Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: SF Bay area
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On the subject of rope ladders, I made one on the way to a local anchorage recently out of some spare line. At anchor I looped it over a winch and tried using it to climb aboard (with wife in cockpit ready to assist). It was not what I would call easy. Since my center of gravity was not over my foot, my foot would push the ladder under the hull and I would be lying on my back, basically under the boat. It didn't make it any easier that the hull's curvature was so large at the point where I was trying to board.
If you're going to use a rope ladder, or any free-swinging ladder, definitely practice with it first and try it in different places on the hull. Transom or shrouds might have been easier. After a few tries, I figured out what I needed to do to get the ladder to stay more or less vertical, and I wouldn't want to be trying to solve that problem in an emergency.
On another topic, let us not forget that the great singlehanders circumnavigated without a harness and tether, because they felt it was more of a liability than an asset. They just made sure they knew how to move around on their boats safely: "One hand for you, and one for the boat." I'm not advocating that policy, but while you're practicing reboarding with a rope ladder, you might also want to practice duck-walking around on deck, untethered, always with a secure handhold, in whatever conditions you feel appropriate and safe.
s/v Laelia - 1978 Pearson 365 ketch
s/v Essorant - 1972 Catalina 27