It’s a warm, sunny day. There are only a few people on the water and the trout and puppy drum are biting…

A boat ramp scene like this one is the last thing you’d expect to see.

The better the fishing, the nicer the day, the more chaos you can expect at a boat ramp. Especially around south Hampton Roads, a region sorely in short supply of boat ramps. For a region surrounded by water, with a huge boating community, there should be at least 10 times more ramps.

It’s best to load all your gear at the house if you can. Coolers, fishing gear, lines should all be secured before you get to the ramp. That way, when you get to the ramp you are not taking valuable time loading the boat when you should be launching into the water. Remember to be patient with new boaters as well. At some point, you were a novice as well!

All this leads me to a story I love to tell when giving talks about launching and extracting a boat.

It was an amazing Saturday in late October – sunny, warm, and the waters of Lynnhaven Inlet were teeming with hungry fish.

Everybody seemed to have the same idea. So when it was time for me and a buddy to hit the ramp to meet our wives for dinner, we weren’t all that surprised. A circus, a cluster, a sea of people who had no idea what they were doing – all trying to leave at the same time.

Bubba’s was packed and there was a line waiting for turns. We bobbed around near the turning basin and jigged while we waited.

The scene couldn’t have been scripted for a movie any better. The ramp there was slippery, especially at low tide. Two drivers that knew what they were doing could easily pull their boats at the same time. But when a host of boaters started the procedure, one couldn’t back down. He fought and yelled with the next guy over to give him some room. Before long, fights ensued in the parking lot.

Laughing, we headed up the creek to another ramp. It was busy, but with people who knew what they were doing. We were on the trailer in five minutes.

The point here is that if you’re going to tow a boat, you need to know how to back it down. Your best bet is to get lessons from an expert, then practice in a parking lot.

The absolute best way to get in and out fast is to have either you or your partner in the boat and the other one backing down. Have everything except the emergency strap already removed. The driver backs the boater down, he starts the engine while the truck driver unhitches the emergency strap and backs down just enough more so the boat driver can pull away.

The truck driver pulls out, parks, and meets the boater at the dock. Shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes.

And with all that time saved, you can watch the guy backing down a 25-foot center console with his midsize car while he jackknives all over the place.

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