Alan England explores how to board a boat safely after falling overboard from his Moody 376

Boarding a boat safely

While the captain of a Royal Navy warship is greeted with the tweet of the bosun’s whistle when he steps up the gang plank to board his ship, we mere mortals attempting to get on board our pride and joy usually make do with nothing extravagant unless we own a superyacht.

A while ago my stern safety line gave way on my 1990 Moody 376, Linga Linga.

Following a triple backward somersault I departed from the stern of Linga Linga’s deck into the ogin, and despite a high score from the judges, I was sadly not selected for the Olympic diving team.

A drop down ladder for boarding a boat

A drop down ladder stows above the anchor. Credit: Alan England

Fortunately for me, I was able to climb on board Linga Linga using my stern boarding ladder, which I always have positioned so it’s easily accessible to lower and climb up, especially as I’d noticed that the safety ladder on my pontoon was unusable due to being blocked by the fender of a selfish motor boat owner.

You need to be prepared for all eventualities on a boat.

Having got over the shock of my escapade I analysed the situation and gave my thanks to how I ended up in the sea without sustaining serious head injury on my neighbour’s yacht.

The safety line has since been replaced, I hasten to add.

I think 25% of boat owners on my pontoon have ended up in the water, usually when getting on or off the boat.

Reasons have included loss of balance, the boarding plank breaking due to the failure of the owner to diet, simple failure of the plank, or the plank going up and down like the proverbial yo-yo due to selfish boat owners exceeding the 3-knot speed limit in the channel.

Continues below…

A few days later after a walk around our pontoon and observing the variety of different methods boat owners used for boarding their pride and joy, I decided to see if I could come up with the ideal solution to make getting on and off the boat easier without falling off.

All the best ideas seem to come to me when enjoying a sundowner, and it was then that I remembered the tale of Stu Davies’s misadventure and the boarding gangplank constructed by John Chips for Barbara Molin’s yacht East Quest in PBO August 2022.

You pay your money and you take your choice and whatever method you choose to board your boat, the ogin is still wet when you fall in!

It was after my first mate, Rosemary, went for an involuntarily swim that I engaged my worn out brain for a safer method of boarding Linga Linga, and decided the only really safe way was via steps attached to the boat.

This followed the maxim of the safety rule of ‘one hand for me and one hand for the boat’.

Linga Linga had the UK-style pulpit which, if you were short of stature, meant damage to the nether regions while attempting to get over the pulpit tubing.

I can’t actually think of any advantages of this style of pulpit.

Fortunately I had a very good local stainless steel fabricator who converted my pulpit to the open-fronted continental style, enabling easier and safer access via a ladder which is attached above my Das Bugel anchor.

Anchoring is no problem and easily carried out with the ladder in situ in the raised and folded back position.

The ladder is multi-functional in that it provides keep fit aerobics when climbing on and off Linga Linga.

It also serves to inform me that when I am unable to climb up and down the ladder it is time for me to hang up my lifejacket and spend more time on land.

Ways of boarding a boat: the good, the bad and the ugly

A simple, stylish passerelle and no mistaking which boat it belongs to!

A simple, stylish passerelle and no mistaking which boat it belongs to! Credit: Alan England


A drop down ladder on a small yacht for boarding a boat

A stainless steel drop-down ladder for the small yacht. Credit: Alan England


A plank on a pontoon

For how much longer will this plank provide safe boarding access? Credit: Alan England


Back of a boat in a marina

Mind the gap! A leap of faith only for the very agile. Credit: Alan England


A long plank will span a wide gap, but is tricky to stow on the boat

A long plank will span a wide gap, but is tricky to stow on the boat. Credit: Alan England


A metal gangplank for boarding a boat

A sturdy aluminium passerelle with stanchions and checkerplate non-slip. Credit: Alan England


Workmanlike, but a sturdy passerelle offers secure boarding

Workmanlike, but a sturdy passerelle offers secure boarding. Credit: Alan England

A sturdy aluminium passerelle with stanchions and checkerplate non-slip

Light, wide and sturdy, a ply-covered aluminium ladder. Credit: Alan England


Plank covered with synthetic lawn for a non-slip surface. It also protects the boat

Plank covered with synthetic lawn for a non-slip surface. It also protects the boat. Credit: Alan England

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