Smalley’s boat launch etiquette

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Early this summer, I pulled my 12-foot aluminum boat to the launch area of McWinegar Slough to fish for whatever was biting.

Backing a boat trailer to the water can be tricky at this popular recreation lake on U.S. Highway 2 east of Kalispell due to lack of space.

When I arrived I found a small passenger car with two kayak racks parked right where I needed to back my truck.

After much maneuvering (read that: forward and back many times) I managed to squeeze the boat trailer past the car and into the water.

Across the lake were two kayakers paddling back to the landing.

When they got within hearing distance, one guy shouted, “I’m an idiot! I’m so sorry. I never should’ve parked there.”

Well, that diffused the animated speech I’d been practicing, which included a lecture about, unless they had purchased a fishing license, they hadn’t paid anything to use that launch.

Boaters, all boaters, need to pay more attention to other boaters at boat access sites.

Here’s some tips that will keep your chin out of the path of someone else’s fist at boat ramps:

• DO NOT BLOCK THE LAUNCH LANE. Be in the launch lane only when you are ready to back up or when you pull out and must secure boat straps.

• Use the parking spaces to load and unload your boat. If the parking spaces are far away, at least pull out of the launch lane. Beverages, tackle boxes and baby strollers can be loaded in the parking area.

• Move away from the launch area as soon as possible. Fewer people means less chance of accidents, especially involving small children.

• Wait your turn. Just because your boat is worth more than mine doesn’t mean you can cut the launch line.

• Be patient. Boaters are people and people do forget things and make mistakes!

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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