May 10, 2018

Boat Landing Etiquette and Pleasantry

By: Bob Grzyb

Fishing is partly about getting away from it all, right? Then you arrive at the landing. Every known hot spot is going to have traffic. Warm weather brings pleasure boaters who maybe don’t get as much practice backing in their boat trailers than us fishing nuts.

There are always going to be folks who are new to the whole process of getting a boat on and off a trailer. There are also going to be people who’ve done it for years and still spend more time right smack in everybody’s way than the next four rigs put together. They all have a right to be there. In fact, it would probably cost each of us more if it weren’t for the fees paid by so many. There’s just not a single thing anybody can do about this. Or is there?

Sitting in the truck grumbling to your buddy and giving the “bad guy” dirty looks is the tried-and-true, time-tested, absolutely best, most effective way of dealing with these situations. Must be. It’s what most everybody does. I myself have been perfecting the condescending, slow head shake, under-the-breath muttered insults, and exasperated, “It’s about time” full-body language technique for decades.

A more calm approach

Then one day, against all my better instincts, I tried something different. I don’t know what got into me. I’d had a pretty good day on the water. There was only one guy in the way. I guess I was just in a weird mood. I tied my boat to the dock and walked past the struggling couple with full intentions of getting my truck lined up in the perfect “you’re-in-my-way” spot and sat there working my best silent magic on them.

The preferred outcome, of course, is that they’ll eventually figure it out on their own and put their boat up for sale as soon as they get home, so they will never cut into anyone’s recreation time again.

I got my truck properly lined up, put it in park, and that’s when I lost all sense of right and wrong. I left the safety of my scorn-projecting area and found myself walking right up to the perpetrator. My first clue that I wasn’t acting normal was my expression. I had a friendly smile on my face. I walked right up to the guy and said, “Hi, can I give you a hand?”

Much to my surprise, this inappropriate behavior on my part did not result in the ground opening and swallowing me, or even being struck by lightning. Instead, the guy said, “That would be great. I just got this boat.”

I suggested his trailer was in too deep. His wife pulled up a few feet and – Bingo! – they got the boat on the trailer the very next try. After thanking me and a bit of small talk, I asked if he’d mind one other suggestion. “Sure,” he said. I told him he could do the rest of his travelling preparations off to the side rather than right in front of the ramp. He confessed that he wouldn’t have thought of that, thanked me again, and we were all on our way.

Paying it forward

Most people are friendly and helpful much of the time, but I don’t see or do the helpful, productive things nearly often enough at boat landings. Let’s be honest, none of us is born with boat ramp etiquette and skills. We all need to learn it somehow. If more of us made an effort to provide courteous, friendly assistance in a well-intentioned fashion, perhaps we could all have more pleasant experiences at the launches. The worst thing that could happen would be getting told to mind your own business, or something of that nature. No big deal. Even if you’re not appreciated, it may wind up doing some good next time.

As much as we pay for registration and launch fees, we could ask that those in charge of managing our launches provide signs designating pre- and post- launch areas. Landings that have them tend to run a bit smoother.

There will always be people who are just plain inconsiderate or don’t care that they’re a nuisance, but many just aren’t aware they could and should do most of the prep work someplace other than right at the ramp. Others could benefit from a friendly pointer or two on technique. I will go so far as to say that if you see someone having trouble and don’t offer to help, you probably have no right to complain.

I know I learned something and had a positive experience when I helped that couple. I now feel I have the choice to be part of the solution, and if I choose not to be part of the solution, then I am, in fact, part of the problem.


Bob Grzyb bio from previous articles …