Most boaters spend about half of their time boating alone, fishing, cruising, or sunbathing. While not inherently dangerous, you should be familiar with how to get back in the boat from the water when boating alone (unassisted reboarding). Most modern runabout boats and larger are often equipped with a boarding ladder at the stern of the boat. These ladders are typically held in the stowed position with a strap, swing down to the water, and are pulled to telescope into the use position. Your design may differ, but all are made for quick deployment from the water. Here are a few pointers:
- With the boat in shallow water and the engine off, practice deploying the ladder. Some are mounted to the top of the boarding platform under a cover, while others are mounted to the bottom of the platform.
- Some ladders have mechanical locks that require a lift-pull-slide-swing motion to use.
- Some ladders are mounted through the transom and may have a locking pin that must first be removed to pull the ladder out fully and swing down for use.
- Small utility boats do not usually have a ladder and require the person to pull himself up and over the transom or side of the boat. Use caution to prevent contact with the motor and any mounted accessories that can cause cuts. Small V-bottom utility boats may also have stability issues with large people entering on the side of the boat.
- Always attach the engine emergency cutoff switch lanyard to your person when boating alone or not. This safety system is designed to shut off the engine to prevent runaways and prop strikes.
- When boating alone, always wear your life jacket.
- If swimming from the boat, be sure to properly set the anchor. A slight gust of wind can move the boat out of reach.
- After reboarding, properly stow the boarding ladder and lock it into position.
With just a little practice reboarding from the water, you will save a few seconds getting back into the boat that can make all the difference, especially in cold water where hypothermia can affect you in as little as 5 minutes.