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Boating Etiquette On and Off the Water

As important as boating safety

By John Brady

 
Boat rules

Boat etiquette on and off the water is an ever-increasing issue. Ask any boater what they perceive to be the biggest issue on the water, and they will inevitably go into a story about an inconsiderate boater. And many times this will occur at the launch ramp before the boater even gets on the water. As our waterways become more crowded, this issue increases.
   Some of the problem comes from a boat operators' lack of experience, some from a lack of perception of what is going on around them and unfortunately some from simple disrespect for others.
   Boat ramp etiquette seems to be the biggest hot button of any boater. These incidents include someone waiting until they get to the launch pad before rigging a boat for launching and loading their gear into the boat; or de-rigging and unloading the boat at the launch pad on return from the water, rather than moving to a de-rigging area after the boat is loaded on the trailer. Other situations include tying up a boat on the launching side of a dock while parking or getting the tow vehicle, butting in line, to simply taking up excessive time.
   One of the best ways to be certain you're not on the wrong end of one of these situations is to get yourself familiar with the protocol at a launching facility before actually launching your boat. This can be done at the time you get to a destination before launching, or by visiting the launch facility ahead of time to view the procedures. While boat launching and loading procedures are similar no matter what type of rig you have, individual facilities have their own little unofficial modes of operation that may have been developed over time.
   In order to be aware of these little idiosyncrasies when you arrive at a launch facility, park your rig in an out of the way location, and take a few minutes to watch the activities around you before you commence launching your rig. It may take you a few more minutes to get on the water, but it could avoid personal embarrassment or an actual confrontation with another boater from your unintentional infringements.
   Whenever you launch, make certain you prepare your boat in an out of the way place. Take off covers, tiedown straps (except bow strap) and install electronics. Get rods, tackle, coolers, and anything you're planning on taking along out on the water loaded before you enter the launching area.
   When it's your turn to launch, do it as quickly as you can do it comfortably, and move your boat aside, away from the launching side of the dock. This will allow the next boater to come in immediately after you and keep things moving when there is a crowd. It's even a good idea when you're the only boater. For one, it will get you in the habit, and second it's a good idea just in case another boater arrives before you return.
   You should extend the same courtesies when you return to the dock to load your boat. Tie up on the opposite side of the launching pad. This way if anyone arrives to launch, before you return with your tow vehicle, you don't have someone waiting on you. Just because your boat is at the dock doesn't necessarily mean everyone else must wait.
   When out on the water always be observant of what is going on around you, especially when underway. Watch what other boats are doing, and how anglers are fishing. I can't tell you how many times I've had boaters go between me and the bank while I was fishing in that direction. Just because a boat isn't moving, doesn't mean you can ignore what they are doing. Observe a wide imaginary circle around each boat you see on the water, and stay outside the circle.
   Everyone has equal rights to our waterways. Be it a tournament fisherman, boater, skier, or personal watercraft. But remember the key here is EQUAL. Following the golden rule "Do unto others..." should help keep you out of trouble.
   Once you get out to your favorite fishing spot safely, you can concentrate on fishing. And maybe even catch a few. After all, they call it fishing, but the goal is catching.

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