What to Look For

Boating - - CONTENTS -

When buy­ing a boat, most boaters prob­a­bly view the board­ing lad­der as an af­ter­thought, if they no­tice it at all. Most prob­a­bly don’t pay at­ten­tion to it un­til the first time they’re try­ing to get back into the boat from the water. Maybe it’s not such a big deal if you strug­gle to climb back in af­ter a swim, but if some­one’s fallen over­board — par­tic­u­larly when op­er­at­ing the boat solo — and can’t get back into the boat, it could be life and death. There are a few dif­fer­ent styles to choose from, and not ev­ery style is ideal for ev­ery boat. Here are a few gen­eral rules about lad­ders. —Pete McDon­ald

PROP-PRO­TECTED The Amer­i­can Boat and Yacht Coun­cil guide­lines state that stern lad­ders should be mounted as far away from the pro­pel­ler as pos­si­ble. Many builders who place it on the tran­som or ex­tended swim plat­form mount the lad­der so that it’s an­gled away from the en­gine.

GET A GRIP The steps or rungs of board­ing lad­ders should be slip-re­sis­tant. Look for lad­der rungs that are grooved or have a strip of non­skid tape. Some have grooved or slot­ted plas­tic in­serts that serve as a non­slip sur­face while board­ing. This is es­pe­cially help­ful when try­ing to board in rougher seas.

IN DEPTH ABYC guide­lines state that the top sur­face of the low­er­most rung or step

of a board­ing lad­der must be at least 22 inches be­low the wa­ter­line while the boat is at rest. The far­ther down the lad­der goes, the eas­ier it is to use while in the water. Look for at least a three-step tele­scop­ing lad­der on the swim plat­form and bow plat­form of any boat you’re con­sid­er­ing.

DEPLOYABLE Board­ing lad­ders should be able to be ac­cessed and de­ployed by some­one swim­ming in the

water next to the boat. A lot of in­stal­la­tions are de­signed to be hid­den un­der hatches, which helps with dock­side ap­peal due to cleaner lines. But have you ever tried to lift up one of the heav­ier hatches from the water while bob­bing? Look for re­cessed in­stal­la­tions that slide out from un­der­neath the tran­som or ex­tended swim plat­form, or from a molded-in re­cess, where it is still easy to grab and pull into the water.

HAN­DLE THIS An­other im­por­tant el­e­ment of re­board­ing is to have a hand­hold within reach of the lad­der, which will help you pull your­self out of the water.

DIY Don’t have a lad­der? Com­pa­nies such as Gare­lick and West Ma­rine make stow­able swim lad­ders that hang off the gun­wale. Or you can in­stall one. To fol­low our in­struc­tions on how to in­stall one, go to boat­ing­mag.com/in­stalling­board­ing-lad­der.

STEP ON UP The more steps a lad­der has go­ing be­low the wa­ter­line, the bet­ter it is.

Look for board­ing lad­ders that an­gle away from the prop, have a grab han­dle nearby, and are ac­ces­si­ble from the water.

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