Choos­ing and fit­ting a board­ing lad­der

Hav­ing a de­cent board­ing lad­der is handy for con­ve­nience but is also a very use­ful safety de­vice. David Parker shows how to fit a com­pact de­sign un­der a swim plat­form

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

David Parker fits a tele­scopic lad­der to his mo­tor­boat

If you’ve ever been on a sea sur­vival course in open wa­ter your in­struc­tor might have played a trick on you – it’s called the crisp packet test. They like do­ing this for some rea­son and it in­volves al­low­ing you to freeze in the wa­ter for a while be­fore you’re in­vited back on board.

‘You look hun­gry,’ they car­ingly say as they throw you a packet of crisps. They then seem to find it very amus­ing as you try to open the packet.

You can’t, of course, be­cause your hands are cold and you have the ap­par­ent dex­ter­ity of a seal wear­ing mit­tens.

This seem­ingly triv­ial trick serves a se­ri­ous and highly use­ful pur­pose, of course, in demon­strat­ing be­yond doubt how quickly you can be­come vic­tim to the ef­fects of cold-wa­ter im­mer­sion. You might be in the wa­ter by choice – you might not – but you won’t need much con­vinc­ing after the crisp packet test about the need to be able to get your­self back on board with an eas­ily de­ployed lad­der.

Board­ing lad­ders are ob­vi­ously fit­ted for con­ve­nience too, for step­ping out of a ten­der or get­ting back on board after a snorkel round the rocks or when check­ing the prop.

How­ever they should also be con­sid­ered for safety rea­sons, par­tic­u­larly with the high free­board on many mod­ern yachts.

Even if you weren’t wet and weak from be­ing in the wa­ter it would be pretty tricky to haul your­self back on board with­out some aid. In fact they made a whole film about it called Adrift. A group of friends goes for a week­end cruise on a new yacht. They jump in the wa­ter for a swim... but no­body thought to lower the lad­der to re-board the ship. I won't spoil the end­ing, but did you ever imag­ine a board­ing lad­der could be a Hol­ly­wood vil­lain?

Even if you al­ready have a de­cent, per­ma­nently in­stalled board­ing lad­der, con­sider this: per­ceived wis­dom is that when board­ing from the wa­ter the bot­tom rung of the lad­der should be at least a foot be­low wa­ter level – but in re­al­ity this is not enough. If you’re cold and weak­ened, haul­ing your­self up onto this first rung can be very dif­fi­cult. I reckon there should be at least two or three rungs be­low the sur­face: that way if the boat rolls away or the tran­som sud­denly pitches you can still get on the lad­der. My pre­vi­ous lad­der was fit­ted on top of the swim plat­form on my mo­tor­boat and swiv­elled down into the wa­ter. The swim plat­form it­self is great and if you have a keel-hung rud­der and tran­som space a short plat­form can also be very handy – par­tic­u­larly when board­ing from a ten­der, or for use as a tool shelf if you’ve gone over the side to give the hull a scrub.

Al­though this lad­der looked fine, when you came to use it, it was too short and you needed a rope to haul your­self out.

So I de­cided to fit a dif­fer­ent one al­to­gether, which fits un­der the plat­form and can be de­ployed eas­ily from the wa­ter when needed. Ide­ally this fold-away type would be fit­ted with the boat out of the wa­ter. But a haul-out just for that would be ex­pen­sive and where’s the fun in it any­way? In the end I fit­ted it with the boat afloat and for­tu­nately all went ac­cord­ing to plan. Here’s how I did it.

Tele­scopic fold-away lad­der fit­ted to swim plat­form My old board­ing lad­der was a swivel down ar­range­ment but only had two steps: when de­ployed it was too short and you had to rig a rope to help pull your­self out of the wa­ter

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