You know there really isn’t anything that a person can say is fool proof. And I am just the fool to prove that.
I’ve owned boats for almost 20 years, and consider myself a decent skipper and certainly no rookie when it comes to hauling boat trailers or launching boats. I’ve backed boats and trailers down some of the gnarliest ramps with ice, green slime, logs (yes actual logs) and seaweed in all types of weather and lighting. I’ve been there watching the rookies make their 20 point turns and their 18 attempts to back down the ramp. I’ve witnessed boats sliding off trailers, motors not raised and grinding up the ramp, and motors at full throttle trying to back a boat off a trailer without having released the tie downs. Not to mention those part time captains who think that the best approach to the trailer is at a decent speed so that you don’t have to “waste time” cranking it up onto the trailer. After all, that would cut into their beer and smokes time right? And I can say with pretty good confidence that some of the most entertaining sights can be found at your local boat ramp. Don’t believe me? Go there with your lawn chair on a weekend, and just sit back and enjoy the show. You won’t be disappointed my friend.
So, here I sit all high and mighty never being “that guy” who makes an ass of himself at the boat ramp. Right?? Well as we can all attest even the best of us can be dumbasses. Take this example as a lesson learned.
It’s Saturday and I’m taking a buddy out in my drift boat for a trip down a local river. It’s a beauty day with the sun shining, and the boat ramp where I am launching is wide, clear, deep and easy to access. Piece of cake. When I get to the parking lot to unload I see a fellow drift boat fisherman with a wheel off his trailer and looking like he would rather be on the river than in the parking lot.
“What’s up bud, get a flat tire?” I helpfully ask.
“Nope…wheel bearing is shot. Completely screwed. Had to cancel my charter today because of it” he says.
Recognizing the guy, I introduce myself to him having seen him on the river at the boat take out a few weeks ago, and realizing we have a mutual friend. We bullshit a bit, talk about the fishing and what to use, and then I go about my business. I load all my stuff in the boat, along with my buddy’s gear (he has now arrived) and get ready to launch. I maneuver the boat and trailer expertly down the ramp, stopping just about 1/2 way into the water and then step out to unhook the boat and launch. It’s then I realize that I have forgotten to put in the plugs. Enter mistake number one.
Not to be the Googan at the ramp, I hop back in the truck to pull the boat out a bit so that I can put in the plugs. Once in the drivers seat I go to accelerate slowly up the ramp but as it happens my wading boots slip and I accidentally hit the gas a little harder than planned. Enter mistake number two.
Upon hearing (and feeling) weird noises, I nonchalantly flop out of the truck in time to see my beautiful drift boat floating majestically away, now free from the trailer and completely untied. I had forgotten to attach the bow line.
“She’s gettin’ away on ya man…better run up the dock and grab it’! the guide says from over by his one wheeled drift boat trailer.
I jump over the trailer tongue, up the concrete abutment, and onto the floating dock and rescue the boat. I hook the bow line securely to the bow eye, and guide the boat around the end of the dock and tie it off, looping the bow line around the dock rail, and then attaching the loose end to the rear casting platform.
“Disaster averted!” I say jokingly, already feeling like a tool. What an idiot I must look like. I gather up the last of the items to load into the boat, and then head back to the truck so that I can head to the take out some 14km away, with my buddy following me to bring us back here. I call out to my new friend in the parking lot as we leave and confirm that he will stick around to watch our stuff.
“No problem Adrian” he says “I’ll be here for a bit waiting for my buddy to come help with this trailer.”
“Great!” I reply, “we won’t be too long”.
“Hey..is your boat tied up?” he says, pointing over to the end of the dock, which I might add is located at the end of a lake and marks the start of the river. This is also located about 50 feet away from a weir and a lock that I need to pass through, which has (as expected) quite a bit of flow going through it.
“Oh yeah of course” I say, wondering what the heck he is on about. And then…glancing over…I see my boat gliding gracefuly away from the dock. Enter mistake number three.
“Holy shit she’s not tied on!” I say, now running down the dock but already realizing that it has drifted too far away to reach “God damn it I might have to go for a swim!” Watching the boat slide away, my heart was sinking fast not only because I felt like the biggest loser but because it was happening in sight of others.
“I think you’ll be able to grab it” my buddy says, “she’s drifting towards the bank a bit”. Now running up the dock I can see he is right, and it looks like my boat will hit the bank before it is sucked into the weir and down the river. Scrambling through some of the nastiest blackberry bushes ever and down a steep bank I made it to the water just in time to catch the boat. Now breathing hard and feeling a throbbing pain in one of my shins where I must have unceremoniously whacked it on something I walk the boat back to the dock, and tie the SHIT out of it.
Now I won’t pretend that I never laugh to myself when watching boat ramp follies and the gallant efforts of the weekend warrior. I’m as big a critic as the next guy. But I never expected to be the source of comedy at the boat ramp and to be honest things could have gone a whole lot worse. I could have smashed the boat on the ramp. It could have been sucked down through the weir and ended up who knows where. It may have even been sunk. Instead, all that happened was that my pride (and leg) was suitably bruised and I have learnt yet another set of valuable lessons.
When I looked at the dock, I realized that when I had tied up the boat originally the railing I tied it to was open on one end. So as the current pulled a the boat, the rope simply slid off the open end of the rail. As for the incident with the plugs and releasing the safety chain when I wasn’t ready to launch, well that was just plain stupidity on my part and a desire to “just get going”.
If you’ve read any of my older posts on “It’s a Guide Life”, you might recall the term “Stupid Ticket”. Well…fair to say that on this day, I earned a few of them. The point of my story I guess is that even rockstars can have an off day and you just need to take your lumps and learn.