Boat Ladder for Inflatables


Ladders for use around and aboard the boat? For docks and rafts, hook-on-the-rail models, stern mounts, folding, extending, the new center bar sport ladders…there are lots of them. Look in any chandlery or marine catalog.

Boat Ladder for Inflatables

Here’s a new one, just introduced by Practical Sailor readers Jill and Harold Oldak, who sail a Whitby 42 out of Naples, Florida. Oldak, a successful medallion manufacturer from Long Island, was instrumental years ago in the development of furling jib gear. He’s retired now, but said:

“I like to keep my hand in.”

Harold’s ladder, meant primarily for the sterns of inflatables, but usable also on any boat with a stern near the waterline, is a telescoping three-stepper that is 34″ long when extended and only 15″ when retracted.

Made of very well-fitted sections of thick-wall stainless steel tubing, it is retracted or dropped down with line that is threaded down both legs. If the line is secured within reach, the ladder can be extended by someone in the water. Rather than leave the ends of the legs raw, the Oldaks fitted black plastic caps, both top and bottom. The caps smooth the operation and prevent chafe on the line, which is New England Ropes’ Sta-Set braid.

The thick-wall sections, which have outside diameters of, from top to bottom, of 1-1/4″, 1″ and 3/4″, have close-fitting collars at the joints. Because of the sturdy tubing and tight tolerances, there is but about 1-1/8″ play at the bottom step.

A pair of 6″ struts make the ladder adaptable for an angled transom or to make a good stepping angle on vertical sterns. For sterns that are not conventional, the Oldaks include two solid blocks of nylon to alter the angles. Mounting hardware and a cleat are included.

The steps—more stainless tubing flattened in the middle and butt-welded neatly to the legs—have black plastic treads that snap in place and look like they’ll stay put.

In addition to telescoping (which on more boats would bring the ladder up clear of the water), the ladder folds up on its hinged mounting brackets, which are heavy stainless with three 1/4″ holes for mounting bolts or screws.

Harold’s Ladder is not the only extending ladder on the market (Windline makes several of them), but it’s a good one, designed and executed in a manner that suggests it will last a long while. Like most things that are made well, Harold’s Ladder is not inexpensive. It sells for $195. The Oldaks call their enterprise Anesco Marine, Ltd., 1700 Dolphin Ct., Naples, FL 34102, 941/774-3929, fax 941/774-0048.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. Darrell is booking speaking engagements in Colorado, Idaho, California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Colombia this summer. You can reach him by email at