Can You Deploy your swim ladder from the water ?

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by MitchM, Aug 8, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. MitchM


    Joined Jan 20, 2005
    744 posts, 117 likes
    Nauticat 321 pilothouse 32
    US Erie PA
    recent posts about the folks lost from the C&C in louisiana hypothesized they could not get back on board their boat. Here's what we did :
    to make our swim ladder deploy from the water. our swim ladder had a curved SS clamp with a SS eye on it that held the ladder in position 'up' , flat against the rear transom. one could easily flip the clamp up from the cockpit to let the ladder descend into the water. we attached a small single block with a line to the rear stern rail , and a line was run through the block. one end of the line was seized to the clamp and the other end run down to just above the water line. the water end had a wrist-size loop on it and a plastic whistle, and both were reachable from the water. a yank on the line from the water pulled the clamp up, released the ladder, and let the ladder drop into the water . it was great fun for the kids to figure out how it worked.... and a big help in getting out of the water.

  2. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,076 posts, 3,083 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    On both the 260 and 367, they are reachable from the waterline. On the Pogo where the actual swim ladder is stored remotely, an Plastimo emergency swim ladder is stored in an opening plug in the transom. All the Open 40s and Open 60s have this per regulation. Not easy on bare feet but can save your butt.


    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
  3. pateco


    Joined Aug 12, 2014
    2,201 posts, 643 likes
    Hunter 31 (1983)
    US Pompano Beach FL
    Ours cannot be deployed from the water. You can see the latch on the left in this photo. way too high to reach from the water.

    2018-02-28 14.38.57.jpg
    However I can probably reach the lowest rung with my hands from the water, but would need to pull myself up with arms only.
    2015-03-29 16.44.50.jpg

    Allan12210 likes this.
  4. Don S/V ILLusion

    Don S/V ILLusion

    Joined Sep 25, 2008
    5,342 posts, 467 likes
    Alden 50
    US Sarasota, Florida
    Seems like a good idea but I am not sure why -
    If I'm alone and go overboard, the boat won't be stationary and I can't swim 6+ knots to catch up, or
    If someone else is aboard, he/she can put the ladder in while steering toward me.

    sailnoproblem and jwing like this.
  5. justsomeguy


    Joined Feb 20, 2011
    6,899 posts, 1,182 likes
    Island Packet 35
    US Tucson, AZ/San Carlos, MX
    I set mine up for such deployment when I'm in pirate-free waters, but then they usually bring their own ladders anyway...

    All U Get likes this.
  6. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,076 posts, 3,083 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    You're right.. The emergency ladder is designed to save you in the (admit-ably rare) circumstance when you go off-boat and manage to get back to the transom. But they've made whole movies about this happening!

  7. BigEasy


    Joined Jun 21, 2004
    1,143 posts, 297 likes
    Beneteau 343
    US Slidell, LA
    That would be a tough climb; I would have to be amped to hopefully make it.
    Maybe you should consider unlatching the ladder and have a line attached to the ladder to just above the water line on the transom to enable you to pull the ladder down if you somehow find yourself overboard. You could also rig a lifeline type of gate between the two uprights on the stern pulpit, where the ladder engages to prevent someone from leaning into the unlatched ladder.

  8. Gunni


    Joined Mar 16, 2010
    5,943 posts, 1,488 likes
    Beneteau 411 Oceanis
    US Annapolis
    Getting out of the water is the reward, getting TO the boat is the challenge. Under what scenario are you jumping into the water without your ladder down? MOB? You won’t be swimming to the boat and climbing back on. IF you manage to catch the boat (Michael Phelps) your crew will be pulling/hoisting you like a spent walrus.

    I have lost exactly two people overboard, both grabbed the unsecured swim ladder and rode it into the water. It now remains securely lashed to the stern pulpit until we come to anchor and go swimming. Actually was a guy standing on the sugar scoop who grabbed the ensign staff when we were bumped by harbor chop and took the thing off the stern with his antics - but that is probably a topic for Flag Etiquette II !

    Captain Larry-DH likes this.
  9. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,076 posts, 3,083 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    If you're shorthanding on a modern boat, chances are good you have the remote control to your auto pilot around your neck. Then you have a fighting chance of having the boat luff up and you get back to it. Not great, but a fighting chance. Here’s the transom of a 40 foot Elan S5. It’s boarding ladder is actually built into the fold down transom. But you can see the emergency ladder plug on starboard.


  10. BigEasy


    Joined Jun 21, 2004
    1,143 posts, 297 likes
    Beneteau 343
    US Slidell, LA
    Absolutely, Gunni. Definitely belongs in the flag etiquette thread!!!

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  11. shemandr


    Joined Jan 1, 2006
    3,948 posts, 899 likes
    Marblehead Skiff 14'
    US Greenport, NY
    I would seriously suggest that each of us try our ladder from the water. I have one I can deploy from the water but getting up the first step requires a line tied across the transom to pull myself up with. If you don't test it you won't know. Of course if you do test it you need someone strong who stays on board or find a place where you can go to shore or have a dingy there that you can climb into. BTW a lot of MOB's occur at the dock. Does your marina have a way for someone to get out of the water? Injured? A lot of the time they are woefully inadequate. Just an old Lifeguard asking.

    jwing likes this.
  12. BigEasy


    Joined Jun 21, 2004
    1,143 posts, 297 likes
    Beneteau 343
    US Slidell, LA
    Well you never know when you might go overboard; tripping while washing the deck, getting on or off from the dock, while luffing up to furl / unfurl sails etc.
    Think I will leave my ladder unlatched in the future; its mounted on the swim platform and stored up against the transom. Not a part of the stern pulpit; the pulpit has a lifeline type gate with pelican hooks.

  13. Justin_NSA


    Joined Jul 7, 2004
    5,575 posts, 1,173 likes
    Hunter 30T
    US Cheney, KS
    Ours is held up by a strap with a snap. Probably should replace it with velcro. Maybe even add another strap or knotted lanyard to be able to yank it down. Right on my head of course.

  14. All U Get

    All U Get

    Joined Oct 2, 2008
    2,907 posts, 561 likes
    Pearson/ 530
    US Strafford, NH
    I figure if my wife doesn't run me over with the first three passes, some shark or grouper is gonna get even.

    Captain Larry-DH and Parsons like this.
  15. kloudie1


    Joined Nov 6, 2006
    8,289 posts, 754 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Mandeville Louisiana
    On the H-34, the ladder is just like the one on the H-31 that pateco talks about.. I have gotten up from the water with the ladder stowed .. not easy, but if "motivated" not too much of a thing.. Mine is secured with a quick release on a lifeline wire that is rigged through the ladder.. I think that a better quick release, like a Johnson hook, ( could be easily rigged with a light line to pull the quick release pin and open the wire, letting the ladder hinge down..

    BigEasy likes this.
  16. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,076 posts, 3,083 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    Because you're a lean, mean fighting machine. ;^) But image being cold, hurt, tired, in foulies and in chop.

    Allan12210 likes this.
  17. Parsons


    Joined Jul 12, 2011
    744 posts, 316 likes
    Catalina 36
    US Bay City, MI
    I've worried about this as I often single-hand on day sails. As @Don S/V ILLusion noted, it'd be amazing if I actually got to the swim platform.

    Can you guys make some suggestions for how I can rig an emergency ladder release, or should I just rig an emergency ladder like JackDaw described. All sugar-scoop Catalinas have the swim ladder built into the stern rail (see photos) and securely attached with two brackets that must be lifted (shown with white vinyl covers to make them even harder to move). I have wondered if @MitchM 's block system would work on both sides simultaneously. Ideas for us Catalina folks?
    20170717_174624_1533739441123_resized.jpg 20170717_174947_1533739443925_resized.jpg
    The distance to the swim platform is a good long reach from water level (10"?), and that's assuming a calm sea (not often here on the Great Lakes).

  18. LeslieTroyer


    Joined May 20, 2016
    2,582 posts, 1,203 likes
    Catalina 36 MK1
    US Everett, WA
    The surveyor made the P.O. rig up a deployment line on the boat before we bought it. Zip tie secures a snap shackle to the bottom rung of our folding ladder. A small line is tied to the shackle release ring ; the line needs to be long enough to almost reach the water when the now free end is tied up to the stern rail. The shackle is snapped to a bungee to keep the ladder in the up position.

    A pull on the line from the water or in the boat frees the ladder to go down. In the water pulling on the line also deployed the ladder back in the boat the line can ce used to retrieve the ladder.

    This als works when the dinghy is on davits and the ladder can’t nornally be deployed. First put the bungee hook into the snap shackle and the other end on a higher step above the hinge. Leave ladder down whe hoisting dinghy. After dinghy is secure raise the ladder.

  19. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,076 posts, 3,083 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    Clip them to the transom, and loose the velco or latches you cannot reach from the water.


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  20. kloudie1


    Joined Nov 6, 2006
    8,289 posts, 754 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Mandeville Louisiana
    @Jackdaw.. lol, maybe once upon a time.. now, not so much..
    lower hinge on the ladder is only about a 12/18 inches from the water so that is the first handle that ya can get to.. rudder blade is right below that can be used as a brace..
    yup not easy

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
    Jackdaw likes this.

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