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I have a Lacer 25 and need advice about how to get back onboard if I go over while sailing or at the dock. I'm 67 years old and quite heavy. There's no chance that I can haul myself up in either case. If I buy a folding swim step, how far should it be below the bottom. Any other info from experience would be appreciated. Don't suggest to lose weight. Not gonnna happen.

I hadn't even thought about this previously but a neighbor fell in at the dock, couldn't get out and almost drowned. If it hadn't been for a boat that was docking, It would have been over for him.
 

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my boat has the simple west marine ladder, it winds up 2 steps under water the third at the water line. when folded up it about 6 inches out of the water, with in easy reach. if you cant pull your self up a ladder they you should just get a sling that when you pull a line will allow you to climb in to and hang there all day if needed. a basic life sling tied off to hang at the water line might be all you need or can use. another option is you use an inflateable pfd with a built in harness and a line with a caribener hanging there, then you just clip on and wait for help.
 

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Telstar 28
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Also, recommend that the ladder be amidships rather than at the stern. The center of the boat doesn't move as much and getting aboard will probably be easier there... but as CAM said... you need to have at least two steps below the surface of the water... assuming the third step is about even with the water's surface... otherwise boarding will be very difficult.
 

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Watkins 23
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You should also be sure the ladder stands vertically in the water when your weight is on it. If it leans in under the boat or away from you as you climb, it will still be VERY difficult to re-board the boat.


Richard
 

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Freedom 39
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Good point rrh. I would think the stern would be a better place for a boarding ladder rather than amidships on a 27' boat. With a heavy man, like the OP states that he is, the vessel is going to heel quite a bit once he raises his weight out of the water making for an awkward angle to climb back onboard. The addition of a Lifesling may be a good supplement if there was an available person to assist you in climbing back on too.

I would further suggest that you seek out some local boat owners that might be willing to let you try their ladders and see what works best for you before you invest in something. Perhaps an even better investment regarding your concern of getting back on the boat if you should go over while sailing, would be to buy a harness/tether system and use it. If one prevents falling overboard, then there is no need to reboard. I see you list WA in your homeport. I am spoiled with the local water temps but I would imagine the shock of the water temperature where you live would sap one's strength quickly. Stay on the boat!!!!!

At the marina I would install a permanent dock ladder . Your neighbors may even want to pool funds as one ladder could be used for a group of slips. Of course, any marina alteration should be approved by your dockmaster. In fact, if a few of you bring up the potential liability, maybe the marina will install some ladders.

You want no one to suggest you lose weight, OK. How about you just learn to walk on water then? :>)
 

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I guess it depends on how much the boat tends to pitch... if the boat doesn't tend to hobby horse or pitch much, a stern ladder might be okay... but a lot of smaller boats tend to pitch quite a bit in any kind of seas...and that would make getting back aboard in anything but near calm conditions very difficult.
 

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Mud Hen #69, Mad Hatter
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At the marina I would install a permanent dock ladder .
FarCry beat me to that one. There should be permanent ladders at the marina. It's more common to fall off a pier or dock than a boat.

You also need something on the boat you can deploy from the water when you find yourself there unexpectedly. Or, like some, after diving in and THEN realizing the ladder is up. A folding step on the rudder and two on the transom can save your life. The prior owner had done that on my Pearson 27 and it was handier than the ladder.

Think about bagging a rollable ladder and keeping it stowed in a bag between stantions with a pull line to deploy it from the water.
 

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The problem with rollable ladders is often, they'll swing in towards the hull, making them harder to use... :) If you do use a rollable ladder, make sure the rungs have stand off feet so that they don't end up right up against the hull.
 

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Having just last month had a most unwelcome happening in the water, I'd like to offer a few insights from the experience.

I won't go into details of why I wound up in the water, but I did (through some stupidity on my part and some unforeseen circumstances not of my own making).

I'm a few years older than you and, while pretty fit, am no athlete. And, I'm about 20lbs overweight. Lifelong sailor, often singlehand, and am very, very careful by nature and by experience.

Nevertheless, one lovely morning I found myself in the water near the stern of my 42' sloop exiting one of the Chesapeake's tributaries. My Mustang 3184 inflatable vest -- which thankfully I was wearing -- inflated instantly, just as it should.

The water was still warm in early fall, so no immediate worry about hypothermia. Note that in colder water this could be a BIG concern, giving you only minutes to survive.

The first problem I noted was that with the PFD inflated I was virtually helpless to do anything useful. Yes, it kept my head above water and was quite comfortable if I lay back in the water. But, it was very hard to maneuver and, once I caught hold of the dingy which had been blown away from me by the propwash of a nearby vessel, I found it was impossible to board the dingy with the lifevest inflated.

My weight, age, physical condition, and state of exhaustion all contributed to the inability to board the inflatable Caribe. Further, I had damaged my right shoulder in the incident, so the right arm was pretty useless. Only once I managed to get my right leg over one of the tubes, but was unable to get any further.

Complicating things, though the weather was lovely and warm, were the factors of wind and current. The wind created quite a chop and the boat was bouncing about. Worse, the current was trying to take me away from the boat, and I had to struggle quite a bit to catch hold of the dingy which was tied to the boat.

I have a top-notch s/s boarding ladder midships on my boat. However, I had failed to deploy it before getting into the dingy and, now, in the water it was absolutely impossible to deploy. Nor did I have sufficient strength left to climb up on the Aires windvane on the stern, certainly not with the PFD inflated.

I briefly considered deflating or discarding the PFD to better allow me to get into the dingy, but quickly discarded the idea as suicidal. In retrospect, that was the right decision...it would have been pure stupidity to do that.

A commercial fishing boat came by after I'd been in the water for about 15 minutes. He tried to haul me out, but couldn't. Not enough strength. I'm a big guy and weigh about 240lbs, but it was impossible, especially in my then state of exhaustion.

Finally, he got a bright idea and lowered a big s/s basket into the water and I was able to climb on it. Then, he caught my dingy and I was able to roll into it from the top of the basket. Once in the dingy, it was easy to deploy the boarding ladder and climb aboard.

Remember, this was all taking place in near ideal conditions, not in inclement weather.

About 25 minutes in the water altogether.

Lessons learned:

1. Never, ever, leave the boat without deploying the boarding ladder.

2. Fashion a means of deploying the boarding ladder from the water. I got a good idea at the Boat Show from the manufacturer of a similar quality ladder, and am going to implement that before sailing again.

3. Fashion a means of entering the dingy from the water, even in an exhausted state. Some sort of deployable ladder, maybe. Try to deflate one of the tubes enough to climb in, maybe.

4. Inflatable PFD's are wonderful, but they greatly restrict your mobility in the water. You need to understand and, if possible, plan for that. My backup plan, had I been unable to hold onto the dingy in the chop and current, was to lay on my back (easy) and paddle toward shallow water as best I could.

5. A handheld, submersible VHF might be a good thing to have along. My cell phone was in my pocket, but was toast.

Hope this helps.

Bill
 

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Well said bill. The part about exhaustion and cold water temps is very key....and in the waters I sail, hypothermia is a risk all year round.
 

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Be sure the ladder has wide steps in case you have to board without shoes.

Mine started out stock with just round 7/8 diameter tubes and I made steps out of 2 inch oak and now I am going to make 3 inch steps to be more foot friendly.

It is held up with a bungee attached to a stantion and to the ladder with a hook made of brass welding rod. The bend in the end is more of a "J" than a "U" so that it bends easy. A line line attached to the bottom rung (top when lifted) dangles almost to the water level. A easy pull on the line will deploy the ladder but it has never droped by accident.

Might wanna check that the pull down line will not foul the prop when the ladder is in the down position.

My ladder is on one side and the outboard is on the other side of the stern. (I tried mounting the outboard amidship but it just didn't seem to work well there.)

Rick
 

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Tartan 37C
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Bill,

Quite the sobering story, so glad you survived to tell it.

Fashion a means of deploying the boarding ladder from the water. I got a good idea at the Boat Show from the manufacturer of a similar quality ladder, and am going to implement that before sailing again.
Please do elaborate on this for us.
 
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