One of the first project after we first took the boat out was to replace the ladder with something a little more useful. It has been one of the most used things on the boat.
Odin came with a three step collapsible ladder. The top of the ladder connected into two grooved plates on the back of the boat and had two standoffs to keep it from sitting against the boat. Before we took the boat out for the first time, we made sure that we knew how to connect it and how it worked. I tied it off to the traveler bar to make sure that it didn't fall overboard or get knocked off.
On our first sail we anchored out, and I stayed aboard to watch the anchor (as it was the first time anchoring) while my wife jumped in. I tested the ladder and it seemed comfortable to stand on, but didn't seem to go deep into the water. After a few minutes, my wife went to climb aboard.
It was then that we realized the steps were, in fact, not deep enough. Unless one can place there foot up to their chin an pull themselves up, the ladder wasn't even close to being usable. This left my wife in a bit of a situation in the water. I tossed her a life jacket and a dock line to keep her from sinking while I worked out what to do.
After some more attempts (and some jokes about leaving her to swim to shore), I used the dock line and built a ladder-ish to get her onto the steps. It took a few tries as we got slammed around by ski boat waves, but she was finally able to pull herself aboard. I decided to prove that she was just incompetent and jumped in once she was safely aboard. I'll go ahead and lie to you and say that I got onboard without even a struggle.😉
The next day I ordered a swim ladder that I saw several people on the Catalina 22 Owners Facebook group using. The ladder is a four step telescoping ladder manufactured by Amarine. It seemed sturdy enough from the pictures to hold my luxurious 300 pounds.
Plus, it was a lot cheaper than the ladder they sell on Catalina Direct. Also, because Odin doesn't have stern rails that the Catalina Direct ladder swings up to, so it would look a lot like a middle finger on the back of my boat. That ladder would also need additional holes drilled closer to the water line.
Now, the Amarine ladder isn't actually meant to be mounted the way that I needed to mount it, and I saw several ways to install it using pieces to hold the brackets away from the hull. Some people used scrap pieces of King Starboard they had laying around, and others used pieces of plastic cutting board cut to size. This piece is needed to push the top rung of the ladder out from the boat as well as avoid the lip of the bracket from digging into the boat.
Luckly, what I don't have in Starboard and Scrap cutting boards, I make up for in a 3d printer. I designed the standoffs with two 5/16 holes that line up with the bracket holes. I also added triangle tubes to give it some extra internal rigidity, and slanted them to let water drain away from the hull. I printed in PLA material which isn't ideal for a marine UV rich environment, but they are cheap and I can just replace them when they have issues.
I double checked that the holes lined up with the holes in my stand-off and used it as a guide to drill holes in the hull. I lined the bracket up with the old slots for the old ladder in order to cover them as best I could, but plan to repaint the boat within a few years anyways, so I wasn't super worried—I just filled them with some thickened epoxy.
I dry fitted everything with 5/16 2 1/2" stainless bolts and ended up worried about torque that would be applied to the top of the bracket due to the two bolts being so far down. The two lower bolts in the picture below are the ones that are pre-drilled. I spent the next 3 hours attempting to slowly drill through the thick stainless brackets. Eventually I gave up, went to the store and bought a decent 5/16" drill bit. This let me finish the top bolt in on both in about 15 minutes. I reprinted a new set of stand-offs with the additional hole and made sure everything lined up.
Additionally, I printed two rests for the ladder to keep it from swinging in and smashing toes. I attached these with double-sided car tape, and they have been there for several years without problems. I would like to redesign them to have cup holders for when we are floating behind the boat. One of the people on the Catalina 22 Owners Facebook group did the most Canadian things I have ever seen and used some stacked hockey pucks as stand-offs. They looked really good on there too.
For the final attachment to the boat, I sealed everything with butyl tape around and in bolt holes. This keeps water from creeping in over time, and is a good sealant for deck hardware as well. It's completely removable and squishes into all the little spots. Some people suggest 4200 marine sealant, which is also removable, but not as easily as butyl tape. The big advantage of the butyl tape over the 4200 is that it stays pliable. This means that even if the seal on the tape is broken there is a better chance that it will reseal itself.
To keep from having point loads behind the bolts I drilled a few pieces of flat bar aluminum I had laying around. Ideally, I would have used stainless, but I don't have stainless laying around. The two types of dissimilar metal can speed up corrosion. I am not too worried about this, though, as I plan to remove the entire ladder for painting within a few years, and the supports are in a spot that is visible frequently because they are right next to my anchor.
And with those brackets, my ladder install was complete. It took a few hours, but turned out pretty good. There is very little flex when climbing aboard, which it a good thing. The ladder goes deep into the water and is easy to climb aboard even in rough seas, which is a great safety feature.
Really, the only complaint I have is that the ladder's small steps are not comfortable to stand on, they dig in if you stay there too long. This just means you have to get into the boat quickly, so it's not a big deal. We use it almost every time we go out, as floating in the middle of nowhere is one of our favorite things to do.
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