The jet ski/tower boat thread got me thinking of this little thing I wrote a while back. It's actually an expanded version of a post I wrote on here a few years back. It's been submitted and rejected by every outdoor and boating magazine in existence, so there's no sense letting it languish on my flash drive. Here it is. Let me know if it's good, funny, sucks, or whatever:
Boat Ramp Champs
This weekend I launched my skiff at a crowded urban ramp, rather than at the quieter nature coast ramps I’m used to. While stressful, the experience gave me an opportunity to observe some of our local Florida boat ramp inhabitants in their natural habitat. Read along and see if any of these are familiar to you.
First, we have Pontoon Paul. Pontoon Paul has no concept of a make ready lane. He backs his pontoon boat right down to the water, where he proceeds to start loading the boat. Coolers, life jackets (optional), pool noodles, beer and sometimes a barbeque grill all go aboard right there at the ramp. While Paul is working on this task, his entire 15 person party begins to pile out of the van. As soon as you think they’re all out, another one appears. The process is reminiscent of clowns exiting a Volkswagen at your local circus. Once the entire crew has cleared the van, they aimlessly mill about the area while Paul continues his preparations.
At some point, Paul has finally stowed the kitchen sink in his boat and is ready to go. He manages to get it launched with the help of two or three members of his group shouting contradictory instructions at him from the dock. Now that it’s safely in the water, Paul moors as close to the ramp as he can using no less than five tangled lines. The idea that someone else would like to launch after him never crosses his mind. His crew begins to board and spends ten minutes playing a loud and argumentative game of musical chairs while Paul attempts to fire up his outboard which was last started the previous September.
It is at this point that we meet Tower Boat Tommy. Tommy roars into the boat basin in his sweet new bay boat with custom tower, hull wrap and maximum rated horsepower. His skeg still carries bits of grass and manatee hide from his full throttle forays across the flats. Tommy’s on board sound system is killer; the thumping beats of the latest top 40 country song carry across the water, turning this small community park into a first rate concert venue. Tommy skillfully eases up to the courtesy dock to drop off his partner and then circles while said partner retrieves the tow vehicle. His buddy soon returns with their custom lifted ¾ ton 4x4 pickup with gleaming 24 inch chrome rims, trailer in tow. Once the trailer is at proper depth, Tommy takes careful aim and hammers the throttle while executing a magnificent power load. Why else would one have a 350 horsepower outboard if not to do this? Tommy throws a ten foot rooster tail of sediment and creates a large, tsunami-like wake which races across the boat basin. Within moments the wake crashes full force into Pontoon Paul, throwing roughly half of his crew to the deck. Paul, still trying to coax his outboard to life, barely notices.
As the first round of excitement winds down, Jet Ski Joey makes his appearance. The experienced eye will always be able to pick up on the signs of his presence. You will initially notice the BMW coupe towing a twin jet ski trailer in the parking lot. Moving to the water’s edge, one observes a thin film of hair gel floating on the water like a small oil slick. When these signs are present, Jet Ski Joey can’t be far behind. As he eases into the boat basin, we are initially blinded by the gleam from his gold chain necklace, which is heavy enough to completely negate the buoyancy provided by his PFD. After doing a few gnarly 360’s for any babes who might be watching from the shore, Joey decides to head to the dock. Unfortunately, Joey forgets that his craft loses steerage when he comes off the throttle and he hits Pontoon Paul in the stern with a solid thud just as Paul was coaxing that old outboard to life. Tempers flare on both sides, but Joey quickly realizes he is outnumbered and makes a tactical retreat. Paul finally manages to start his outboard and the party eases away in a cloud of blue smoke.
With Pontoon Paul gone, our old friend Snowbird Saul takes center stage. Saul makes a bold fashion statement in his seven inch inseam shorts, and sandals with navy dress socks. The Sanibel Island logo hat acquired at a beach shop is optional. Saul starts by moseying up to the fish cleaning table where he asks what each fish is, then loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that the ol’ Smallie fights harder than any of these fancy Florida fish. When no one seems very interested in his gems of wisdom Saul and his wife make their way to the first available courtesy dock. They are able to take up the entire dock for five minutes while they film a brown pelican sitting on a piling. A budding David Attenborough, Saul dramatically narrates the video as the pelican preens itself and takes a massive dump on the dock. I’m sure the grandkids back in Jersey will be riveted.
When all was said and done, I finally managed to get my skiff launched without any damage, heart attacks or fist fights. Rather than getting angry or frustrated, I just had to laugh, enjoy the free entertainment and be thankful that I usually launch before sunrise on practically deserted nature coast ramps.