Monday, Jul 28, 2014
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Three Stooges moments abound at boat ramp


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Forrest Gump and the muumuu lady deliver a dockside show in Dunedin as boaters and their trailers come together in a comedy of errors.
 
Marinas and boat ramps resemble a beehive at this time of year. And the traffic at some busy ramps makes the conclusion of a gorgeous day on the water a challenge to one’s patience.
 
Case in point: After launching our boat at a Dunedin marina on a lovely spring morning, my family went for a splendid ride and picnic. At day’s end, we joined the stampede of boats back at the ramp. Gone was the smell of fresh sea air, replaced by burning rubber. The sound of chirping gulls gave way to the din of groaning pulleys. Smiling faces and friendly chitchat morphed into menacing scowls.
 
I could only wonder if some of the chaotic battle scenes from “Saving Private Ryan” were filmed here.
 
When our turn finally came to tie up at the dock so I could fetch the trailer, a full-figured lady hovered menacingly in front of the open spot in order to reserve it for a boat behind us. Gazing up at her, I beheld a disturbing sight: hair like dollar weed, lips spray-painted a sickly UPS-brown and a monstrous, fluttering muumuu enveloping her that easily could double as a spinnaker. A seemingly immovable object, she blocked the sun like a cellulite eclipse and grunted frighteningly through a cavernous mouth that only a bat would love. I obediently waved the boat behind us to move ahead, figuring the potential of bodily injury didn’t merit another five-minute wait.
 
The delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for we quickly became audience to a comedic tragedy. A Forrest Gump look-alike backed a float-on trailer only a few feet into the water and moments later got out of his car, boarded the boat and attempted to gun his 25-footer all the way up the trailer. However, the boat stopped halfway.
 
Because the boat didn’t fully “float on” to the trailer, Forrest hopped out of the boat and started cranking double-fisted on the trailer winch. In case you’re unfamiliar with boat trailers, a hook from a winch attaches to a bow eye via nylon webbing or steel cable so the boat can be pulled up tight.
 
Unfortunately, Forrest couldn’t budge the heavy vessel with the winch, so he returned to the car and backed the trailer again. After doing so, he re-boarded the boat and pushed down hard on the throttle. By now everyone at the marina had stopped what he or she was doing to gaze wide-eyed at this hopeless debacle.
 
Forrest still only managed to get the bow eye about a foot shy of the hitch. Figuring that was close enough, he jumped into the car and hit the gas. With the tires spinning and smoking and the boat prop still rooster-tailing water, the hitch ball disconnected from the trailer.
 
Becoming more reminiscent of a Three Stooges movie by the minute, Forrest jacked up the trailer tongue, but when he again backed down the ramp to line up the hitch over the ball, the jack collapsed and the trailer slid down the ramp. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
 
It was about this time that someone capable of talking while laughing offered assistance, and mercifully Forrest finally departed to a chorus of applause and whoops from the crowd.
 
Confronted with the choice of the electric chair, lethal injection or supervising a busy public boat ramp, I’m not sure which I’d choose. But who cares — any delays aren’t going to deter boaters from crowding into marinas and boat ramps because a lovely day on the water is simply worth it.

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