I'm a recent transplant from the D.C. area to just north of Tampa FL on the coast. As a boater who has trailered my boats to the public dock for the last four years I've seen quite a few mishaps and close calls and a few 'high pressure' public docks. High pressure in the sense that as the ramp lines grow, so do the tempers.
Of course there are many at the ramps with a wide range of experience. I've seen the new boat owners with the kids in life vests, getting really frustrated at the wife who is struggling to interpret the incredibly anxious and stressed out husband's directions, to the frustrated fishermen who are stuck in the water waiting for a chance to pull out (they are always coming in when the pleasure boating weekenders are heading out).
If I had a dollar for every newbie I've seen forget to take off their trailer straps or worse, forget to install their drain plug ( I always keep two or three on hand to give the exasperated boaters who think their day is over before it began) or forget to trim their prop when pulling out. And yet the majority of these 'mishaps' are caused not so much for forgetful newbies but rather these new boaters are letting the pressure of the ramp line get to them.
I've been there myself. In VA I first started off my boating at a public ramp at the state park. Me and half the state on Saturday mornings. The very first time I went out in my first boat I forgot to pull the outboard up and wedged it on the ramp. The line in the water was ten boats long and ten trucks deep up on land. I learned a thing right then and there about staying calm and running through my check list. Not just for the boats sake but also for safety. I've seen a few boaters forget their plugs and almost not make it back.
Down here in FL I put in at the local public dock. Five ramps and usually five deep at each ramp on the weekends at all times. This past weekend I put in at the peak hour on Saturday. No prob, I could do this in my sleep. Well, I go to fire up the engine and no deal. 5 minutes later and a dozen tries it still wouldn't fire. Seemed like there wasn't any fuel. Nope, full tank. Clogged line? Could be. I checked the carb and saw I was getting fuel. 10 minutes and the line getting longer and crankier. I was getting "the stares". No one came to ask if there was anything they could do, but instead a few hands in the air told me it's time to pull her out. My day was done before it started. But I told myself "keep your head". I made a mental check starting with the simple things first. Fuel? Check, Kill switch on? Che...nope. Then it hit me, I had paid my nephew to UV protect my interior and he must have hit the switch when wiping that area. A flip of the switch and away we went. Still faster than the pontoon in the ramp next to me.
So, keeping my head and not letting the line fluster me allowed me to think through the issue and get out on the water.
I've learned allot from putting in at the public ramps and a few things are;
-Keep your head. The folks on land are excited to get in the water but five minutes isn't going to kill them as you check off your gear.
-Offer a hand if you see someone having an issue. Motorcyclists are a close knit bunch (I've been riding for 12 years) boaters should be too.
-Be patient of new boaters and older boaters who may not be moving as fast as you would like them too. It's one thing if the old guy is standing around talking to his buddy but just because they are slow doesn't mean they don't have the right to be there.
-Oh, and I really don't like public ramps.