Safety On and In the Water

A simple ladder can be a lifesaver | photo and post by Michael Konrad

South 40 dock rep Michael Konrad sends along the following advice for anyone concerned about falling overboard:

Living on the water has safety concerns that don’t apply to living on land. If you or a friend falls in the water, say from a float, it does help if they can swim. However, the main goal will be to just get back on the dock as soon as possible. It may seem that this would be easy, until you fall in the water or watch someone else who has. In most situations the edge of the float will be 16 to 24 inches above the water, and there will not be a convent rope or cleat for the swimmer to grab hold and pull themselves up. Even when you grab hold of their hand and pull, you are likely to find that you are not able to get them on the float. If they are at one of the few places close to land, they may be able to swim to the shore, but much of the shoreline of Waldo Point Harbor is lined by a high metal bulkhead which cannot easily be breached.

I speak from experience. A few months after I moved to South 40 Dock, I was alone on a small, narrow float that supported a rowboat. Underestimating its stability, I fell over the side. Fortunately, the tide was fairly low, and the water only came up to my chest. After about 15 minutes of effort, I was able to pull myself up. My neighbor fell in from a different dock, and it took two people 10 minutes to get him out of the water. I have recently learned that one of the visitors to our harbor fell from a float. Fortunately, the visitor was part of a group, but it still took a big effort and considerable time to get the person back on the dock.

The solution is a swim ladder. Look on for example, and you will see dozens of shapes, sizes, designs, and costs. In case I fell in again I purchased a rather modest ladder for less than $100 that folds up (see the bottom edge of the dock in the photo). If you are in the water, you just have to pull on the ladder rung, and it unfolds into the water. An even better model might have been one that also has handles on the sides to pull yourself up with. If I fall in again, I will not have to just hope the tide is low!