making boat handicap accessible

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kerk fisher

My wife and I have been sailing for over 25 years in Canada's North Channel and in the last couple of years my wife has been developing difficulty walking up and down stairs and ladders. It's also difficult supporting herself with arms/hands-- a little is possible, but not preferable.  Any thoughts in making companionway stairs and swim ladder easier to negotiate.  We have an open transom. We want to sail til the end of our days!  Thanks, Kerk
Kerk Fisher
C34, Into the Mystic II
Hull #1102, 1990
Sailing the North Channel, Lake Huron
908 Wicksbury Place, Louisville, KY 40207
Louisville, KY 40205
Alternate email:


Tough problem. Perhaps consider some sort of custom built (stainless tubing?) handrails mounted to the bulkhead on either side of the companioway ladder?
1990 hull #1014, San Diego, CA,  Fin Keel,
Standard Rig

Stu Jackson

i struggled with this when I broke my leg skiing in 2009.  I learned that our Mark I boat is actually etremely well suited for handipaped access once on board.

However, Mark II boats have a bunch of different things missing that Mark I boats DO have.

The handhold on the sliding hatch does not exist on Mark II boats.  I find that between that handhold and the two on the sides going down below, I was just fine with limited mobility and leg strength.

The Mark I boats have a handhold above the galley sink along the centerline of the boat, and another one just forward of the mast.  IIRC, Mark II boats do not.  On my boat I can go from the cockpit to the V berth literally without my feet hitting the sole, which I've actually done when heeled beating upwind in heavy conditions:  hatch and companionway handholds down the stairs, galley sink handhold, turnbuckle on keel stepped mast, forward handhold and V berth.  Monkey-time sometimes.

I suggest, if you can,that you  find a Mark I boat and see the differences and see what you can work up for your boat.

Good luck, I know, physical limitations can be quite challenging.  Once I figured how to get on the boat from the dock with crutches, I was just fine.
Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

"There is no problem so great that it can't be solved."


Quote from: Noah on June 06, 2017, 10:18:23 AM
custom built (stainless tubing?) handrails mounted to the bulkhead on either side of the companioway ladder?

I added grab rails to the companionway of a J/120 last year.  I considered having some made ($$$$) or using bathroom grab rails (diameter was too large for he limited mounting space both sides of the opening.)

I found stainless grab rails on ebay that were in various lengths, types of mounting plates, etc. 
Worked out very well for the limited-mobility owner.

Other vendors had different styles.

Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the tradewinds in your sails.
Explore.  Dream.  Discover.   -Mark Twain


Just a thought... Some years ago my wife was wheelchair-bound for some time, and the rehab facility connected us with some carpenter-types who specialized in making the house handicap accessible.  They knew just what was needed and had the equipment to do it in just a few hours.  Might be worth checking out.
Steve Saudek
2005 C-34 MK II

Jim Hardesty

You've probably already thought this. If you back into a slip it may be easier to board from the aft on a MKll.
Hope you find what you and your wife need to keep sailing.
Jim Hardesty
2001 MKII hull #1570 M35BC  "Shamrock"
sailing Lake Erie
from Commodore Perry Yacht Club
Erie, PA