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Author Topic:   More Launch Ramp stories
jimh posted 04-25-2001 09:30 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Two Tales from the Launch Ramp:

Sunday started out as a nice day so I thought of launching the Whaler 15. First, though, I would have to turn the water back on outdoors so I could test run the engine on muffs.

Oh, yeah, I recalled, that outdoor faucet leaks like a seive. This would be a good time to fix it, while the water system is off.

That turned out to be a 3-trip-to-the-hardware-store project, buying some new valve handles, new valve packing, new valve stem, etc.

Finally, after lunch and on to about 2 p.m., I was ready to get water from the hose in the driveway.

I pulled the 15-Sport out of the garage, put the muffs on it, and started up my 26-year old MERC 500 on the first crank.

By the time I gathered up all the odds and ends for the boat, it was raining.

Well, I put my boat back in the garage and drove over to the launch ramp anyways, just to see how it looked this spring, what the lake level was, and so on.

When I got there is was raining rather hard, and a couple of boats had just come off the lake to load onto their trailers.

One was a 20-foot bowrider I/O. The tow vehicle was an old Lincoln Town Car, and the trailer was a bunk/float-on. It was interesting to see their rig. The guy had a weight distributing hitch. I always like to see people towing with cars instead of trucks or SUVs.

The ramp at this lake is not very steep, so to get the trailer under the boat he had to back in until the rear wheels (of the car) were just in the water. The long rear deck of the Town Car in addition to the long trailer tongue caused the winch stand to end up about ten feet offshore! The back end of the trailer was buried, the axle submerged, and most of the wheels.

This ramp has a courtesy dock, but it is not a long one. To get the trailer under the boat they had to push the boat off a bit, so that most of it was out beyond the end of the dock. Fortunately, there was no wind at all. It would have been hard to manage the boat at this point if there was a cross wind.

They pulled the boat onto the trailer with mooring lines, then the guy hopped aboard from the dock, walked out on the foredeck, leaned over, and connected the winch cable. This boat did not have any bow railing, which allowed him to make the next manuever: he climbed down off the bow of the boat onto the trailer. Standing on the trailer frame he winched up the bow strap and brought the boat forward into the bow stop.

From his perch on the trailer he jumped back onto the dock and went back to the Town Car.
The big V-8 Lincoln had no trouble pulling the boat out of the low-sloped ramp, but once the boat was out of the water, he got out of the car to inspect how it had landed on the trailer.

He was not satisfied with the landing the boat made on the bunks, so he backed the rig down the ramp again, floating the boat off.
Again, the car wheels came right down to the water's edge, and maybe a few inches into the water.

This time his wife positioned the boat using the mooring lines and her foot, and they hauled the bowrider and trailer out a second time.

He stopped again on the ramp, got out, inspected the boat on the trailer, seemed to be satified, got back in the car, and drove over to the tie-down area.


I sat in the car for a while listening to "This American Life" on WUOM, a 275,000 watt
FM station operated by the University of Michigan about 60 miles away.

Once the rain let up a bit, a fellow and his son pulled up with an old '70's green fiberglass tri-hull 17-footer with an 85 Evinrude of the same vintage. I strolled over to take a look at this classic. The guy just bought it at an auction for $300. The engine runs well, he says, but there is some rotted plywood in the floorboards; otherwise it looks like a bargain.

The boat is on a keel-roller trailer, with about five rollers mounted on the central tube of the trailer. He backs it in with his Dodge mini-Van.

The boat sits rather tall on the trailer and the transom is still about a foot out of the water. He pulls the pin the the hinged trailer and tries to shove the boat off, still able to stand on the ramp at this point. Nothing moves.

After a couple of unsuccessful heaves, I politely suggest that he is going to have to back the boat in farther in order to get it off the trailer. Also, I mention he should put the pin back in the trailer hinge before moving it.

He backs the boat in farther, rolling the mini-van rear wheels just to the water. Now he has a problem, as the winch post is offshore about three feet and he is not wearing any boots. To reach the winch he performs the most amazing ballet dance across the bumper of the mini-van and down the tongue of the trailer. All the while I am thinking about how awful a fall this poor guy could take. Remember everything is wet from the rain and there is some oil and grease on the trailer.

Somehow he makes it to the winch post, and he again gives the boat a heave, although not as powerful a push as before since he has to maintain his balance on the trailer. Still no movement.

I discretely walk to the end of the courtesy dock to see it the tie downs are off; yes, he has removed them (if there were any).

I finally offer more advice, "It looks like you'll have to back in just a bit more. This is a shallow ramp."

The fellow gets off the trailer, again executing an amazing move along the tongue and bumper to regain solid ground.

He backs in another foot or so, the mini-van wheels in the water now, but the transom of the tri-hull finally hitting the water.

Another boater who is wearing hip waders comes over to assist. He wades down the ramp and gives the old boat a shove. It finally slides into the lake. The boater's young son hangs on to the 1/4-inch polypropelyne blue-and-gray frayed mooring line.

The driver hauls the trailer out of the lake and I see the problem. All the keel roller axles have rusted or otherwise ceased to rotate. They have been that way for some time because most of the rubber rollers have had a vee-notch worn in them from the boat keel!

I go over to the trailer and try to rotate one of them; it is stuck pretty hard; it would be impossible to turn with the weight of the boat on it and in the vee-notch.

By that that time it was getting close to 5 p.m. and I had to get back for dinner. I don't know how the old boat ran or how the recovery onto the trailer worked out. I bet it was interesting.

The skies cleared up again about 8 p.m., but I was too tired to make another run at the lake and not keen on going out there after dark on my maiden voyage. Our initial launch is still to be accomplished.

lhg posted 04-25-2001 02:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Jim - Thanks for the stories, and underlying message. But, I think you're spending too much time running this site and not doing enough boat improvement projects or boating!
Get out there and have some fun! Or has the weather been THAT bad in Detroit? This weekend will be my 4th consecutive weekend of boating/fishing out on the Lake.
jimh posted 04-25-2001 11:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     

The weather has been uncannily bad on the weekends here. This past weekend, for example, was a downpour on Saturday all day. Sunday was sunny in the morning, but it rained all afternoon.

Maybe next weekend!


Bullbay posted 04-29-2001 09:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bullbay  Send Email to Bullbay     
Jim - I enjoyed the stories. I have none to tell except that we were at Lake Wylie this last weekend and the ramp was busy. By the time my wife got the truck down to the ramp the guys beside us had managed to get a 29' something out of the water with their three axle trailer while I was still getting my Montauk on my trailer. It was amazing! It took all of three minutes. The houses on Lake Wylie are incredible with the Charlotte Hornets, Panthers and .coms owning a lot of them. Would not want to get on there in the middle of the summer as it was really crowded last week with an overcast day and a lot of wind.
Chesapeake posted 04-30-2001 04:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chesapeake  Send Email to Chesapeake     
Sheepishly, I feel compelled to recount a story from one of my early launches with my 17'. It was only about my third or fourth launch of the whaler off of the back of an old Holesclaw trailer. It was the first day of vacation in 1995 and my wife (of two months) and I were renting a cabin on a small 500 acre lake in Northern Wisconsin known as Oxbow Lake. As luck would have it, I was backing down the ramp with the help of my then brand new father-in-law (Who offered but was not permitted to stay for vacation).

Actually to call it a ramp would be an exageration. It was more like a few railroad ties buried in some gravel. To make a long story longer... I unhooked everything handed the lines to my father-in-law and told him to hang on when I hit the brakes.

I did this two or three times and ... nothing. The boat did not move. I drove back up the "ramp", back down and slammed the breaks three or four more times. Still nothing. It was at this point that my father-in-law said to me: "Bob, it looks like it is ready to slide right off, but then the chain hooked on to the front snaps tight and that's it." That's when I got out of the truck, sheepishly looked at Jerry, unhooked the chain and properly dispatched the boat. Of course, I didn't have the plug in either and the boat started to fill up with water. It was at this point Jerry started mumbling something about an "east coast idiot" and I believe the word annullment was also mentioned. BTW, he hasn't yet taken me up on my offer to teach him how to shoot a shotgun!

Thinking back on the important lesson, it was a wonder that I didn't pull the eye right out from the hull.


Wagon1 posted 04-30-2001 07:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Wagon1  Send Email to Wagon1     
Like Chesapeake, I'd like to say I saw someone do this, but it was me. I launch my 13 alone much of the time, and as most folks here know, it is a piece of cake. I hold the bow line in one hand, and push off with the other. At a fairly crowded ramp last year I pushed her off, and down she went. As I held onto the bow line and waited for the line to get tight to pull her in, I looked out in horror as the boat kept going, and the bowline, which was NOT connected the cleat, feel off into the water. Boy, that water was cold!!
triblet posted 05-14-2001 10:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
I was unloading my whaler in the parking lot
at the Monterey breakwater yesterday when
these guys (2-3 adults, about four kids) pull
their 20-something foot boat out and, rather
than taking a parking place, stop in the
middle one of the lanes, in a place where
they block access to the ramp a bit, and
start unloading and tying the boat down.

About that time the Game Warden pulls up,
parks next to me, and starts walking over
to the other boat. The adults all get the
guiltiest looks I've ever seen. The warden
has them all haul their fish box over to his
truck, and I hear the warden talking about
shorts, and limits, and valid licenses, and
he starts writing citations.

And at about this point somebody wants them
to move, and they can't -- they've locked
their keys in their running van.

I think they had a bad day.

The boat: a Bayliner.


lhg posted 05-14-2001 12:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Ah yes, one of our "sisterships"!
Tom Byrum posted 05-16-2001 10:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom Byrum  Send Email to Tom Byrum     
Man your cold Larry. Cold cold cold. hehe
Eric posted 05-16-2001 11:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for Eric  Send Email to Eric     
Hey, how about an instant IQ test? If you've got a Bayliner....

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