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Launching Alone

Planning, preparation keys to solo success of getting boat in water quickly

Launching Alone
When launching solo, make sure your boat is fully prepared and your parking brake is engaged when stepping out of your tow vehicle. (David A. Brown photo)

OK, we've all taken great delight at watching the boat ramp mishaps, missteps and mess-ups that range from amusing to downright bizarre. A lot of the hair-raising calamity boils to preparation, rather the lack thereof. 

The show becomes particularly interesting when folks try to launch all by their lonesome, however, anglers in small to midsize vessels will do just fine if they master a simple, yet effective method for dropping in solo style.

For this lesson, I turned to veteran Tampa Bay guide, Capt. Richard Seward, who regularly launches his 24-foot Carolina skiff by himself at busy ramps where expedience is the necessary ingredient in the stew of mutual cooperation among fellow boaters. Seward broke down the process into simple steps borne of his sage experience.

* First step is always complete boat prep prior to approaching the ramp. Not such a big deal if you avoid the ramp's rush hour, but dilly dallying around while others wait in line is a certain path to dockside discord.

Click image for the step-by-step gallery

* Next, secure a rope to a bow cleat and connect the other end to your winch stand. Seward's experience tells him he needs a rope at least twice the length of his trailer. This ensures that his 24-foot Carolina skiff completely clears the trailer before coming tight on the rope.

* With rope boat and trailer tethered, start by backing down the trailer until the tires are about half submerged. 

* Stop your tow vehicle, get out and unhook the boat. 

* Return to your vehicle, back down a little further and tap the brakes so inertia pulls the boat off the trailer.

* Once the boat slides off, shift into park, apply the parking brake (NEVER proceed without this step) and step out to untie the rope from your winch stand and guide the boat to the nearest pier for a quick tie-off.

* This enables you to leave your boat secured while you clear the ramp and park your vehicle.

Tips and Considerations


Capt. Rick Grassett, of Sarasota uses the same solo launch method, but he splices a bungee cord into his bow line. He notes that the splicing is mostly for shallow water anchoring, but it also helps absorb the jolt when the boat comes tight. 

Remove the straps and confirm that the plug's in place before approaching the ramp, but keep the nose hooked to the trailer until you back the trailer into the water. Seward warns against unhitching the boat too soon, as he's seen folks accidentally dump their vessels well short of the waterline.

You'll also want to slide push poles all the way back to prevent catching the foot on trailer guide posts. Likewise, make sure rods, paddles, nets and anything else that could snag, snare or tangle is positioned so it does not.

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