It seems that it’s never too difficult to find a crew willing to get out and wet a line, but there will be times when you’ll have trouble finding a fishing partner. Whether it’s inclement weather, prior arrangements or that thing called work, things come up and just because you can’t find someone to join you for a day on the water doesn’t mean you have to stay at home and sulk. The urge to fish is often too much and fishing alone can actually be a very soothing and enjoyable experience.
When launching a boat by yourself there are a few aspects you must take into consideration. Most importantly you need to be safe and courteous to those around you. Boat ramps can be hectic, especially on weekends and holidays, and if you follow the proper procedures you’ll be able to launch and retrieve your boat by yourself with no problem.
The amount you need to dunk your trailer depends on your vessel, type of trailer and grade of the ramp.
Perhaps the most important consideration when launching alone comes long before you start backing down the ramp. With so many variables involved in launching a boat there’s no perfect game plan, but one thing that remains the same is the need to observe your surroundings. Nearly every ramp and approach is different and you’ll want to take into consideration the grade of the ramp, whether or not there are useable dock lines and if there’s a secondary dock nearby that helps alleviate crowding the launch ramp.
The more prepared you are before approaching the ramp the better off you’ll be. In reality, launching a boat by yourself shouldn’t be much different than launching a boat with a partner. With only a bit of experience you will be able to launch and retrieve your vessel without hardly anyone noticing and even faster than a full crew of inexperienced weekend warriors.
Before approaching a boat ramp it’s important you stop at the staging area and load any last minute additions like tackle, coolers, bait, etc. This is also when you want to make any final preparations like checking the drain plug is installed, turning on the battery switch and unhooking any transom tie downs. I also recommend attaching a bow line and a stern line. At this point I also like to remove the trailer winch safety chain. The bottom line is that you’ll find and develop a system that works and is comfortable for you. Once you’ve got everything down you should follow the same procedures so you don’t forget a step. After a few occasions, launching should become second nature.
You’ll want to leave the boat attached to the trailer winch, but I like to loosen it slightly because I know the ramp I use on a regular basis isn’t too steep. This is how I do it with a trailer with bunks, but if you have a trailer with rollers, or your local ramp is exceptionally steep, you’ll want to keep the safety chain and winch strap firmly secured until the boat is in the water, or you could risk the boat sliding down the rollers prematurely.
After checking for any obstructions, slowly back down the ramp and stop when the boat just starts to float. The amount you need to dunk your trailer depends on your vessel, type of trailer and grade of the ramp. Shift the vehicle into park and be sure to engage the parking brake.
From this point I get out of the vehicle and walk down the trailer frame from the back of my truck. I jump on the boat, trim the motor down and fire her up. After a brief warm up period, I unhook the winch strap, jump back behind the wheel and gently back the boat off the trailer. With dock lines already in position it is easy to tie up. Depending on the depth of water, a single line and shallow water anchor are enough to keep you in place.
When using a boat ramp in close quarters with others it’s best to show some common courtesy to avoid unnecessary confrontations. Some boat ramps have secondary docks off to the side of the primary ramp. If this is the case, I recommend taking advantage so once you move your truck the ramp will be free and clear for the next user. Some ramps have launching docks that are very long. If this is the case you can tie off at the end of the launch dock without interfering with other users launching or retrieving their boats.
Once the time has come to load the boat back on the trailer you’ll want to avoid hogging the ramp by tying off your boat out of the way while retrieving your vehicle and trailer. This time around it’s best not to completely submerge your trailer. By only submerging a portion of the trailer it will make guiding your boat into position a lot easier.
If you are going to be launching and retrieving your boat by yourself on a routine basis it may be a good idea to invest in a trailer custom built for your craft to make certain your boat is always centered on the bunks. Once you’ve powered the boat into position on the trailer trim up the motor and kill the engine, run up to secure the winch strap and safety chain, then jump off and take your truck and trailer to the staging area to make any last minute preparations before hitting the road.
While crowded ramps can be stressful, it is good practice to block out what’s going on around you and focus on the task at hand. If you worry about those around you you’ll be more prone to making a critical mistake. Remember that practice makes perfect and to be patient and respectful of others using the same ramp. We were all beginners at one time or another.