SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Boarding Ladders

June 1, 2015

Over the years, our method for boarding the boat from the dinghy has changed. In our Lay Low days we used the swim ladder, heedless of the damage the feet may be doing to the paint. She wasn't exactly free of blemishes. But once we moved aboard Eurisko, we needed a better solution. Enter West Marine.

At that time we were spending a "boat unit" a week, outfitting her for sailing away, and we added the typical $50 white plastic boarding step to one week's list. (Much cheaper through Amazon, I now see.) Surprisingly, it lasted 15 years and survived three boys.

A few years ago, a customer gave Dave a wooden, three-step varnished beauty. Though pretty, it was cumbersome to store when we were sailing, and too bulky to remove (or flip up on deck like we did the plastic one) when anchored. The ladder was always hanging off the side of the boat, being slammed into the hull when people with rubber dinghies came alongside, and bouncing off the hull in the wrong combination of wind and tide. While on the hard this time, we donated that ladder to the local chandlery (in exchange for bits we really needed: thanks, Steve!) and decided to revert back to our old step. Our first day at anchor, our piece of plastic cracked, leaving us step-less and cursing ourselves for donating our ladder.


Big enough for both feet

There is a West Marine a few blocks from the dinghy dock, so once again, we added boarding step to our shopping list. After all, you can't argue with $3.33 a year for a boarding ladder. But what Dave has been coveting is a "proper" step: a board wide enough to step on with both feet (at the same time!), yet light enough to throw in the aft cabin when we are offshore, and easy to flip up on the side deck when we are anchored. Since the wind was howling, the row to shore was unpleasant, and he was bored anyway, he started gathering materials that we had aboard to see what he could create for us.


The perfect step from the dinghy

The metaphor that best describes our boat is "The cobbler's children wore no shoes." If he were building this step for a customer, it would be a perfect showpiece. But for our own use, perfection is secondary to functionality. And price. Digging through a locker we found a discarded piece of cabin sole (donated by a customer and stored "in case I need it" for years). We were packed for offshore (water jugs secured under the dinette and the dinette platform screwed down) and many of his power tools are under the dinette. I thought the project had reached a premature conclusion when I heard "I'm not getting under the table for my jigsaw or router." I went back to writing, thinking that was meant as a period. Instead, it was a comma. The part he didn't say was, "so I'll just use hand tools." He sawed a 45 on each corner of the rectangle he cut out of the cabin sole piece (who needs a jigsaw?) and used a couple of rasps (or a router?) to make a half-round along the edge. He wrapped an old dock line around the edge (secured from slipping by the half-round) and sewed the ends together. Next, he drilled a few holes in the wood and secured the line to the board by sewing through these holes. A couple of lines with knots in the end and two D-shackles from the rigging box, and we had a free boarding step. Is it perfect? That depends on your criteria. It's light, small, wide, secure, and free. So yes, I'd say it's perfect.

MONDAY we'll share our laments about missing weather windows and lost opportunities. Or are they found?

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