Overheard More Craziness at Launch Site

This is a follow-on to a thread I posted a few months ago when a park employee told me I had to launch at a slippery concrete boat launch, and not the wide open beach 30 yards away (this was prior to swimming season). Today I overheard more nonsense and I think I’m going to start writing letters!

I was already on the water, paddling well away from the beach when I heard the lifeguard yelling at swimmer(s) “Life jackets are not permitted in the water!”

Public beach run by the town municipality. The beach is on navigable water that empties into LI Sound. I’m very familiar with the beach, there are no postings prohibiting life jackets. WTF?

Why would anyone say that/make such a rule? Wouldn’t you want someone learning to swim or lacking skills to take protective measure and wear a PFD? It seems contrary to what municipalities usually want to do which is to reduce or mitigate risk. Meanwhile, 100 yard away there’s a paddling concession approved by the parks dept launching kayaks and SUPs without PFDs!

I’m inclined to write a letter to my local council person unless someone can offer an idea why they’d prohibit PFDs at the beach.

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I have heard that the reason for that at swimming beaches is that they don’t want non-swimmers, who have to rely on the floatation of a PFD, in the water. Basically, only those who can swim should be swimming.


Quick look, there are other towns with similar rules. Gives non-swimmer false sense of security, if it is not on properly it could come undone and be ineffective or entangle the non-swimmer. It doesn’t appear to be a universally held belief. Some safety organizations recommend all non-swimmers wear one.

I’d call the person in charge of the lifeguards and who implemented the rule and discuss it with them, not the local council person.


In my little utopia, no one answers the emails to any town government offices and the phone numbers are unlisted, other than calling PD or FD. I’m not joking. Total dysfunction, the only way to speak to a human is to call the council person and then s\he lays into the respective department head.

The lifeguards are all HS kids. Not fair to confront them. What irks me is the lack of posting for any of these made up rules. You have no way of knowing until someone walks up and starts bossing you around.


@Bobonli do you want to risk becoming an enemy of the people.

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Yes, yes I do! My particular village has some of the highest property tax rates in the country. And we also have people living in subsidized housing. So the parks are a mix of ultra rich, entitled people and others who may be here on a green card. The first group will tell the lifeguard kids to p!ss off, while the second will comply out of fear. You want rules: post them with an explanation why, don’t let them be a surprise or enforced in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

I’m pretty sure with have PFD rules for minors, yet the paddling concession in the park is sending people out without them. So they yell at the mother who’s teaching her kid to swim with a PFD on, but not the concession that paid rent for space on the beach. Insanity


Schools no longer teach how to think. The “rulers” will probably tell you that you think to much. Then they’ll ban kayaks and canoes, in favor of water parks where you can ride carts on rails that slide down a ramp to splash into a pond. Weeee! No PFD needed.


Go somewhere else.

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For as long as I can remember, public pools and beaches have banned floatation devices that aren’t USCG approved, for obvious safety and liability reasons. Now it seems like the majority of them just ban all floatation devices because that’s easier on the lifeguards, who are getting difficult to find these days. Most likely the rules were posted on the town web site, but may not have been enforced before, possibly left to the lifeguard’s discretion.

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In RI, flotation devices are prohibited at beaches, but there is an exception for coast guard approved PFDs. I found the rule pretty easily on the state website.

The use of flotation equipment and other objects including fishing float tubes,
capable of supporting a person while the person is in the water, is prohibited in
the following areas:
1. All designated swimming and bathing areas, except that a Coast Guard
Approved Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) may be utilized.

There is also a rule that boats must launch and land from designated boat ramps. The rule is designed for motor boats, but at least in RI, there is no exception for paddle boats like canoes and kayaks. Technically, you would be launching from the slippery boat launch in RI as well.

There is a state park near me with a boat ramp at one end of the lake and beach at the other. Boats have to launch/land at the boat ramp, and swimming is only allowed at the beach. On a couple of occasions I tried to paddle down to the beach to take a swim, and was waived off and told that I couldn’t land there. Rules are rules. In their defense, it is a very busy park in the summer.

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Maybe slightly off topic, but I have been yelled at by owners of big trucks launching motor boats for being in the way by launching my kayak at a boat launch. You can’t win.

Little guys (with their Napoleon complexes) gotta have big trucks and bigger mouths to prove their manliness. Except it doesn’t work.

About 30 years ago my outdoor club wanted to weigh in against the State of PA DCNR adding a regulation that would require non-power paddle craft to pay $10 per year per boat for a “launch permit” that would allow them to enter State owned waterways and lakes, or to use state maintained launch areas along major rivers. I argued that paying this nominal fee would provide those of us with canoes and kayaks a defense against the kind of launch ramp bullying that you report. Despite the objections of many citizens and clubs, the law passed. While it is somewhat of a burden to me now that I have a canoe and 11 kayaks (though I don’t use all of them through the year) to pay for these stickers, they have proven to have the effect that I predicted – power boaters recognize that we are also paying for access and have a right to use the ramp. I do always try to be quick about it and off to the side out of courtesy.

Eventually our locality tried to create specific kayak launch ramps along some of our rivers. But they failed to consult with paddlers on the design and location and they were nightmarish, even dangerous, to use. Most have been abandoned and swallowed up by knotweed and poison ivy by now.

I must add that not all power boat owners are bad, some even try to be helpful. I will never forget the occasion on which some passers by came to my defense and told off the power boat owner. I was grateful for their intervention until I heard them admonish the power boat owner for bullying the little old lady.


I’ll give you the (former) power boater’s perspective. Some are just jerks, especially if they’ve been drinking on the water all afternoon. But most just don’t know why kayakers are using the ramp, and get impatient if they take more time than other boaters.

At busy launch sites, power boat owners have to queue up and wait to get their boats in and out of the water. And if it’s fisherman, they’re in a hurry to get on the water because the fishing is usually better closer to dawn. When I used to fish Lake Ontario with my dad in the 80s, the expectation was that you would load and prep the boat before getting in the queue for the ramp, and if there was enough space along the dock you’d move the boat out of the way immediately after launching. My dad would drive and I’d take the bow and stern lines. As soon as the boat floated, I’d move it to the end of the dock or other side of the dock while he would park and jog back. When taking out at a busy ramp, I’d first drop him off at the end of the dock so he could get the trailer in the queue. When it was his turn, he’d back the trailer in and I’d drive the boat onto it. As soon as it was winched up, we’d drive out and do all the unloading, buttoning up, etc. in the parking lot.

If that’s what the local boaters are used to, imagine how they feel when they see a kayaker loading their boat up on the ramp, making trips to their car while the boat is on the ramp, or generally acting like they’re not in any hurry. It’s inconsiderate, and it’s getting to be a more common occurrence as more recreational paddlers get into the sport. They’re not used to boat launches and don’t know the etiquette.

I think most power boaters will be understanding if it looks like you’re making the effort to minimize the amount of ramp time you take when it’s your turn. If the dock is not too high above the water, I’ll put in and take out the kayak from somewhere on the dock where I’m not in the way of boats using the ramp. It seems safer to me as well.

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I’d simply tell those stating the unheard of rules that they need to have them posted by the municipality or they need to carry a copy of the municipality codes with them for proof. Other than that I’d launch at the beach and jump in the water with a PFD.

@Angela tell them that if the other person hadn’t stepped into the fray, you were intent on ramming them.

Your description sounds exactly the way we did other than it was me as the kid and my brother in law driving. We often put into Lake Erie at an access where a large creek entered the lake. The ramp was 3 wide but hardly no one used the center. I would get in the boat and we would have all the straps off except the hook. He would buzz down the center lane between the two lines and jump out take off the hook and then back down and spike the brakes and I would launch half way across the creek. While he put the Jeep and trailer in the lot I would lower and start the motor and meet him away from the ramp.

The trouble with paddle boats I find is if there are two people they make a trip with the boats or sometimes two trips and then a couple trips with gear and coolers and stuff. It is all strewn around at the ramp and then they put PFDs on and paddles together and mean time like you say a power boat is waiting.

We unload in the parking area and put my canoe on the kayak dolly and strap it downwe load the cooler in the canoe and the paddles then we place her kayak on top of the canoe and strap it to the canoe. She grabs the bow grab loop and I the stern and we roll everything down at once wearing our PFDs and water shoes. We are at the ramp about 1 minute and the dolly and straps get folded and placed behind my seat in the canoe.

Several times people have commented it wasn’t our first rodeo.


Perfect example of why I stopped lifeguarding. I enjoyed the guarding part and even managing crazy kids but you can’t pay me enough to babysit grown-ups with an entitlement mentality.


We are fortunate in RI to have a lot of boat ramps (motor boat and hand launch), and a great website that list them all.

Around here, if you are going to paddle salt water, or even fresh water on the larger lakes and ponds, you are going to be sharing the boat ramp with motor boaters. For a single paddler or a small group it’s not a big deal - there is usually room on the side and enough time to launch in-between the trailers. For a larger group it can be a real pain. We try stay away from the busiest boat ramps - especially early in the morning or later in the day when the boat traffic is heaviest. As RedMC describes, motor boaters have a process for getting on and off the ramp quickly, and folks launching canoes and kayaks just get in the way. When we do need to use a busy boat ramp, we stage everyone off the ramp. We try to figure our spot in the queue if there is one. When it is our turn to go we all go at once. Usually it works out fine. Sometimes we piss-off motor boaters, but what are you going to do. We have a right to use the boat ramp too and we are usually on our way in a couple of minutes. :wink: