Fights With Knives, Yelling, Collisions: Drama At Black Point Boat Ramp Draws Dedicated Audience

Aug 30, 2018

Jeff Forsythe could not stop laughing at the boaters.

He sat on a grassy hill near the Black Point Marina boat ramp with his wife and son. The ramp was too crowded for him to trailer his own boat into the water on this Sunday before the Fourth of July.

Instead, he joined more than a dozen others watching and jeering at boaters using the ramp.

"See like right now, this guy's coming in sideways," he said of one motorboat that was blasting music and struggling to dock. "Look at this. He should be focused on docking his boat and not his music."

Miami-Dade County has six main public marina ramps where people can launch their boats into the water. Black Point Marina in Homestead, however, has become a lot more than a boat ramp. For some boaters, it's a nightmare, making them dread when they have to trailer their boats in and out of the water.

For another group of people—who a county spokeswoman calls "ramp rats"—laughing at the drama that occurs at the boat ramp is a ritual.

"It’s a show," Carol Tola said while drinking a beer and watching pick-up trucks with trailers retrieve boats from the water. "We've seen everything out here. We've seen fights with knives. We've seen fights with ball-peen hammers. We've seen just general yelling, seen boats running into each other."

People watch boaters at the Black Point marina boat ramp argue and fight with each other. A Miami-Dade spokeswoman calls them "ramp rats."
Credit Sam Turken / WLRN

The ramp rats have become synonymous with Black Point. On sunny Sunday afternoons, more than a dozen of them often bring out coolers of beer and camping chairs. They sit on the grassy hill and watch boaters collide and fight with each other.

Boaters attribute the frequent madness and mishaps to over-congestion at the marina. During the summer, boat ramps at Black Point and other marinas across Miami-Dade often reach capacity.

A Google search on Black Point captures the drama that occurs as a result. On the boater chatroom the "Hull Truth," one commenter calls the marina the "worst place ever." Someone else warns, "Never go to Black Point on weekends." Images and videos also show boats colliding with each other and pickup trucks completely submerged in the water.

One of the so-called ramp rats, Jerry Rodriguez, said he's seen pickup trucks lose their grip on the slippery ramp and slide down into the water. His most memorable experience was when two men on the same boat began arguing.

"They ended up on the floor fighting each other," Rodriguez said one Sunday afternoon at the ramp. "Right here and everybody's watching it. He had his friend in a headlock, and they’re fighting."

Tola, who watches every weekend and has been coming to Black Point Park and Marina for decades, thinks the arguments and mishaps happen for a few reasons. She said many boaters are inexperienced and have never owned a boat before.

"And then they get out on the bay," she said, "and you know a little bit of rum, a little bit sun, a little bit of beer. And it just makes people really crazy."

Rodriguez added that Black Point does not have enough spots where people can launch their boats into the water. Sometimes the ramp's 10 launching lanes have to accomodate as many as 60 boats, he said. In fact, the boat ramp becomes so congested that marina officials often close it in the mornings, turning away some boaters who want to use the ramp.

The people who do make it to the marina before it closes often hurry to trailer their boats in and out of the water. They fight over who was in line first to use the ramp.

"It should be like a single file order just like you're taught in elementary school," Forsythe said. "But people try to cut in front of other people and that’s when the altercations start."

Black Point isn't the only marina that experiences overcrowding. Forsythe and other boaters say boat ramps at Pelican Harbor, Haulover and Crandon Park often become congested and reach capacity.

The Black Point Marina boat ramp has to accommodate as many as 60 boats on some days, says Jerry Rodriguez, a so-called "ramp rat."
Credit Sam Turken / WLRN

The Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department oversees the marinas. A department spokeswoman, Victoria Galan, declined a request for an interview. But via email, she said congestion at the marinas is a problem every summer. The county has even launched a mobile alerts app that allows boaters to monitor when the ramps close due to over-crowding.

Still, other boat ramps do not have a dedicated audience like the so-called ramp rats at Black Point. Sometimes they help out if they see boaters having trouble. On one occasion, for instance, Forsythe noticed a boat entering the water without a drain plug that prevents it from sinking. He notified the boater.

But Tola and Rodriguez say they mostly just watch and jeer. And they don't feel bad about it. Boaters like Fosythe don't seem to care about the mockery either.

When asked if he has ever been laughed at, Fosythe said no.

"I don’t have the money to be destroying my equipment," he said. He would rather watch other boaters struggle.