Beginners Luck: 6 tips to make your first trip to the boat ramp with your new boat less stressful

So you’ve progressed from the land based fishing sessions, or the kayak, saved your hard earned dollars and you’ve purchased yourself a brand new (to you) trailer boat.

It’s an exciting time, filled with anticipation, and the desire to get out with your mates to land that first fish. Yet it is probably quite a daunting time if you’ve never owned a boat, let alone reversed a boat trailer at the boat ramp.  Well here are 6 tips to help make that first trip less stressful.


Prepare the boat in the carpark, not on the ramp

  1. Get to the boat ramp early or choose a quiet day for that first trip.  Most of the stress we feel on our first outing to the boat ramp is due to a lack of confidence.  Alleviate this by avoiding the busy periods at the ramp.  Either choose a weekday for your first outing or get to the ramp early.  The less people around the less confronted you’ll feel. You’ll be able to take your time and avoid getting flustered or embarrassed.
  2. Check your boat before you leave home. It might sound like a common sense piece of advice, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve seen people get to the ramp to discover they are missing something.  Heck I even got to the ramp the other week and had forgotten the keys to the boat.  Lucky for me I’m only 5 minutes from the ramp. The night before, check your safety gear and PFD’s, make sure your batteries are charged, check that your navigation lights work and that you have fuel in the boat, and don’t forget your keys…
  3. Don’t do your preparation at the top of the ramp. Picture this.  A car and boat pulls up at the boat ramp and drives directly to the top of the ramp.  Driver gets out and starts to prep the boat; checking safety gear, unstrapping the safety straps, loading eskies and fishing gear, donning PFD’s on the kids as the family is running around the boat. Meanwhile, 5, 10, 15 minutes later, there’s a queue of people waiting, impatiently, to launch their boats.  It’s a pet hate and extremely inconsiderate. Take my advice, pull up in the carpark and prepare your boat before you get onto the ramp.  You’ll be less rushed, get less flustered, and avoid an argument with another boat user who’s lost their patience.
  4. Dip your lights if it is dark. Ever tried reversing a car at night with another vehicle right behind you with their high beams on? Almost impossible to see anything outside right? Well same goes on the ramp.  If you reverse your vehicle down the ramp with your lights on, the guy trying to reverse down the lane next to you won’t be able to see a thing.  Use your parking lights, or turn them off all together, it’s just another courtesy thing.
  5. Follow the trailer. You’ve navigated all of the niceties and etiquette of using the ramp, now it’s time to reverse the trailer.  A daunting task when you’re new to it.  The best piece of advice Ian gave me years ago was “follow the trailer”.  What does that mean? If the trailer starts to veer right, turn your “right hand down” to push the back of the car to the right, in the direction that the trailer is turning and it will correct. Vice versa if the trailer veers left.  Use small movements of the steering wheel, and take your time.  If the people around you see you are struggling, and you’ve observed the etiquette of the boat ramp, you will actually find that most will be more patient with you, or perhaps even lend a hand or some advice
  6. Take a mate to lend a hand. Again, it may seem like commonsense, but the first trip to the boat ramp is probably not the one to fly solo.  Take a mate to lend a hand, even better if they have some experience.

Take a mate to lend a hand.

There you have it. 6 small tips to help make your first boat outing a less stressful experience.  Remember that no matter how stressed or embarrassed you might feel, everyone was a beginner once, and that like everything in life, a bit of commonsense and courtesy will go a long way.


Take your time, nearly there!

5 responses to “Beginners Luck: 6 tips to make your first trip to the boat ramp with your new boat less stressful

  1. Thanks Greg, some good food for thought.

    I had everything covered but the crank battery which gave up the ghost. I don’t know who was more disappointed, me or the old school small tinny brigade checking out the ‘Sparkly’ rig.

    Luckily boat was still hooked up so was out if there quickly, mind you the idiots in the land next to us were unloading and prepping a car topper much to the disgust of waiting users. There was a hard packed beach area next to the ramp they could of easily used to load/unload, but peanuts are peanuts right?

    • I’m still of the opinion that a lot of the time these people are just oblivious to what is going on around them. I think it is often ignorance of the etiquette, not intentional malice, hence this article.

  2. Good boating advise, my tip, first and foremost place bungs in boat, still a common site boats draining at side of ramp having failed to put bungs in

  3. Hmmm, Coffs Harbour, get there early, you mean before 4am. even then there will be a que, don’t forget there is only ONE pontoon to tie up to and approximately 70 boats trying to get in the water before first light, also ramp water available space 5 max boats, there is only one boat ramp!! with a SIGNIFICANT swell factor,
    good luck for a beginner!! Oh by the way it is at the moment only useable at 1/2 to high tide, cheers

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