Some years back, BoatUS looked at boarding ladder usefulness on several types of popular boats. We are going to look at their findings for only one boat type in this post, the Whaler-type skiff or center console boat. The test team looked at several commercially available ladders and their usefulness for both men and women. The findings emphasize how important it is to choose your ladder carefully and test it to make sure you can use it on your boat before you find yourself in dire need of reboarding assistance. The findings that follow can help you get started. You can also follow the link at the end to see what they found for other types of boats.
The ability to adjust the ladder to the boat and the person was found to be very important. Lacking this adjustability, you would be better off setting up a length of line with a loop to suit.
The team rated each ladder on a scale from 1 to 5 (5 being the best score) for each of the following questions:
- Was the use of the product obvious?
- Was the product easy to retrieve and deploy?
- Were the handholds and footholds conveniently placed?
- Will it support a wet, fully clothed adult with no problem?
- Overall was this a good product for this boat type?
The Whaler-type boat challenged the ladders in their ability to prevent side-to-side swinging. The top rated ladder for the Whaler was the Garelick Inflatable Boat Ladder. It was praised for its stability and ease of use, but some found it difficult to deploy through rail gaps. However once deployed, it required very little upper body strength to ascend, when compared with other ladders.
The Garelick EEz-In Gunwale Ladder ranked second. Though it was also difficult to pull through the railing, testers were surprised by its stability. The high freeboard and slab side of the Whaler provided a good surface to push against while climbing this 3-step, hook-style ladder.
The C-Level Sea Steps Safety Ladder came in third place. This flat web product comes in three lengths with one, two or three steps.
The Plastimo Five Step Safety Ladder received honorable mention. Testers were impressed with its innovative design, but found its length made it difficult to use. Its narrow steps and uncomplicated deployment were pluses. Its simple storage bag has two loops to mount it at the gunwale. After reaching it and flipping it over the side of the boat, the user pulls a handle; the five-rung plastic and webbing steps fall out of the pouch and into the water.
Before choosing a ladder, think about where and how you will be attaching it to the boat. Also, make sure that you will able to reach it from the water.
Make sure that the stowed ladder is not where it could be interfered with by other fittings that would prevent it from being deployed.
Once you’ve purchased a boarding ladder, you’ll need to practice using it and stowing it accessibly.