Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting Back Aboard

The set of drawings below from West Marine shows the difficulties of getting back aboard a boat when you have either fallen overboard or the boat has capsized. Their recommendation is to use a fixed or telescoping ladder. However, in many small boats, including many oar cruisers, this is not practical due to storage issues. And in some cases, the hull is too narrow to support the weight of a person coming in over the side.

West Marine's View of Reboarding Alternatives

What are the alternatives?

Joel Bergen’s (Joel's Navigator Site) alternative is to tie a length of one-inch (25mm) nylon webbing to two adjoining frames to form a loop that is about 20” below the waterline when deployed. Joel found that 20” was long enough for him to put one foot on the loop and pull himself into the boat.

Joel Bergen's Strap to Reboard

On a narrow boat, the loop could be at the transom to prevent the boat from tipping over again. For additional stability, attach a paddle float, such as these to an oar that is held down athwart-ship to both gunnels. Then use the loop to lift yourself over the gunnel (on the paddle float side) and ‘roll’ into the boat. This is the technique that sea-kayakers use to re-enter a kayak.

A variation of Joel’s nylon webbing is to use a stirrup, such as this, or one you make, attached to a length of ¼” (6mm) line cleated/tied in the boat and able to be reached when you are in the water. This is the way that Howard Rice reboarded a Scamp in this video.

If your small boat has a rudder,  horizontal slots, big enough to hold your foot, can be cut into the rudder blade and provide a 'ladder' to get into the boat from the water.

Rob Rohde-Szudy, in an article in Duckworks, describes a folding ladder designed and built by Kilburn Adams that can be attached to the transom of a boat.

Kilburn Adams Folding Ladder 
Al Burke, describes a variation of this folding ladder in this article.

Al Burke's Folding Ladder
For my custom Michalak Tween, I made a portable folding ladder that stores on the after deck with a bungie cord.

The Folding Ladder Stored (Transom to the left)

The forward end of the ladder hooks under the after coaming to prevent it from lifting when weight is put on the ladder.

The Forward End of The Ladder

The ladder is unfolded and the bungie cord is re-used to hold down the after end of the ladder. It is designed such that both the middle and bottom sections of the ladder will not swing forward when using the ladder.

The Ladder (almost) Unfolded
BoatUS has an article, with videos, focused on testing and recommendations regarding commercial boarding ladders.


Tells us in the comments below how you have rigged your boat in order to reenter it from the water.


  1. I copied Howard Rice's boarding slings (same as Joel). Mine are clipped into sturdy pad eyes and go over the coaming instead of through holes in the side, but that allows the webbing to double as a lifting sling for crane launching.

    It's important to try out any boarding method to make sure you can do it when surprised. I have to admit I have not done it yet, thanks for the reminder.

  2. would you like to tell me how to improved my bolg to apply for google adsence..