The Weight Of The Wait

Manners Matter At The Boat Ramp

By Patrick Piper

photo of a family loading their boat at the ramp

Trailering Club members James Foley and his wife were sitting in their truck waiting for a boat at the Hamilton Reservoir in Holland, Massachusetts, to be launched into the water.

They had been waiting for almost five minutes, watching the boater with his tow vehicle and trailer still at the ramp's edge, posing with his family and friends for pictures and completely oblivious to the fact they were delaying others from getting their boats into the water. That's when Mrs. Foley looked at her husband and said, "You know, if we had a swimming pool, we wouldn't be waiting for these people."

While that idea has been discussed from time to time in the Foley household, it usually takes place at the boat ramp. "It's getting so frustrating," says Foley, a truck driver, about the wait at the ramp. "It's a story every day and we sit there and watch someone on a phone, others standing there drinking coffee, little kids being taken to the bathroom by their mother, and all the time, the boat is still on the trailer at the ramp. These folks aren't paying attention. They're educated idiots!"

Yes, there are times when Foley wants to walk over and suggest the possibility they're making people behind them wait, but his wife is quick to say "no," and outlines her concerns these folks might recognize him later on and retaliate. Going to the boat ramp has been a good way for Foley, who drives a 24-foot box truck delivering wine and liquor, to learn patience.

"People don't realize that launching a boat isn't going to require 20 minutes," he observes. Here are some ideas to make the launch smoother and, should we add, faster and, what the heck, maybe even friendlier:

It's Not About You

Move items from your tow vehicle to the boat before you get to the water's edge on the boat ramp. If friends are meeting you at the boat ramp, make sure they know to park in spaces that aren't designated for boat trailers.

Think Ahead

If a bathroom break or a snack is needed, do it before you get the boat to the bottom of the boat ramp. This way, the boat is launched and moved to the farthest point on the dock so that others have room to launch without your boat blocking them; your crew gets onboard while the driver parks the tow vehicle; and the person waiting behind you can start backing their boat and trailer down the ramp.


If this is your first time on the ramp, look for lanes that might be designated for launching only or retrieving only. Check out the water's edge and get a sense of whether the presence of algae could make the tires spin while loading/unloading. Look for driftwood that could interfere and move it out of the way.


Talk to your boating guests before you back the boat down the ramp. Let them know what they can do to assist: hold a line, pull the boat to dock, where to board the boat, where life jackets are located and, if necessary, how to put one on. Even more important, let them know your plan for the day, where you hope to go, if they should bring their own food and drinks, if you intend to drop anchor and swim, and when you intend to return. And still more important, leave a float plan with someone onshore so they know your intentions for the day. (For a float plan you can fill out, go to

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The View From Here:

"I've always thought about not charging for use of our boat ramp on Memorial Day and, instead, put up bleachers and charge people who want to watch."


In A Manner of Speaking:

"Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

"The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any."



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