There's only one launch ramp on this side of the lake," I say to Fred. I'm playing the proud passenger "in the know." Then comes the cautionary statement: "And it's great because nobody uses it."
Sure enough, off to the right side of a lightly traveled road to a campground is a clearing, about 10 feet wide and with a small slab of concrete leading down to a glass-calm lake. The so-called ramp meets the road at a 90-degree angle.
Worse, chaos is breaking out in the truck. Walleye Dan and I are hungry. We turn up the radio. We tattle on each other. We want to go boating … now! Fred's ears are burning. Only he's busy eyeballing the ramp, the one nobody else wants to use.
Gold: Unflappable Fred
Had the boat on the ramp in less than three minutes and did not scold anyone.
"I keep my focus on the most important element." His eyes look to the right through the entire exercise.
"In this case, the key is to watch my trailer tires when backing into that 90-degree turn. As soon as the first tire breaks past the edge of the launch ramp, I crank the wheel. I'm watching only the sideview mirror on the passenger side; I want to keep that tire close to the edge of the ramp. My [driver's] side will be fine, if that side is lined up. I pay no attention to the noise in the truck."
Silver: Walleye Dan
Was gentle with a heckler, but lost points for the gurgling at the transom (missing plug).
"The most important thing for me at the ramp is to eliminate distractions so I can get into a zone. I turn off the radio and cell phone, and if a passenger gets too talkative [which he did], I'll find a tactful way to get him out of the truck [which he did]. I'll ask fishing customers to stand by the ramp and hold a line tied to the boat while I launch it." The passenger in this event broke Eigen's concentration so much that he forgot to put in the plug before launching.
Bronze: John The Tactician
A model of patience, yes, but he could not offset the handicapping size of his rig.
"I didn't leave myself enough room in front of the truck on my first attempts and got painted into a corner."
He got the job done after six tries, catching some tree branches before finally turning his rig the opposite direction on the road to make the move onto the ramp possible. "In hindsight, I should have faced the truck in the direction where the most space was. That would have allowed me to maneuver and reposition, as needed."