From early morning to late night, cruising on a river or lake in the Pacific Northwest can be one of the most relaxing and carefree experiences there is; there are so many positives about owning a boat - family time, alone time, fishing, water sports, exploring, overnight camping - the list goes on and on.

On the other hand, owning and operating a boat carries a lot of responsibility, and besides the obvious things, like having a boater's license, boat insurance, and knowing boater safety, you should know some simple boater's etiquette - especially when it comes to launching and pulling your watercraft out of the water.

If you're not lucky enough to rent or own a boat slip at one of the local yacht clubs, you're going to have to deal with boat launch traffic and people, sometimes rude and inconsiderate people (I've run into my share). This can create stress, especially if you're new at boating and driving a trailer.

If you're headed to a launch this summer here are a few things to consider before you go. These are not necessarily rules, more like suggestions and common courtesy. Lord knows I've broken most, if not all, of them.

1. RELAX! Plan your trip and don't be in a rush. When I arrive at the launch ready to go, meaning everything is loaded and all passengers know their role, I can focus on the task at hand - getting the boat launched smoothly.

2. SCAN the launch area and make sure you're situated correctly. The last thing you want is a miss - you want to nail it the first time.

3. KEYS IN HAND. While you wait, have your rope lines, bumper buoys, and keys handy. Once you have the trailer and prop in the water, you don't to be fumbling around looking for the keys.

4. START THE ENGINE before releasing from the trailer. If for some reason the engine won't start, you'll be able to quickly remove your boat from the ramp and troubleshoot in an area that won't block other happy boaters. Trust me, if you try and troubleshoot on the launch, you will get yelled at.

5. LAUNCH AND MOVE the boat to a tie-down area. If you're solo, this can be challenging. The main thing is to know where you're going before launch. Then you can quickly get to and remove the empty trailer to the parking area. If you have passengers, consider having one of them park the trailer while you stay with the boat.

6. DON'T LINGER in the tie-down area. All the organizing and preparation should've been done in step one. Once everyone is seated - start exiting the tie-down area and go have a fun day boating.

7. RETURN SCAN! Heading back to the boat ramp creates at least a little anxiety for most boaters, especially when things are backed up - it can be chaotic - but if you have a plan you'll be out of the water in shipshape. Refer to rule #1 - relax.

8. DROP OFF. If you're not solo and have a trusted passenger to assist, have them wait in the boat while you retrieve the trailer. If it's just you, you have the added step of tying up. Don't forget your vehicle keys.

9. WAIT YOUR TURN AGAIN. Just because you're pulling out of the water, doesn't mean you go to the front of the line (I've seen this done and it doesn't end well - lots of yelling and screaming).

10. DON'T DILLY-DALLY. Back in, drive the boat onto the trailer, pull the motor up, and hook up only what is necessary to pull out safely to the staging area. If you attempt to organize and clean up your boat on a busy ramp, you will get called out.

So there you have it, 10 things to consider when launching or retrieving a boat. I like rule #1 the best - RELAX!  Check out this boat ramp fail video - yikes!

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