Ramp Rage: Contagious, but avoidable

Written on 04/21/2024
Bud Fields, Outdoors with Bud

We have all heard of, and probably encountered, situations while driving our vehicles where some less considerate motorist gets upset, impatient, and starts blowing his horn, flashing his headlights, and making gestures with his arms and even “flipping the bird.”

With all the hustle and bustle in today’s world, everyone seems to be in a hurry, and that hurry often leads to uncomfortable circumstances and rather childish reactions. Over my many decades of boating and fishing, I have noticed what I have started referring to as ramp rage, and sometimes it can be rather humorous.

It can also be detrimental to friendships and relationships. I will relate some personal observations and try to offer some insight and suggestions to hopefully make your boating experiences more enjoyable.

With pleasure boating, water skiing, ski jets, and competitive fishing tournaments becoming very popular, the competition for boat ramp access has more than tripled over the past decade. Whether it is on a smaller lake or a huge reservoir, more and more people are wanting to use the boat ramps. Everyone has the right to use those facilities, especially at a public ramp, and that is where people can be downright difficult.

On all the reservoirs I have visited, there is a preparation lane where you can pull over and prepare your boat for launching. If there is not a preparation lane, you can simply use the parking area. What I recommend is before you drive down the ramp, you remove the boat cover, loosen the tie downs, and load all your equipment, like fishing tackle, coolers, and live preservers, into the boat.

When everything is loaded, you can drive slowly down the ramp, and when there is a launching spot, back your trailer down into the water and have someone in your group back the boat off the trailer. Then, take your tow vehicle to the parking lot. That way you are not tying up the ramp.

I have seen people drive down the boat ramp and then start preparing their boat for launching. It might take them 15 minutes or longer to load their cooler, tackle boxes, fishing poles, bait, life jackets, sunscreen, and friends in the boat.

Then, they hope they can back the boat into the water. In the meantime, there is a line of 20-30 impatient boaters, cussing and suffering from high blood pressure. This can be avoided with just a little bit of common sense and courtesy.

I recall a few years ago, I was sitting at the top of the boat ramp taking photos of the lake and watching the activity on the ramp. It was rather humorous to watch the events unfold. One man was sitting in his high-performance bass boat, and his wife was trying to back the boat trailer and. It was quite obvious she was not very skilled.

She would pull forward, turn the steering wheel, put the gear shift in reverse, and try to back up. She was all over the ramp. She was getting embarrassed, and her husband was getting worked up. He was screaming at her, shaking his head, and rotating his arms. I knew there was an unpleasant situation brewing.

His wife finally had enough and pulled the boat forward, slammed the truck in park, and told her husband, “You can #%^$& and back the @%#*! trailer yourself.” Not only were they upset, so was a line of boaters as the lady walked back up the ramp.

Backing a boat trailer is not all that difficult, but it does take some practice. The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” needs to be applied. I have backed all sorts of trailers over the years, and I do not claim to be a professional. But I started practicing backing a trailer into our driveway years ago.

I have actually practiced in a vacant school parking lot. I have backed big pontoon trailers, bass boat trailers, camping trailers and 5th wheels with very little trouble, but I confess, I have problems backing my 5x10 utility trailer with my ATV on it. I think the shorter trailers are tougher.

I have fished with several men who cannot back a trailer. Women should not be chastised if they have problems. My wife cannot back a trailer, but she can back the bass boat off the trailer and load it on the trailer as well as anyone.

I prepare the boat for launching. That does not take long because the bass boat has a cooler built in, and all the fishing gear is already loaded and the life preservers are in the storage box. When I drive down the ramp, my wife is sitting behind the console and steering wheel so all I do is back the trailer.

She starts the outboard, shifts into reverse, and within one minute of the boat touching the water, she backs the boat off the trailer. I take the truck and trailer to the parking area, and she has idled around the ramp area out of everyone’s way. When I return to the ramp, she idles in, I enter the boat, and we head out.

After some of the husband-and-wife bass tournaments we fished together, several of the wives asked my wife if she could teach them how to unload and load the boat on the trailer. I tell her she is a pro. She does as good as many of the people I fish with.

I have been accused of being a bass tournament angler, which I am. I was yelled at for being a bad guy, but my fishing partner and I were heading back to the boat ramp for the weigh in with about 15 minutes to arrive at the ramp. It was a hot, sunny day, and the temperature was in the 90s.

As we rounded a point, I noticed a fishing boat, and someone was standing up and waving. At first, we thought it was someone waving hello, but I thought we had better check it out. I turned the boat around and approached the boat. It was a 12’ aluminum boat. There was a young man, his wife, and their little girl, and they had motor problems.

They were all sunburned and dehydrated, and they had no water. They had rented a camping spot for the holiday weekend, and they also rented the boat and had very little experience camping, boating, or fishing.

We gave them some bottled water we had in the cooler, and I asked them what boat ramp they used. They used a ramp in the opposite direction, but we offered to tow them back to the ramp. My partner and I were late for the weigh-in of the bass tournament.

If we had made the weigh-in on time, we would have won the event and also would have won the Big Bass pot, but we decided we needed to assist the people in the boat and get them back to their boat ramp. We certainly could have used the prize money, but helping the people stranded was more important.

Everyone has the right to use the boat ramp. It makes no difference if you have a pontoon, a $60,000 bass boat, a ski jet, a kayak, or just a 10’ aluminum fishing boat. We all need to take a chill pill and relax. The more you hurry, the more mistakes you make.

Boating in any form can be so much fun and enjoyed by your family. Just use common sense, and ramp rage can be pretty well eliminated.