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Extreme Boat Launches
Do-It-Yourself Pier Dangle
Gaviota Beach, California
Pucker Factor: High
Best Boat: Any craft under 21 feet and less than 2,000 pounds
Pacific City Beach, Oregon
Pucker Factor: High
Best Boat: 20- to 22-foot locally built wood dory
Yet, why surf launch? Why not use the ramp in, say, Tillamook? Firstly, the Tillamook launch ramp is 30 miles away, and the seas in between are often snotty. Secondly, the best fishing for halibut, lingcod and rockfish is just a quarter-mile off Pacific City Beach. So bustin’ out through the surf sounds like a reasonable option.
Wood's Good: “The best dory is a wood dory,” says doryman Bruce Polley. “It’s lighter than fiberglass and easier to muscle around.” While there are fiberglass dories, most used for this unique technique are in the 20- to 22-foot range and built by local custom shops.
Cape Kiwanda protects the beach from northwest swells, and a paved ramp lets you back your trailer over the dry sand before reaching the packed sand. You launch the boat by shoving it off its roller trailer into the suds, and while one crew member spins the boat around and holds it in the shore wash, the other parks the trailer.
That’s dicey enough, but things gets extreme when it’s time to push out. Crews manhandle their boats until they’re deep enough and then hop in and hope the engine starts. Skippers time the waves to avoid catastrophe but regularly get pounded by the rolling surf.
Surfin' USA: Running back in is a matter of picking a wave and staying behind it until the boat slides onto the sand. Judicial use of the outboard trim keeps the lower unit from dragging. In case of engine failure, you’ll need to row back in, albeit backwards to keep the bow to the waves.
Crews use tow straps to pull beached boats to firmer sand, and then back a roller trailer under the bow and winch up the boat. Unconventional, for sure, but all in a day of fishing for the dorymen of Pacific City Beach.