How to Get Back On a Boat Without a Ladder

It is a lot of fun while boating to jump in the water and enjoy a warm sunny day. Boat ladders make it easy to get in and out of the boat with little to no effort. But what happens when the boat ladder isn’t available? Problems could arise quickly, and the person in the water may begin to panic.

While you always want to make sure all marine accessories are in good working condition before heading out, there is always the possibility of missing something. An improperly working boat ladder can pose a potential threat to all onboard. Passengers must understand how to get on a boat without a ladder to avoid unnecessary danger.

A boat with a ladder and person climbing up it.
A boat with a ladder | Getty Images

Staying safe on the water

It is not uncommon for a boat ladder to malfunction. Perhaps, a bolt comes loose, or the telescoping feature stops working. It can be scary for people that aren’t strong swimmers to be stuck in the water without an easy way to get back on the boat. Sometimes a swimmer will forget to put the ladder down before jumping into the water, leaving them struggling to get back in. It is difficult to pull down a ladder while bobbing up and down in cold and sometimes rough water.

Boat ladders can also break unexpectedly when a person exceeds the recommended weight limit of the ladder. Sometimes kids will repeatedly jump off the ladder, causing the structure to weaken. All passengers must know how to get on a boat without a ladder. Remember not to panic and put advanced safety precautions in effect to reduce the risk of drowning.

Man overboard

It is not easy to get back onto a boat when a ladder is not available. There are several things you can do to make it simpler and safer for all passengers.

When a boat ladder is not working correctly, a small rope can save the day. Boating Valley recommends “tying a small rope ladder on any side of the boat (port or starboard side).” If a rope ladder is not available, “tie a rope in a U-shape on any side of the boat.” Advise the swimmer to put their leg into the loop and use it for support to pull themselves up and back into the boat.

Another alternative to a boat ladder is to use a life jacket for help getting back into the boat. Toss a flotation device or life ring to the swimmer and advise them to step on it to use buoyancy to push them up and back into the boat.

Keep in mind that a strong current or heavy winds can make it harder to get back into the boat. To prevent passengers from falling overboard, don’t allow anyone to sit on the sides while the boat is moving. Always wear slip-resistant shoes, and do not allow running or horseplay on deck.

When boating alone, always tie the kill switch to your hand. If you accidentally fall overboard, the boat motor will stop and make it easier to get back into the boat.

Always wear a life jacket


Is Boating Alone Dangerous?

The U.S. Coast Guard claims, “There’s no excuse not to wear a life jacket on the water!” If you or a passenger ends up unexpectedly in the water without a flotation device, it could turn dangerous quickly. There are several types and sizes to choose from, so make it a priority to have proper fitting life jackets for everyone on the boat. You will be glad you took this crucial safety precaution when an emergency arises. Be smart and boat safely.