Off RampPublished: Summer 2013
No Child Left Behind
Wild Rice needs a steep ramp to float her off the trailer. She's a 22-foot Catalina swing keel. There's an 8-foot tongue extension to deploy before launching then stepping the mast, hanging the rudder, tuning the rigging, and other nautical needs — about an hour's work. We load most of the other gear at the dock. A few years back when our son was 1 or 2 years old, we were launching at a quiet marina in St. Marks, Florida, that had a single ramp. Our son was between us in a car seat. Onboard he had run of the boat with a life jacket and a harness on, but we were careful to leave him in his car seat while I backed down the ramp.
My wife had the line to pull the boat to the dock, and she called out when it was deep enough. Because the ramp is steep, I kept the bow winch cable attached until we were afloat. I jumped out of the pick-up and proceeded to detach it. While I was cranking, the whole rig started backing down into the water. Our little son had reached out and pulled the gearshift lever out of park and it plopped into reverse! It was a disaster in the making and I ran forward as the truck was sliding by. Fortunately I'd left the door open, hopped on the running board, and managed to hit the brake as the back bumper went underwater and bubbles were blowing out the tail pipe. My wife was getting just a little excited.
After that episode we always took our son and his car seat out of the truck and let the dock cats have him until we were ready to load him up!
My friend and I have been fishing together for 30-plus years and like to consider ourselves fast at loading and unloading at the ramp. One day we were about to fish a tournament, and eager to launch the boat before daylight, I backed down the ramp with my buddy in the boat. He was revving up the motor but the boat wasn't moving. I got out of the truck a few times asking what was wrong. We were both starting to get frustrated when a kid standing at the ramp watching asked my friend about the line tied around the boat. My friend was actually sitting on the line that we'd tied around the gunwale while trailering! He was quick to respond that we were just testing the strength of the line! Needless to say we've gotten a lot of laughs about this over the
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