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Boat Ramp Etiquette
Boaters have great launch facilities, but where do you park?

By: Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN  4/22/08

South Mississippi’s waterways and instant access to the Gulf of Mexico are excellent natural resources to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the reasons many boaters come to our coast. Only a few brand new or renovated marinas and launch facilities have been built since Hurricane Katrina and available for boaters. While those that have been rebuilt are better than ever before. the Coast is still without its usual number of boat ramps. Biloxi is restoring its main harbor, and Gulfport has yet to begin its harbor restoration, though its ramps are heavily in use every weekend.

But there is a rising concern among boaters: where do we park once we launch our boat? A good example is the new boat launching/beach access area at Courthouse Road and Hwy. 90. This area is a wonderful design with excellent access to both beach and water, but the parking areas near the Ken Combs pier that are clearly striped for tow vehicle parking, are routinely occupied by single vehicles. This means those towing trailers must seek parking spots elsewhere—if they can find any. (Photo right: cars parked in parking area meant for tow vehicles and boat trailers in Gulfport)

Meanwhile, all around the perimeter of launch ramp parking lot—and all of an adjacent parking area—are single vehicle parking spaces that remain almost empty. The same phenomenon can be see at all of our public boat ramps from Waveland to Ocean Springs and along the area's bays.

So where does the parking problem lie?  One would like to think it’s just plain ignorance on the part of those who take away the few parking spaces allotted for those towing boat trailers—and not the driver of single vehicles purposely being discourteous to boaters.

Those in charge of our boat launching facilities along our Coast should clearly mark the trailer/tow vehicle parking areas as such. Doing so would educate non-boaters long parking spaces are for tow vehicle/trailers and the short ones are for vehicle without trailers in-tow.

Boat-ramp etiquette applies to boaters, too. Parking a tow vehicle and boat trailer so it blocks part of an adjacent parking space is just as much a problem as a single vehicle taking up the valuable space..

We’ve all heard of road rage and may have experienced a little ourselves at one time or another. But there’s no reason for it to happen at a boat ramp. If each of us takes a moment or two to observe what is happening around us and applies the basic launch area courtesies and etiquette, we’ll have a relaxing day at the beach and on our Gulf Coast’s waters.

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About the writer:  Bruce W. Smith is owner of Editorial Services in Long Beach and writes full-time for many national boating, automotive, and outdoor magazines. He is also the author of McGraw-Hill’s “The Complete Guide To Trailering Your Boat” available through local book stores.

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