|By Kurt Krueger
Busy summer lakes make it especially important for boat owners to be efficient and courteous at the landings. --STAFF PHOTO
WHILE WE’RE still in the heart of the summer boating season, some tips on boat landing etiquette are timely and most appropriate.
The goal here is to educate without bashing anyone, for it goes without saying that not everyone has the experience and skills needed to quickly launch or load a boat. But it is something every boat owner needs to work on.
Nothing can dampen a good day on the water like a long, frustrating wait at the boat landing when it could easily have been avoided. It’s not about being slow, which is understandable, but more
about those times when people act without courtesy for others.
For expertise on the subject, I turned to the website of the Great Walleye Assault (GWA), knowing the Leinie’s Guys would have some intelligent advice on the dos and don’ts of using a public landing.
In case you forgot, this is the group of fishing, beer-drinking nuts I know who annually orchestrate a weeklong fishing event in the Boulder Junction area. A few years ago, they won some sponsorship from Leinenkugel’s, the big North Woods brewery out of Chippewa Falls.
The joint venture has resulted in a website, newsletters, publicity events, television shows and comical entries in area Independence Day parades. It also, from time to time, produces useful material for this writer.
Buck Tailspinner, the group’s spokesperson and newsletter author, said the problem is that anybody who knows how to write a check can master boat ownership regardless of their ability to grasp boating safety or boat landing etiquette.
“The DNR needs to add a pamphlet that goes beyond safety issues,” said Tailspinner. “Courtesy on the water and at the boat landing are essential.”
Probably the most important rule, say the Leinie’s Guys, is that the boat landing is for launching and loading your boat. Period.
“If you’re doing anything other than those two things, you don’t belong there. It’s sort of like an airport runway — only to be used for actual landing and takeoff. Everything else is done at the gate,” said Tailspinner.
He said the landing area is not the place to take the cover off the boat, put on rain gear, take off rain gear, make phone calls, load equipment into the boat, remove safety straps, trim the motor, find the mooring rope, clean out the boat, etc.
“Those things are what the parking lot is for. Do them there. Only when you are ready to actually push the boat off the trailer should you even think about backing into the landing,” said Tailspinner.
Tailspinner said one of his biggest frustrations in 2011 has been at landings designed for two boat owners to launch/land side by side at the same time.
“Either they’ve backed right down the middle or they’ve angled themselves so the boat is on one side and the truck on the other side,” he said. “A double launch means two. Pick a side and stay on it. That or we need more landings like some in Michigan, where the pier is in the middle and there’s a launch on each side. It’s hard to screw that up.”
Another big concern is that not enough boat owners know how to back a trailer.
“There are a lot of people headed north every weekend who can drive like Mario Andretti on the highway, but hook a boat behind them and put the transmission in reverse and it’s like they’ve just been put in charge of a shuttle launch,” he said. “Look, if you want the trailer to go left, turn the wheel to the right and vice versa. It’s not that hard. Practice in your driveway, or an empty parking lot. Figure it out.”
He said people who need help should ask for it.
“If there are other people waiting to launch their boats and you don’t know how to back your trailer into the landing, either ask for help or get out of the way,” said Tailspinner. “If there is someone in your group who knows how to back a trailer and it isn’t you, let them do it.”
Once the boat is launched, the boat and vehicle should immediately be moved out of the way.
“You’re done. Position your now-launched boat somewhere other than the middle of the landing so others can use it while you park your vehicle,” he said.
Tailspinner suggests that when people are waiting for a friend or family member to bring the boat across the lake from their cabin or campsite, they should not back into the landing until the boat actually arrives.
“We’ve seen vehicles with empty trailers sitting in landings for half an hour waiting for the boat to arrive. Great for them, bad for everyone else,” he said.
Also, parking a vehicle and trailer at some of the small landings in the North Woods requires that people be considerate of the next guy.
“Do not park in the area where others need to turn around, back up, etc. If it means you have to walk an extra 50 yards back to the dock, so be it,” he said.
Last, but certainly not least, all boat owners should check their boat and trailer for aquatic invasive species. A new state law prohibits the transport of any vegetation on state roads and highways.
So, there you have it. Advice on boat landing etiquette from people who do one heck of a lot of fishing and boating.
A little common sense and consideration at the landings would go a long way toward making everyone’s day on the water more enjoyable.