Westsail Owners Alliance - Thread: "Boarding Ladder"
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Thread: "Boarding Ladder"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Boarding Ladder

Don and Margaret Lacoste

It's not easy to get from the water to the boat on a W-32. The high bulwarks add to the complexity. My boat came with a rope ladder with steps and plastic spacers on the rope to keep the ladder steps in place. It is a DISASTER! It moves around as you try to get on it, pinches your fingers and usually throws you off before you can get a leg over the side.

What ladder designs work best? I am looking for one that a person can come over the side where the lifelines open for boarding.


Aaron Norlund


I've made a few all-rope ladders that seem to work well. I work aboard tallships as mate often and these arrangements work well even with freeboards of 10+ feet. I'm not a fan of rope ladders with plastic/wood steps for the weird moving and pinching they do. The all-rope ladders are comfortable, don't pinch, and weigh enough to be stable, but stow fairly small and aren't too heavy to be practical.

This is a picture I just found that is the same concept:


I always used old 1/2" to 3/4" polyester three strand that has been retired from running rigging. The pattern for making it can be found in the ashley book of knots. Obviously, the width and distance between rungs can be changed to suit. I found just wide enough for two feet is best. The above picture is not wide enough, but was a quick find.

I plan to make one of these up for our W32, as well. Aboard the tallships, they always make a good bosun's project for students; kinda like rope mats and such.

Best of luck,
Aaron N.

Brian Smith

I also would be curious to know what types of boarding ladders people are using with our boat- and placement?
I'm a singlehander, and this is one system I really want to
get set up right...

Bud Taplin

There are some commercially made stainless ladders that attach to the genoa track on the caprail.
The ladder I make attaches to the midrail of the stern pulpit that I make, and folds down so that the bottom rung is about 10" to 12" into the water.

Don and Margaret Lacoste


could your fabricator design a ladder for the genoa track? I've looked around for one and all I've seen is inferior products. Seems like your guy could make another design.


Don and Margaret Lacoste

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for the weblink. Looks like a very good system. Ouch, they do want over $600 for the 48" and over $700 for the longer ladder. Which size did you go with???


Jeff Matthiae

Hi Don,

I went with the 70". Also got a second set of mounts so that it would be easier to move it from one side of the boat to the other. The boat show special was he threw in the teak steps.


Jeff Matthiae


I bought a folding ladder for the genoa track at the Annapolis Boat Show last fall. You can find it at http://www.mysticstainless.com/page2.html I did get the long ladder with the removable handle.

I just installed the first 5 pieces of the new caprail last weekend. So it will be a few weeks before I have the genoa track installed. Once it's on I'll test the ladder and report on how well it works.


Frank and Melanie Scalfano

What kind of steps are on Bud's ladder? Does anyone have one installed? I am concerned that it may not extend enough under water to make boarding easy from the water.

Michael Dougan

On the subject of rope ladders, I have a narrow, all rope one, steps are only big enough for one foot. I've used it as an emergency re-bording ladder, trailing a cord so you could pull the ladder down if you fell off the boat.

Pretty darn hard to climb though, need a lot of upper body strength.

A friend gave me an old rope ladder with teak dowels for rungs. Much easier to climb with rigid rungs, but still presses into the hull, so, it's kind of hard on bare feet.

The fold-up style ladder Bud is talking about is going to be a much better option.

Ralph and Sandra Weiland


I like the idea of an emergency reboarding ladder of some sort --- essential if sailing solo. But I wonder if a better place for it might be hanging from a boomkin so you don't continually jamb your feet and toes into the side of the boat. Comments?


Michael Dougan

I tied my narrow one to the stern pulpit, but up closer to where the boom gallows is. Maybe further aft but I didn't want to be too close to the prop. Your feet would still swing into the hull if you leaned back while climbing, but, it isn't horrible.

The wider one I put just aft of the shrouds, and it is worse there, as far as pressing into the hull.

Either one works OK, especially in an emergency, but neither is ideal for recreational swimming etc.

Clyde and Patricia Nickerson

Pat and I are both over 65 and climbing up rope ladders is no longer something we look forward to. I have acquired and mounted a SS boarding ladder as used on the MONK 36 power cruiser. It was easily mounted to my deck and when in the down position it just touches the water. I has made getting into and out of the dingy very easy. When folded up and secured. it becomes part of the safety rail. Asthetically not for the purist perhaps, but for us very practical and useful.

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