that they are at risk if they also act carelessly.

Launch ramps can be the place where people lose their patience the most. Do not do anything to upset people. Load and unload canoes and kayaks near the ramp but not in it or on it.

How long were you gone?
It takes me longer to get my kayak on and off the water than the powerboaters, and I would never expect people to wait for me if it could be avoided by getting out of the way. I would never leave my kayak in a vulnerable place, both because it’s impolite and because it exposes the kayak to possible damage.

I’ve notice that in some places there are a separate powerboat ramp and kayak launch, but the kayak launch is sometimes much inferior, so it’s tempting to use the powerboat ramp. I think that’s acceptable as long as you use the side of the ramp.

I agree that the person shouldn’t have touched your kayak, but many people don’t understand the value of a kayak and that they shouldn’t be dragged on a concrete ramp.

For reasons mentioned by others, it’s best not to raise the ire of people who’ve been out on the water all day, often with alcohol.