Ideally, everyone wants a boat ladder that exactly matches their watercraft to avoid drilling new holes. But if your boat is over 10 years old, this can be close to impossible. If your boat is newer than 10 years old, the manufacturer can help — but it'll cost you. The best option is to purchase a replacement boat ladder. While you may not find an exact match, you'll save money and be able to hand-select a boarding ladder to fulfill your precise boating needs.
Ask Yourself These 7 Questions
Right off the bat, you'll want to get a good feel for your own boat. Determine where you want your new boarding ladder to go and think about what you want out of it. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where will you put the boarding ladder?
- How will you attach the ladder?
- Once installed, how much space will you have to store the boat ladder so it's still accessible from the water?
- Are there any obstacles blocking the use of a ladder?
- How much freeboard (the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level) are you working with? Will you be able to push against it when climbing your new boat ladder?
- Do you want a permanent or removable boat ladder? Many ladders can be folded, so they can be left in place without dragging in the water.
- Do you know your boat's measurements? You'll want to measure the height of the freeboard to the waterline, planning to have two rungs beyond this distance. Keep in mind that most ladders are designed to fold or easily stow away.
Tips for Buying a Boat Ladder
Now that you've evaluated your own needs in terms of your specific boat, there are a few general things to take into account. These tips will assist you in making the right decision when purchasing your new boat ladder.
- Make sure you get the right size ladder by measuring your boat first. A boat ladder must extend below the surface of the water in order to be effective.
- Most people cannot pull themselves up the side of a boat without some form of assistance. When choosing your new boat ladder, plan out a way to release it while in the water. This will be invaluable when on the water alone.
- Keep those fingers and toes safe by opting for a boat ladder that stands away from the side of the hull for the most clearance.
- For comfort and security reasons, look for broad, nonskid treads.
- Different materials provide different benefits. Aluminum boat ladders are often lighter and less expensive. Plastic treads are a good option and provide a comfortable experience. Stainless steel ladders are aesthetically pleasing and very durable.
- Side railings that extend above deck level provide added support.
- While rope ladders may seem like a light and affordable option, they don't provide the stability and ease of use that fixed ladders do. You should do thorough research before relying on a rope ladder as your main reboarding method.
Popular Types Of Boat Ladders
So, you have a solid understanding of what you need and want out of your new boat boarding ladder? Now it's time to go over some of the options available. Remember to always consider your specific boat model before purchasing a ladder and always measure. The following are just a few of the many types of boat ladders you have to choose from.
Pontoon Boat Ladders
Pontoon ladders are designed for use with pontoon boats and are available in a variety of mounting styles. The removable model allows you to keep your deck nice and clear — perfect for recreational activities. Or, if you're looking to permanently install your pontoon ladder, you can opt for a folding or underneath mount for easy access into and out of the water.
Removable Boat Ladders
Removable boat ladders, or portable boat ladders, usually fit within brackets that are bolted to the hull or deck. A removable boat ladder is able to fit securely to the boat and still be removed for storage purposes. This option is one of the more versatile boat ladders available.
Transom Boat Ladders
Ideal for sailboats or power boats that are lacking a swim platform, transom boat ladders can be used for many different applications. As with some other boat ladder types, you will have to choose whether you want your boat ladder to be fixed or removable. Transom boat ladders typically mount on top of the boat's transom using rails or hooks. They can also fit flush on the rear or side of the boat.
Gunwale Boat Ladders
More of a temporary option, a Gunwale boat ladder simply hooks over the side (Gunwale) of your boat. These semi-portable boat ladders require no installation or permanent fixtures. Just ensure you get the right depth to fit over the Gunwale properly.
Platform Boat Ladders
Most watercraft with outboard motors don't come with any type of swim platform. If this is the case, a platform boat ladder may be the perfect option for you. Platform boat ladders are designed with a small swim platform, side railings and one or more steps. A platform boat ladder is mounted permanently on the transom of the boat. Since these types of boat ladders are already quite low to the water, they usually don't require more than one or two steps.
Swim Platform Boat Ladders
This type of boat ladder hangs off the rear of the boat and attaches directly to the swim platform, providing easier access to the boat from the water. Since it's already close to the water, this style of ladder usually only has two or three steps. Typically, a swim platform boat ladder can be folded on top of the platform or slid underneath when not in use.
Note that this guide is a high-level look at boat ladders and should not be considered exhaustive. We encourage customers to conduct their own research before making any major purchases. Reach out to our customer service department to learn more.