Slip Sliding Away

It’s rare to find a boat ramp in perfect condition.  Concrete cracks and breaks apart with hot and cold temperature changes.  Wooden ramps are no better, and they ultimately rot and chip.  Any boater knows that if you add algae or seaweed a ramp can be as slippery as ice.

A few weeks ago I was checking out a ramp that was new to me, and I watched a truck slide sideways while trying to haul up the ramp.  The driver’s rig had four-wheel drive, but his tires couldn’t get any traction.  I grabbed a tow rope from my truck and walked down to help tow him up the ramp.  Although I was careful I still slipped and fell on my butt on the way to his rig.

After pulling him up the ramp, I figured I’d run into a similar problem when I went to launch my boat.  But what if no one was around?  I called a few friends to see what they did in a similar situation.  One friend said to let most of the air out of my tires.  It was a brilliant idea and one that I never would have thought of on my own.

When we run the beaches we drop our tire pressure to about 17 PSI.  A fully inflated tire on soft sand digs in.  As soon as you hit the gas peddle the tires sink in to the sand, sometimes up to the axel.  To avoid that problem, off-road drivers deflate tire pressure which allows for more surface area.  In that instance, the wider surface area means better traction.

I backed down the ramp to launch without incident, just a little slip when I hit the brake as the boat hit the water.  With the boat off the trailer (lighter weight) I got up the ramp easily enough.  The issues came when I tried to haul with the boat on the trailer, and I slipped away.  So I dropped the tire pressure on my front two tires to 17 PSI, put my rig in gear, and creeped up to the top of the ramp.  I drove slowly to the gas station that was a mile away, filled up the tank and the tires, and headed home.  If I keep using the ramp I just might ask for a portable air compressor for Father’s Day.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at