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Monday, 12 January 2015

Townsville Boat Ramps - Coast Guard Ramp

The well known Coast Guard ramp is the primary launching facility that services the Townsville region. The CG ramp is located on Sir Leslie Thiess Drive in the middle of the city. It is easily located by heading toward the Casino. Full details are in the video below. This ramp is currently Townsville's only launch site suitable for all tide ocean access for larger offshore vessels.

There are two separate 3 lane ramps here. For convenience they will be referred to as the Eastern ramp (to the ocean side) and Western ramp (to the town side). While both ramps are considered 'all tide', they are slippery on extreme low tide, and on the lowest tides of the year the bottom of the ramp is exposed. There is deep water ocean access directly into the bay, with bar to cross like many southern areas.

There are public toilets on location that are always fairly clean. There is no was down facility available and, like most northern ramps, no cleaning tables. However, good floating walkway pontoons now service both ramps. While one lane was sacrificed on each ramp to allow for this addition, launching is now much safer and easier.

There are a number of trailer parks available, but for may years now this has been inadequate for Townsvilles boating population. On most weekends with light winds forecast the ramp parking is full by as early as 6am. Public holidays are a nightmare! Boaties are left with little option, park illegally on the grassed area by the road in, or turn around and go home. Its best to get to the ramp very early to secure a park, although this is sometimes not enough. An alternate launch site does exist on Ross River. However facilities are not as suitable for bigger boats, and navigating to the mouth is tide dependant to some extent.

The Eastern ramp in generally the better ramp to use. Its in good condition and tends to be less slippery. It is also usable on a lower tide than the Western ramp. The ramp is steeper at the bottom end, allowing launch and retrieve on a low tide while keeping the car a little higher on the dry section of ramp. The downfall is that this ramp is un-lit. Parking at the Eastern ramp is also more difficult on weekdays as it is open to normal cars parking. This was done to allow people to park who are going to the Island from the nearby ferry terminal. But they don't need to pay! So in actual fact, our trailer registrations pay for their parking. On the odd occasion when its really good weather mid week boaties can't find a park because its full of single cars going on the ferry. Its a very touchy topic in Townsville, as we do often end up in situations where boaties paying full registration fees are unable to park and get on the water due to legally parked single cars. There are also occasions where events at the Townsville Entertainment Centre cause the entire facility to be closed off for parking. The upside of this is the Coast Guard raises some much needed funds through parking fees.

The Western ramp tends to be the most popular one. It will be the one with the bigger queues. The main reasons being the lights. It was also the one closest to the only pontoon available. But now floating walkway pontoons service both ramps this might even things up a little. But old habits die hard! The Western ramp is not as good at low tide. It gets slippery and has a sudden drop off at the end. Even with low tides that see the bottom of the ramp almost out of the water, the Eastern ramp is still generally usable. But take care and check first.

Both ramps are reasonably protected from the wind. NE winds will come down the channel, but thats usually manageable. The main concern here is boat traffic. Especially the ferries, and especially so for the car ferry! It is recommended that you want until the car ferry passes before trying to drive onto a trailer. The car ferry draws a large volume of water! As it approaches you will see the water drawn off the ramp. Its nothing to see the water drop by a foot. And then it surges back again as the ferry passes. You don't want to be trying to drive a boat onto a trailer when that happens. Its also a good idea to give partners and young kids a hand holding the boat while the ferry passes or they will find it hard to hold a boat on the ramp as it can get sucked out quite strongly.

Given the addition of the floating pontoons, this is a pretty good ramp to use. People often launch boats up to 25foot with no problems. The only issue is with parking, so just watch it at busy times and at very low tides.