DIY Emergency Boat Ladder


All equipment on a boat is designed to be durable and compact. Emergency equipment is a necessity and some equipment such as an emergency boat ladder can be made economically while enhancing safety. An emergency boarding ladder can be used to quickly exit a boat to a life raft, or it can be attached quickly to assist people out of the water. The emergency boat ladder can be rolled and stored in an accessible compartment on deck or kept in a bag on the dinghy or raft.


  • An emergency boat ladder is compact so that it can be stowed away, yet easy to access and lightweight to set up. Use thick marine rope a minimum of 1/2-inch thick. Determine the length of the ladder according to the height of your boat from the water, and add at least four feet for knots. Double the final measurement, as the rope will be on each side of the ladder.

    For example:
    Length needed to reach the water from the boat railing: 5 feet
    Additional length: 4 feet
    One side = 5 feet + 4 feet = 9 feet
    Doubled = 18 feet of marine rope

    Estimate eight to 10 inches between rungs to determine the number of rungs needed. For example, a boat ladder five feet long has six rungs.

    Use PVC pipes for rungs and side railings to provide support during use. Measure and cut PVC pipes at least three feet across for the rungs and bore holes on each side approximately two inches from the end for the rope to thread through. Measure and cut PVC pipes eight inches long for each railing. Remember that the railing is on each side of the run.


  • Thread the rope through a hole in a section of PVC pipe and pull it across to thread through the other hole of the PVC pipe to form the bottom rung. Pull the rope out so that you have two equal lengths of rope and position the bottom rung so that it is centered. Make a knot above each hole to retain the position. Insert rope through a PVC railing for each side and then thread each side of rope through the holes on the PVC rung to build your ladder. Since the PVC railings are a fixed length, there's no need to make a knot after each rung but you may do so, if desired. Continue to add railings and rungs to build your ladder.

Set Up

  • Once the ladder is complete, securely knot the loose ends of the rope together. Toss the ladder over the side of the boat and check its reach to the water (it will be longer than needed). Pull the ladder up so that the bottom two rungs are floating in the water and tie the two sides of rope in a slip knot to mark its position before slipping it over a stay or railing post. Don a life jacket and test climbing up and down the ladder.

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