Dec 28, 2001
I have 3 swim ladders, including the original one that folds laterally, and hooks on special fittings on the port toe rail. It broke in a couple of places from sun damage, and is no longer made. I repair it by replacing the broken plastic with bolted stainless braces.
Another was bought cheaply at the Fishing Coop on Lanzarote, Canary in 1999. It is the conventional aluminum ladder with plastic steps and arching (1 foot diameter) half circles hooking over the toerail. These two arches fold against each other by turning the aluminum side posts, so that the ladder may be stored flat against the lifelines. Like the preceding ladder, it has folding legs that lean against the curve of the hull, and are a bit too short for total comfort.
A third one is a simple rope ladder with orange plastic stems made of half pipe so that they can snug on top of each other in a small bundle, also very cheap from Defender 4 years ago. It is used some times hanging from the pulpit when I am bow to dock, if it is safer or more comfy than the other two. But its main use is ready on the aft deck, with a pendant hanging out close to the sea level, so I may grab it, unroll the ladder, and climb aboard. This is rigged before casting off whenever I sail off solo. The alternative is a simple loop long enough to put a knee or a foot and climb on board, also half hanging out so it can be deployed by pulling from the water.
None of these may be as comfortable as the ladder built in (or ready to unfold on) most transoms these days (the reason why most of these transoms are of reverse slope), but they work, and provide good flexibility when docking "Med" way, bow in. I may change my mind in a few years if my left hip ("Lady Hip") keeps acting up (I am 67). But I would reserve the center of the transom for a windvane, Cape Horn or other, as that is an overarching need vs. comfort.
Dec 28, 2001
There is no need for a stern boarding ladder to be on the centerline. The mizzen sheet should not foul an off-center ladder. The stock mizzen sheet overhangs the pushpit, but that is not necessary as the mizzen sheet can be rigged inboard of the pushpit where it will not foul a ladder or a steering vane.
Dec 29, 2001
Voyager came with a stern ladder as on the enclosed pictures. I don't know if it was original equipment.
We're very happy with this arrangement. When I added the wind vane I added braces to it, so it's strong enough to be a handhold for people climbing the ladder.
The only downside is that with the cockpit awning up one must duck between the awning and the rail in order to climb aboard.
Dec 30, 2001
Dick brought up an interesting point about falling overboard. This terrifies me because I fell overboard while singlehanding my old 35 footer from England to the USA in the 1992 OSTAR. Being alone made the process rather awful, and being at 50 north meant the water was very cold. It's a long story, fortunately the mast was broken so the boat was stopped, but I found it impossible to climb back on deck from the water. Heavy seas and the cold sapped all of my energy.
So, Voyager came with the folding stern ladder shown on the pictures I uploaded yesterday. While at sea I keep it folded up by a piece of shock cord wrapped around the ladder and the pushpit. That is "armed" using a cotter pin; remove the pin and the shock cord falls away. The cotter pin has a line attached to it that goes to the lowest rung. The plan is that from the water I should be able to pull the line, pop the pin, and pull the ladder down. It works fine in tests made in warm, calm water; hopefully it'll never see real use, but it's best to be prepared.
Dec 30, 2001
I totally agree! I am thankful Jack survived against all odds, and curious as to how he did it if he "found it impossible to climb back on deck"... (Jack, can you enlighten us? It may serve us later)
Not having a foldable ladder (quick release from overboard as described by Jack), I use either the line loop arrangement or the folded rope ladder, as described before. Solo or even duo handlers should make this a safe habit before leaving port. It is not always possible to swim up to the bobstay, and not very comfortable to climb back that way, especially in cold waters with heavy weather gear and boots on... Try it anyway for fun and good practice... in swimsuit first!
Now that I have grandchildren visiting in summer, I shall reconsider the foldable stern ladder if it can fit besides the Cape Horn windvane. It will definitely be quick release from the waterline.
December 30, 2001
Mounting a stern ladder off center would work, as would moving the mizzen sheet inboard, although don't know if leaving that much of the boom unsupported would be OK.