Friday, August 22, 2008

Don't Be a Ramp Hog

One of my favorite places to launch when I'm Lasering on my own is Colt State Park in Bristol because it has two boat ramps with a dock between them. It's very easy for me to launch my boat and tie it up to the dock while putting my dolly ashore. And ditto in reverse when I return.

I could launch off one of the many beaches in the area but after launching there's always that awkward "let go of the boat, run up the beach with the dolly, estimate state of tide during the next few hours and make sure dolly will be above the water all the time, drop dolly, run back to boat, and hope that in the meantime it hasn't (a) drifted out of reach, (b) capsized, or (c) been smashed on to the beach by wind and/or waves thereby causing extensive scratching, scraping and dinging of my precious gelcoat necessitating extremely tedious and time-consuming repair, and ditto in reverse when I return" process.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, the boat ramp. Beaches are fine if there are two (or more) Laserites going for a yot. One can hold the boats while the other deals with the dollies. On your own, a ramp and a convenient place to tie up the boat are perfect.

So last Sunday I went over to Colt planning a bit of a yot around the bay on a perfect afternoon for Lasering. Big mistake.

I had forgotten. In the middle of the week this is a relatively quiet spot. At the weekend on a sunny afternoon in August it's somewhat busier. Actually a lot busier. And worse than that, every yahoo in Rhode Island who has just bought a jetski, or a fishing boat, or a catamaran but has no idea on how to sail it, is there.

And nobody has taught these guys ramp etiquette. So let me make it simple. If you are using a boat ramp there are three cardinal rules...
  • if someone is already using the ramp (even if he is only a Laser sailor) it's impossible for the two of you to occupy the same piece of real estate simultaneously

  • minimize the time you have to use the ramp by preparing everything possible in advance

  • wait your turn.
I guess it could have been worse. I only came close three times to making the TV news headlines with a story along the lines of "Ramp Rage Rampage By Loony Laserite" or "Brit Boater Arrested In Ramp Rage Riot".

The first time was when I was launching. I'm pretty quick. Probably occupy the ramp for less than a minute. But that didn't stop some dude in a motorboat from roaring in from the bay and attempting to tie up to the dock outside of me. The ramp is fairly narrow and there are rocks on the other side, so as he drifted perpendicular to the dock he was totally blocking my exit to the bay. And I was totally blocking his exit to the ramp. I don't know what he was thinking. His mate was shouting something about whether he wanted a "rope" from the "back end". His language may not have been very nautical but he had the right idea. If they pulled in the stern there was a chance that I might be able to sail round them. Anyway the "rope to the back end" didn't materialize and I watched as the propellers of the twin outboard drifted on to the aforementioned rocks.

I waited. I watched. I patiently stood there holding my Laser ready to sail away whenever they left me some room to do so.

There was a lot of grinding of metal on rock. There was a lot of shouting. Engines were raised. Voices were raised. Engines were gunned. Water was churned. Voices were raised some more.

I waited. I adopted my best British supercilious stare. I tried to communicate telepathically, "If you two gentlemen hadn't been in such a hurry I would have been out of here by now and you wouldn't have to be putting up with this silent supercilious stare."

Eventually the two dudes worked out that the best thing was for them to go out and come in for another shot. In the meantime I sailed skilfully out of the dock while trying to communicate telepathically, "I'm a real boater. You are ramp hogs. Have a nice day."

I went for a yot around the bay. Superb afternoon for sailing. Flat out hiking upwind. Riding the waves downwind. After a couple of hours I headed back to the ramp.

There was a catamaran tied up to the downwind side of the dock where I had left my dolly. There was a man and a woman and a dog on it. The jib was flapping in the wind. The mainsail wasn't up. The man seemed to be busy doing something at the mast. The woman and the dog were watching him.

I went for another bit of a yot. I practiced some tacks and some gybes and some mark roundings. After ten minutes or so I went back to the dock. The catamaran was still there. The man was still busy doing something. The woman and the dog were still watching him.

Hey ho. What the hell. I went for another bit of a yot. Had fun reaching on the waves. Blasted around doing some Laser style soul sailing. After another ten minutes or so I went back to the dock. It looked like the man had just about finished whatever he was doing. In any case they drifted off the dock with the jib flapping in the wind. As they sailed past me I saw that the man actually was still busy doing something with the mast and the woman and the dog looked scared. It wasn't entirely clear to me if they were actually sailing or just drifting off in the general direction of Barrington. Whatever.
I communicated to them telepathically, "I'm a real boater. You are ramp hogs. Have a nice day." I think the dog may have been receiving.

There wasn't anybody on land or on the water waiting to use the ramp so I sailed in, jumped off my boat, and started taking out the daggerboard and lifting the rudder. Just then, a rusty trailer carrying a jetski started coming down the ramp towards me. I couldn't even see the vehicle to which the trailer was attached so sure as hell the driver couldn't see me. (Though you would think he could have seen the top of my mast?) So I hollered to make sure he was aware that he was about to run over a Loony Laserite Brit Boater about to have a serious case of Ramp Rage. He stopped halfway down the ramp. At least he hadn't crushed me beneath his rusty trailer. I tied up my boat and retrieved my dolly and put my boat on the dolly. The rusty trailer was still halfway down the ramp but I could just squeeze past him and luckily the wind direction was such that I didn't break too many windows on his SUV with the end of my boom.

While giving him one of those friendly guy how-ya-doing nods I also sent an urgent telepathic
communication saying, "I'm a real boater. You are a ramp hog. Have a nice day." I don't think he was receiving. And he didn't even have a dog to act as translator.

So please please please don't be a ramp hog.


EVK4 said...

This post deserves more comments.

tillerman said...


I thought it would generate lots of other ramp hog stories.

Maybe it was too long.

Maybe I took too long to get to the point.

Maybe all the readers of this blog are ramp hogs themselves and don't appreciate being insulted by me.

Maybe we don't get what we deserve in this life.

Maybe this post will get lots of comments in heaven.

O Docker said...

OK, ramp hog story.

This is way too long, which is why I didn't post it to begin with, but you were desperate, right?

Once upon a time, before we got The Big Bad Boat, we had one of those 'sensible' family-style sailing dinghies - the kind Laser sailors love to turn their noses up at.

No, it didn't plane, and no, you didn't scream 'woohoo' a lot, but it was a great trainer. If you spend more time in the boat than in the water, it's amazing what you can learn. It needed about 6-8 knots of breeze to wake up - less than that and the pace was sedate.

The problem here in rednec....uh, semi-rural northern California is that on a typical summer day at the lake, powerboats outnumber sailboats about 800,000 to one.

And a few of those powerboaters haven't a clue what makes a sailboat go, or which can of beer you put down to make the powerboat stop.

Imagine the shear exhileration of timing a perfect approach to the ramp under sail in 1.2 knots of breeze only to see 300 horsepower of American Pride gunning for the same 12 feet of dock. Hereabouts, right of way issues are resolved with the throttle. Now imagine that happening eight times in a row on the same afternoon.

On one such afternoon my wife advised me that would be her last trip to the lake.

So the launch ramp was both a good thing and a bad thing for us. The good part was that it meant we'd eventually get a bigger boat.

The bad part was that it meant we'd eventually get a bigger boat.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, this bribgs back memories. I'm just back from Salcombe Regatta week where we launched from the boatyard. There were about 50 dinghies parked for the week so it was bound to be busy but of course the ramp was also used by day launching power boats.

Usually the power boats were happy to argue with each other but one day I was standing at the waters edge with my daughters Topper trolly when I realised I was being pushed towards the water. Turning round I saw I huge black outboard towering over me and still moving. Scary !


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