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we did when we were young.” If you’re not
already in the habit of swimming from
your boat, you owe it to yourself to jump
off, preferably on a summer day with
someone else aboard to help you back on.
After all, you’re testing to see how hard it
is to reboard your boat without assistance.
If your boat is like my center-console,
which features a ladder stored separately
from where it mounts to the transom, this
may prove difficult, if not impossible. In
that case, think about adding or modifying
your ladder or swim platform. “I’ve heard
people say they would hug the lower unit,
and then ride it up using the trim button on the outboard,” says Kimbro. “But
where do you go from there?”
Use the head, or wind up dead
It’s a well-worn cliché that fishermen
drown with their zippers down. But
there’s truth to it. Moving to the rail,
leaning outboard, and tying up one hand
– each of these puts you in a compromised
position. Combined with a bit of bad luck,
a routine exercise can become a final act.
Options for getting back on board
Trying to reboard your boat after falling overboard alone can be essentially impos- sible, depending on the boat, the type of boarding ladder, and the fitness of the solo skipper suddenly in deep trouble. Most people have the greatest strength in
their legs, not their arms, so scaling the freeboard and pulling yourself over the gunwale is a tall task for most. Even flopping onto a wide swim platform is a challenge for
some. So having the right boarding ladder is essential.
A ladder should be structurally strong,
well-designed, and extend deep enough
into the water to make climbing up easy.
It should be relatively vertical, stand off
the hull for toe clearance, have nonskid
steps, and be firmly attached to the boat.
Some built-on stern swing-down ladders can’t be reached while in the up
position by someone in the water, don’t
swing down deeply enough for many
people to easily climb up, and don’t have
adequate handles fastened to the boat to grab and pull yourself up. Make sure that
your ladder and its installation work well for you and others.
Deploying or partially deploying the swim ladder each time the engine is cut at a
new fishing spot can prove to be a lifeline if a solo angler lands in the drink, but the ladder will have to come back up each time the boat gets on the move. Alternative safety
options include having a secured rope, ladder, or other equipment rigged in a way that
a person who’s alone and has fallen into the water can reach it and pull it from the boat.
A rope should have a loop in the end and loops or handholds along its length for pulling
yourself back aboard. However, note the problems with this, as discussed above.