Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making Boarding a Little Less Adventurous, Part I

The most precarious part of our day-to-day life aboard Sea Gem is, without a doubt, moving to and from Sea Gem and the dock. Once aboard, we could hardly be more secure. We have high life lines all around the boat, a secure cockpit, and the companionway ladder has only five shallow steps that could hardly be easier to navigate. And, of course, land is generally pretty safe for moving about. It is going between the two that is the problem.

At low tide, Sea Gem's deck is at the same level as the dock. Our boarding procedure in that situation is to step off the dock and onto the edge of the deck, and then climb over the life lines.

High tide is much trickier. At high tide, Sea Gem's deck can be as much as three feet higher than the dock. In that case, some serious climbing is involved. Our solution was to buy a $10 plastic step stool at Home Depot to put on the dock. The step stool is about 16" high, so it took much of the height out of the climb at high tide. Still not as easy as walking through a front door, but it worked for us. For awhile.

Right around the time that we discovered that we had a stowaway, I fell in the water while getting off the boat. Our little plastic stool, being made of lightweight plastic, moves around a bit. It happened to be partially off the edge of the dock, I stepped onto it, and it tipped over and into the water, taking me with it. I was lucky - I didn't hit anything on the way in, the tide wasn't moving very quickly, and there was no jellyfish invasion at the time. Still, there was nowhere for me to pull myself onto near where I fell in, so I had to swim to the back of the boat to pull myself onto the swim platform. Overall, not the easiest process and one that I would like to avoid in the future. And, now that we have a stowaway to think of and Krissy is likely to become less agile in the coming months, we realized that we need to improve our boarding situation.

So far, we have made two changes, and they have made boarding much, much easier. Change number one was to add a gate in the lifelines where we board. That way, instead of stepping onto the very edge of the deck and climbing over the lifelines onto the boat, we can simple step right onto the deck. Much easier, and no more balancing on a ledge.

Here is what the edge of the deck looked like before, complete with lifelines:


And here is what the deck looks like now, with the lifelines detached and coiled away:


I crimped latches onto the lifeline wires, so when we go for a sail, they are easy to reattach so that our deck is every bit as secure as it was before.

Change number two? Next post.

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