Given that it is the time of year for boat launching, I thought it might be a good idea to dust off a story I wrote a while back about how to back up a boat trailer. If you’re new to the process, you might find some helpful hints. If you’re an expert at this, you should get a laugh, and I hate you.
A few years ago, my wife and I decided to become “lake rats.” Technically, the term refers to people who own something that floats, usually motorized, and spend all their free time, and money, near water. In our case, the motorized floating apparatus was a pristine 1996 SeaDoo GTX on a single trailer.
We couldn’t wait to get the new purchase into the water, so the next Friday, we hooked up the PWC, jet ski, Doo, to the red Dodge Dakota, known as “Red”, and headed to our nearest state park with a lake. (We’re usually more creative with our vehicle names, but that one just seemed right for it.) We had loaded all the gear up the days before, and we found a nice spot on the beach to set up camp. Then we headed over to the boat ramp to launch the boat. Launching a boat requires the backing up of a vehicle down a steep ramp with a trailer attached. A trailer that has no intention of going in the direction that you expect. Again, for those of you that do this with little or no problem, simply, I hate you.
As I start backing into my approach down the ramp, my wife takes a position outside of my angle of view in the side mirror, and I can’t see her. I turn around to look out the back window of the crew cab and I can’t see her either. It’s like she’s disappeared. But I hear her. “Turn it this way,” she says. Then, “No, the other way”. Then she starts twirling her index finger in the air to the right and then to the left. How do I know this when I can’t see her? Because when I yelled out the open window, “I CAN’T F–KING SEE YOU!”, she moved into my angle of view and swirled a different finger to the right. That happened just before the trailer jackknifed behind the truck.
The term “jackknifed”, as used in this example, means the trailer was out to the side of the truck perpendicular to its intended line of travel just before the truck almost ran over it. I pulled forward and straightened it out. Started back down, stop, pull forward, straighten, turn the wheel to the right, trailer to the left, turn wheels left, trailer goes to the right. I managed to get the trailer the few hundred yards to the water using most of both lanes on the ramp, and ignoring the commands and twirling signals from my wife whom I couldn’t see anyway. I got the SeaDoo in the water and launched my wife. Okay, I know how that sounded, but she just jumped on the jet ski and sped away.
I went back to camp and waited and waited and waited. It was starting to get dark and we were about to violate rule number 1 “Don’t ride PWCs after sunset” on our first trip out with the SeaDoo. Okay, I was worried about my wife too. She’d been gone for a while, and even if she was mad at me, I didn’t think she would stay away that long. I was just about to jump in the truck and head out for the game warden when the SeaDoo beached on the shore and she jumped off.
“I got lost,” she said.
“I thought you were mad at me,” I said. “I was getting worried.”
“I am,” she said.
That’s all she said, and all I said, after that. I knew better. She was better by dinner time, and we had a nice day on Saturday riding the jet ski, getting some sun, and drinking. Rule number 2 is really rule number 1 and that is “Don’t drink and drive a PWC.” However, you get so much braver on a SeaDoo after you’ve had a couple of drinks. Those babies will go airborne.
Sunday morning, before we break camp, we decide to load up the SeaDoo. Again, this involves backing a trailer behind a truck down a single lane ramp at a severe angle while other trucks and trailers are attempting the same maneuver because everyone decides this Sunday morning that they want to go home EARLY. And now, I CAN’T SEE THE TRAILER AT ALL BEHIND THE TRUCK. It doesn’t stick up over the tailgate anywhere in sight like it did when the boat was on it, and I can’t see it from the sides either. You people who do this without a problem, you’re lying and I hate you.
The wife takes up a position behind the trailer, after riding the SeaDoo over from camp and beaching it by the boat ramp. “Can you see me?” she says in her sweetest voice. I can see through the sarcasm, that’s for sure. (More to Come.)