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When I was 16 and had a newly minted driver’s license, my father let me take his boat down to Iamonia Lake to go hunting with my friend Curt Capps. I’d been driving since I was about 12, so that part was no problem. What I had never done before was back a boat trailer down a ramp.
What followed was a series of stops and starts, yelling and cussing, along with riotous laughter from the flock of old men at the Clubhouse, who were well-known for showing neither mercy nor any inclination to help in situations like this.
Curt, who was about as strong as four normal humans, finally got out, unhitched the boat trailer from the truck and walked it down to the water’s edge.
“Now, just back the truck down to the trailer,” he said. “I’ll hook it back up when you’re at the water.”
Our solution was elegant in its simplicity. Plus, it shut up the peanut gallery and allowed us to go hunting in peace. When we came back, we repeated the procedure with the empty trailer. It was brilliant, we thought.
One person who did not appreciate our ingenuity, however, was my father. When word got back to him, he was livid. Forgetting that he had raised four other sons, he was pretty sure he had spent hours teaching me to do this.
“I know damn well I showed you how to back a trailer,” he said. (Daddy sometimes had what I like to refer to as a “revisionist memory.”)
I helpfully pointed out that I was about five when he sold the truck he supposedly used to teach me. At that point, he fell back on his old standby: “Well, you ought to have enough common sense to figure it out.”
After that day, I made it my business to get really good at backing a trailer. In the years since, I’ve done it hundreds of times in all sorts of conditions and with all types of boats. And I’ve learned that a lot more people could have benefited greatly from my experience.
With that in mind, here is my abbreviated list of dos and don’ts for launching and/or loading boats.
DO: Launch your boat quickly and get out of my way.
DON’T: Do anything else. At all. Period.
And I don’t care if nobody ever showed you how. You ought to have enough sense to figure it out.