Thursday, January 11, 2007

Boarding ladder extension

On some sailboats after a refreshing swim or Scuba dive boarding can be difficult depending on the length of the boarding ladder. On my Nonsuch the ladder is fine if you are boarding from a dingy but, much more difficult after a swim or dive. So I built an extension for the boarding ladder using 12 inch lengths of 1-1/2 inch PVC and fittings, PVC glue and some dock line. The set up has been in use for over three seasons and has been tested to weights of 350 pounds.

Ladder extension when viewed from behind the boat. Notice the four way PVC fittings at the top and bottom of the ladder. These allow rapid draining of water when stowing the extension and also rapid sinking when deployed.

SIDE VIEW: Notice how the extension lifts away from the rudder. The ladder extension only contacts rudder when a person is on it. The rudder keeps the extension vertical when boarding. Instead of slipping under the hull.

Ladder extension in stowed position.


Anonymous said...

Excellent! I found, built and used this for swimming in our local lake on a 30 foot Sailboat.

Thanks a bunch.

Capt. Mike said...

Glad you found it useful. I certainly do. My ladder is still holding up after five years of use. Enjoy the summer!

Anonymous said...

Not everyone is such a dab-hand when it comes to constructing a ladder extension for their boat. For those, like me, who might be a little challenged with such a task, there are loads of great places online to find the perfect chandlery for anywhere you could possibly need it! I’m probably better suited to that.

Jamie Morrison said...

Hey Mike, I'm finally getting around to building your swim ladder this year after planning to do it for quite a few summers. It's now 2016 ... how's the ladder holding up? I was also wondering if there would be any advantage to screwing the pieces together with stainless screws as well as the PVC glue. Did the glue just do the job? I picture the line feeding through the lowest step ... just before it makes the bend towards the rudder?

The water has been progressively getting warmer here in Nova Scotia so swimming off the boat is great on a warm day. Especially up in the Bras D'Or Lakes.

Hope your electric Nonsuch continues to do well. Been following with interest for years.

Take care,

Jamie Morrison

Dexterity II
Nonsuch 30U 225
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Capt. Mike said...


The ladder is still working well. Though the brace that would lean against the rudder has broken off the result of another boat drifting into BIANKA. The ladder still works well for boarding so I have no bothered to fix it. Yes The line does feed through the bottom rung and up the other side. I don't feel the need for stainless steel screws as the PVC piping holds it together very well.

Jamie Morrison said...

I built your swim ladder last evening. That is one beast of a ladder! I have yet to install it on the boat but it does seem incredibly strong. I thought I would summarize a few things here to help others who want to build one. I purchased all the supplies at a local pipe supplier. The 4 way cross fittings were a bit scarce because they are rarely used. All the supplies, including a can of the proper glue, came to $99 Canadian including tax (about $15 American). The first thing I did was sand the lettering off the pipe with 220 grit sand paper. I tried acetone but it made the PVC pipe sticky. I did some tricky mathematical calculations and found that if I cut my 10' length of pipe in ten 11.5" lengths I would have just enough pipe left over to make the two little stubbies that are needed to connect the right angles to the Tees at the bottom of the ladder. Not a single bit of pipe wasted. I cut the pipe with a standard chop saw. I chamfered the edges of the pipe with a file so I would have a smooth fit. I then dry fit the whole thing to make sure I hadn't screwed up any cuts. Perfection! I carefully glued everything together starting at the top and working down. I made sure the fittings were square by laying them on a flat surface. You have to be quick because the glue sets very quickly. A little thought has to be given as to which pieces are glued when so the ladder goes together as planned. A slip up here will cost you a length of pipe and some fittings so think it out before you apply the glue. Applying too much glue causes it to ooze out of the joint and since the glue is grey things can get messy. Wipe it up quickly and if necessary dampen your rag with acetone. I fed the line through from the top of the completed ladder and through the bottom rung of the ladder. Ta Da! Not only can I now swim off the boat I have a way to get back on the boat should I tumble overboard (if my wife chooses to lower the ladder).

Thanks Mike. Great project.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Question. How do you attach the ladder to the existing permanent ladder?

Capt. Mike said...


Currently I have one end tied to the lowest rung on the top ladder. The other end is looped around the bottom rung on the other side and tied off on a railing. This allows me to pull up the ladder and extension ladder easily. I will try and post a picture here on this post.

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