Tips for Loading and Unloading Your Vessel at the Boat Ramp

13 Jun 2019
2018-19 - Boat Ramp - Boating Safety - Sea Tow - Sea Tow Foundation - Tips - Website
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Tips for Loading and Unloading Your Vessel at the Boat Ramp

With boating season for most of the country underway, countless boaters are already out sharing in one of America’s greatest pastimes. This can sometimes lead to lines at the boat ramp and busy waterways, which at times, can lead to problems. In light of this, we wanted to make sure our members are prepared with a few boat ramp tips to keep in mind as they kick-off the new season.

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One Sea Tow member, Randall, recently reached out to tell us about he and his family’s recent fiasco at their local boat ramp. Instead of letting it bring him down, Randall wanted to share it as a learning experience to his fellow members far and wide.

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Randall and his family were finishing up a fun day of jet skiing on their local waterway. Upon returning to the ramp, he and his son-in-law were loading the jet skis back onto the trailer when peril struck.

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With constantly changing conditions – whether it’s weather, water current or something else – no two boating excursions are identical. The same can be said for loading and unloading at the ramp, something Randall and his family experienced firsthand.

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Randall’s son-in-law approached the ramp and got out of the vehicle as he’d been taught – engine off and emergency brake set – however, it was low tide. The ramp was wet and the algae that had accumulated throughout the summer made the surface extremely slippery. Long story short, before they knew it, the truck had slid into the water.

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In light of the situation, Randall wanted to share a few tips to help boaters who might find themselves in a situation similar to his, with the hope they might come out the other side safe, sound and dry. Below are a few of his tips:

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  1. “If the tide is half-to-low tide, I will lock the front axles on my four-wheel drive truck so that the front tires are mechanically locked in on drier pavement.”
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    Sea Tow Says: This is a great practice to incorporate into your routine. Before backing down a ramp, note where the algae begins to accumulate and attempt to keep your vehicle off this area; you may not have the traction to recover your boat and trailer with the extra weight.  It may be necessary to wait until a higher tide, use a different lane of the ramp, or use a different ramp all together.
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  2. “If my son-in-law (or someone else) is unloading or loading, we use wheel chocks and have a driver stay in the seat.”
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    Sea Tow Says: It’s always a good idea to have a buddy help you load up so that someone is readily available to react if things don’t go according to plan. Wheel chocks are a great tool to prevent any sort of sliding, but only if if they are used against the wheels that are NOT on algae.
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  3. “Those who are not helping load or unload should stay on land. No passengers are allowed in the truck if it’s on the ramp, just in case the vehicle does slide down.”
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    Sea Tow Says: Follow in Randall’s family’s footsteps and have your friends and family wait on shore while you load up on the ramp.

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In addition, we have a few tips of our own that both new boaters and those with years of experience can always practice to make sure the loading and unloading process goes as smoothly as possible.

  1. Take the time to make sure everything is ready and aligned before you start loading or unloading. Inspect the ramp’s conditions. Ensure your trailer and boat are ready to be moved. Line everything up carefully to ensure a smooth and safe process.
  2. Only back your trailer in as far as necessary. Backing it in too far may mean getting into the algae with your vehicle, as well as making it more difficult to properly seat your boat on the rollers or bunkers as you drive back up the ramp.
  3. Be aware of conditions. Make note of the tide, wind speeds and current. If you’re fighting rougher conditions, it can make it very difficult to align the vessel properly. Try handy little tips like facing the trailer ever-so-slightly downstream to make things a little easier.
  4. Make sure you’re ready for the worst. Your Sea Tow membership and a corresponding Sea Insure insurance plan can help you in case things go south.

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Take the time to load and unload your boat the right way. Don’t become preoccupied with busy ramps or rushing to get home. Give yourself plenty of time and space. Take the proper care and you’ll be much more likely to have a safe and fun-filled day out on the water. After all, that’s what it’s all about!

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This article has been republished by permission of Sea Tow and was published on their blog at https://www.seatow.com/BlogList/international/2019/4/Boating%20101%20Loading%20and%20Unloading%20Your%20Vessel%20at%20the%20Boat%20Ramp.  If you’d like to share your own boating story for consideration in the Sea Tow monthly newsletter, send them an email at info@seatow.com.

Written by  Gail Kulp

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