Boat Launching Etiquette – Avoid the Carnage and Comedy

We've all seen our share of struggles at the boat launch. Here are a few tips to launch and retrieve your rig without any hiccups!

Story & Photos by: Todd Martin


The old joke about an afternoon’s entertainment involving a six-pack of beer and a lawn chair beside the local boat launch unfortunately still has truth to it. Boat launch etiquette is one of those common sense tasks that need to be revisited from time to time. All too often when launching my boat I encounter complete mayhem and carnage. Long lines of boaters are waiting, usually impatiently, for that one person who has lost all reason and courtesy. Tempers get short and it does not make for a pleasant start to your day on the water.

Author;s boat at Stave Lake boat launch.

I’ve seen trailers parked sideways on the launch ramp, people loading coolers, kids and a day’s supplies while tying up launch space, and witnessed a boat dropped onto the concrete ramp as people were so unnerved by the ongoing chaos that they made critical mistakes. One time I had to perform emergency repairs on two other boats at the dock before I could launch my own boat. It does not need to be this way. Launching and retrieving your trailered boat can be both quick and easy if you put some thought into it, before you arrive at your chosen waterway.

Develop a basic plan before you leave home. Once you decide which boat launch you are going to use, review the layout for parking, preparation areas, and access to the ramp before you arrive. When preparing to launch my own boat, my wife and I usually pull into a nearby parking lot for some quick pre-launch preparation. We unhook the rear tie-downs, hang the fenders, get the key in the ignition, and load all the coolers and beach supplies ahead of time. We discuss the basic procedures with our guests. We get everything ready to go, and then we get in line for the boat launch. This way, all you have to do is wait for your turn and launch your boat. You don’t need to focus on anything else. 

The same applies when retrieving your boat at the end of the day. Drop off a crew member at the dock with keys to your truck and off-load your guests and gear. Get all non-essential retrieval activities done ahead of time and move away from the ramp and of the way. Once you see your tow-rig in the lineup, move in to start the retrieval process. Boat launches are for launching and retrieval. They are not the place to loiter and make dinner plans. Another trick to making things go smoother on a busy summer weekend is to practice launching and retrieving your boat in the off-season or on a weekday. This lets your inexperienced crew members get practice prepping the boat and backing up on the ramp without the added stress of an audience. 

Author retrieving his boat from a rustic boat launch on Monte Lake

Train your family, friends and crew to be competent, useful assistants, and be courteous to other boaters for an overall more pleasant experience. With a little advance planning, boat launches need not be a forum for carnage and comedy. 




Author - Todd Martin
Author Bio: Todd Martin is a well known outdoor writer and angler who lives and writes about the wild splendor of British Columbia, Canada. Todd resides in Maple Ridge and specializes salt water and fresh water fishing for Salmon, Trout, Char and Kokanee. Visit him at


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