Boat Ladders 101
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Boat Ladders 101
Boat Ladders 101
A boat ladder is a necessary accessory for all boats. Boat ladders aid boaters getting in and out of their boat from either the water, the shore, or the dock. There are many things to consider when selecting the right ladder. Some of the key questions to help guide you in your ladder selection process are:
Where on your boat will you be mounting your ladder?
How much space to you have to mount your ladder?
Do you have access to attach a backing plate?
How long do you need the ladder to be?
What types of activities will you use your ladder for?
Do you need a ladder to support a higher weight load?
Who will use the ladder most often?
There are also a variety of different styles of boat ladders to choose from:
Gunwale boat ladders
These boat ladders have hooks that fit over top of the gunwale (side of the boat) and the steps extend down into the water. When purchasing a Gunwale ladder, it is important to make sure that the width of the ladder hook is sufficient to fit over the width of your boat's gunwale.
Swim platform boat ladders
These ladders hang down from a boat's rear swim platform. A swim platform ladder is typically permanently mounted and either slides underneath or folds up on top of the platform when not in use. Since the swim platform is so much lower than the side of the boat, these ladders typically only need 1-3 steps.
Platform boat ladders
Platform ladders are useful for boats that do not have any type of a swim platform, particularly boats with outboard motors. They mount permanently to the transom of the boat, on either side of the motor, and include a mini swim platform, a ladder with one or more steps, and side rails.
Transom boat ladders
There are many styles and sizes of transom ladders to fit a wide variety of boats, including cruisers and sailboats. Transom ladders can either be mounted flush on the side of the transom, or have hooks or rails that mount to the top of the transom. One thing to consider when purchasing a transom ladder is whether you want the ladder to be fixed or removable.
Bow boat ladders
While the stern of a boat is the most common location for a boarding ladder, there are times when it is more convenient to climb aboard a boat by the bow. Boarding by the bow is necessary if a boat is beached or if the boat is tied up bow first. It is also a safer location for boarding, away from the motor. When selecting a bow-mounted boat ladder, you need to make sure that it is extremely sturdy with sufficient bracing so that it doesn’t swing back under the nose of the boat, making it difficult or even impossible to climb up out of the water. As an example, rope ladders do not work as bow ladders. There are also ladders that are designed for specialized applications:
Pontoon boat ladders
Pontoon ladders are designed specifically for the unique application of a pontoon boat, with a wide variety of mounting styles. While there are several Pontoon ladders that mount permanently with convenient self-stowing options, many Pontoon ladders are designed to be removable so the deck of the boat remains clear.
The purpose of a Dive Ladder is to makes it easy to board a boat without having to first remove your dive gear, including your fins. Dive Ladders must be heavy duty to hold up to the rigors of the sport. Before selecting a dive ladder, you need to ensure that its weight capacity is sufficient for the combined weight of the diver and their gear.
Doggy Boat Ladders
Doggy boat ladders are designed to make it easy for a dog to board a boat on its own after a swim, without the inconvenience and strain of having to manually lift your wet dog out of the water.
For more information on selecting the right sized ladder, read our article on
Boat Ladder Size and Fit
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