Trevor Martin makes a simple boat step for getting out of your vessel in an emergency

I believe that all of us, including the yacht designers, consider that a hatch is not just for ventilation, but also a means of escape both in an emergency and as a convenience – a fire being the most serious scenario.

Last year, I handed over the aft master suite of my boat to my son and his partner.

My son had previously enjoyed bouncing out of the front cabin quarters through the hatch using the well placed ledge half way up the main bulkhead as designed by Moody.

He looked around the aft cabin and said: “Where’s the step for getting out of the hatch?” No step.

“Ah”, I calmly explained, “the ceiling is a lot lower, so it’s not needed”. I swung back the hatch and demonstrated the ease of which you can stand on the berth and just… Hmm, ah… phfff.

A man climbing out of boat

The boat step is placed at an appropriate height to allow exit out through the hatch above. Credit: Trevor Martin

Well, I did get through but only as I’m a climber and visualised a squeeze top-off at 24m that I’d managed at Sennen Cove some years earlier.

It was annoyingly almost OK, but not quite for my 5ft 10in stature; and not at all for less flexible or shorter occupants.

Lean and at over 6ft tall, Sam managed it fine.

So, with a teak offcut, I formed a little ledge to double as a step and as a shelf for a coffee cup, but ended up being used mostly for an LED candle (excellent for boats!).

The bathroom on a boat

The heads tidy craftily hides the step securing nuts and washers. Credit: Trevor Martin

I bolted the step through the bulkhead to the ensuite for ultimate strength and later covered up the nuts with a bathroom ‘tidy’ made from scrap wood.

The step worked just fine for all and I was in the good books from my partner for the ‘tidy’.

Let’s hope that the step is only used for convenience, not an emergency! Which fits with my motto, ‘Plan for the worst, expect the best’.

And for a different escape..

Last autumn, on a chilly night, I found myself swinging our modest laptop around the aft cabin trying to find that sweet-spot for viewing.

The screen was too small on the opposite shelf, and too squiffy on the narrow side shelf.

We ended up with it on my lap and I was ordered not to fidget! So, we watched a film and I got acute cramp.

A laptop on a wooden shelf

Laptop on the two-storey shelf with DVD player below. Note fire extinguisher is also safely stowed beneath. Credit: Trevor Martin

I started to eye up my candle shelf/escape ledge.

What was required was a temporary detachable shelf that would extend the little 2in ledge.

Continues below…

My laptop is a simple notebook style – a choice to keep power consumption low and weight low for carrying to and from the boat.

It has no DVD drive, so I have a standalone USB- powered DVD player.

Hence the lower second shelf to house the DVD player underneath… a double shelf – I am totally outshelving myself.

A laptop shelf on top of a boat step in a boat

The laptop shelf as it sits on the escape boat step. Credit: Trevor Martin

I used nuts and bolts instead of dowel pillars so that I could adjust it as a prototype, but the first set-up was right and I liked the look, so it stayed this way.

Using the rule of less is more, I screwed a thin strip of dark hardwood into the bulkhead above the foot-ledge, allowing enough clearance for the thickness of plywood, about 4mm.

The plywood wedges tightly into the new recess.

The weight of the shelf and anything on it levers on the forward edge of the step-ledge and is held down by the hardwood strip, no fixings required!

A shelf made out of wood on a boat

Simple strip above  the boat step allows the laptop shelf to stay safely in place. Credit: Trevor Martin

The double shelf is easily stowed down the side of the wardrobe locker.

Made from existing stuff from the boat’s stores, the shelf cost me nothing, which vindicates my membership of the ‘it may be useful one day’ association, which offers automatic enrolment for all PBO readers.

But seriously, get all of your crew to try getting out of your hatches unassisted.

You may have your hands full and not be able to help them in an emergency.

Enjoyed reading How to make an emergency boat step?

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