The Off Ramp

You've witnessed tales on the road or at the ramp that range from heart-stopping to hilarious. Here are some of our favorites.

As Seen from Above

My wife and I have been boating on Lake Union for many years, so we're used to seeing seaplanes land and take off. There's an unwritten rule about looking up, as well as looking at the water. One day, we were at the south end of the lake when I heard that all-too familiar sound. Sure enough, a plane was making its circle before coming in for a water landing. The pilot comes in, skims across the top of the water, then pulls up and goes higher in the sky. We went back to cruising, and about five minutes later, the same plane appears making the same maneuvers. He comes in low, doesn't land, and goes back up. I said to my wife, "He might be having some kind of trouble." For his third approach, we stopped the engine and watched. This time, he made a beautiful landing, and, much to our surprise, started heading our way. One thing they tell you about planes is that they always have the right of way. I kept the engine in neutral as the plane came alongside. "That's a great looking boat," he says, "and I got some nice shots of it. Give me your address and I'll mail some copies to you." We were both flattered, and I handed him my business card. As we were pulling the boat up on the trailer at the ramp, my wife had a horrified look on her face. "What's the problem?" I asked? "Can you believe he was taking pictures of us 10 feet above the water, while flying a plane?" she said. I hadn't thought of that. And I'm glad I didn't! His pictures were spectacular, though.


Hero Behind

Photo of a portable gas tank

Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on us, so we put our boat on its trailer and drove 24 hours on very crowded roads. No gas stations were open, and I was really nervous about having enough fuel. As luck would have it, we ran out of gas, and I was cursing as we coasted to a stop along the shoulder of the road. I kept thinking I'd let my two kids, my wife, and our dog down. And then I remembered! We have a four-stroke Honda outboard. It uses gas that isn't mixed with oil (unlike the old two-stroke I had just a year earlier). I'd filled the two 25-liter tanks after a day of fishing a month earlier on Lake Pontchartrain. We suddenly had 12 gallons of gas available, and let me tell you, I was a hero that day.


Don't Mess With My Mother-In-Law

When I took my wife, daughter, and mother-in-law out for a few hours on the water, everything was going just beautifully until we headed back to the ramp. It was my mother-in-law's first time on a boat, and at the ramp two guys were trying to get their boat off the trailer, not really paying attention to the two other boats besides us waiting to get in. Both guys had their backs to us as they were trying to do something to the winch post. As this went on for a while, I could sense restlessness from our crew, so I asked if they wanted to be dropped off at the dock, which was met with an immediate "Yes." After letting them off, I went back out and circled with the other boats. To my surprise, I watched as my mother-in-law headed straight to the boat at the ramp, and I could hear words being exchanged. Then she leaned into the trailer winch, spent no more than 30 seconds doing something, and walked away. The boat went right into the water, an event met with applause from both me and the other boats. Later, as we were pulling out of the parking lot where the boat ramp is located, I had to ask, "What did you say to those guys?" She paused for a second and said, "I told them they were inconsiderate, that there were people waiting, and that if they don't know how to operate their boat, they shouldn't be wasting my time." We drove home in silence, but I'll tell you this, I was smiling all the way.


More Haste, Less Speed

I took a friend fishing about a year ago, and as I was backing the trailer down the boat ramp, I opened the door to try a new technique. I wanted to see if the boat could be launched as soon as the trailer wheels touched the water. Well, just before the wheels got wet, I heard a horrible crunch and felt the truck door come off. A piling that marks the beginning of the dock had gotten in the way of my open door. Well, we laughed about it, and I suggested we just go out for some fishing anyway. A few hours later, we came back with dinner, and as I walked over to my truck to back it down to the boat ramp again, I noticed a letter on the windshield. I opened it, worried that it might be a ticket or something. "You are missing your door, and it's dangerous to drive this way," said the letter. I've kept that letter and enjoy reading it every time I get in my truck and ... close the door!


Something's Not Right Here

I'm still embarrassed by what happened at the boat ramp last fall. I'd been out fishing with a friend all day and had dropped him off at the dock in front of his waterfront home. Our plan was that I'd return to the ramp and trailer the boat over to his house for a fresh perch dinner (we'd had a good day on the water). I figured it would take about 45 minutes to get to the ramp, get everything loaded and secure, and make a stop at the local store for the necessary provisions. I tied up at the dock, and darn if I couldn't find my truck and trailer. I walked all over the place and started to get the feeling it had been stolen. I called the cops, filed a police report, called my insurance company, and then called my buddy who was making dinner to say I was going to be a little late — and could he come to the ramp and pick me up? There was a pause. Then he said, "But your truck isn't at that ramp." I recounted the day, and suddenly it dawned on me — he was absolutely right. Luckily, the cops were understanding, and the insurance company was relieved. I always launch at just one boat ramp now. 

 


— Published: Spring 2015


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