My Hobie Self Rescue Ladder


Safety is my primary focus for 2017!

I’ve worried extensively about how I would get back onto my kayak, if I were to flip it over or fall off of it. I’ve seen many YouTube videos on how to self rescue in that situation. If I were a young, strong and healthy person then that would be no issue, but sadly that is not the case for me. I was determined to find a solution that I could be comfortable with and that would greatly enhance my chances of a successful self rescue effort. After pondering on ideas for over a year now, it was not until recently that I ran across an image of a telescopic boat ladder that finally made the light bulb in my head go off.

I searched the web and found the ladder that I wanted and purchased it online. Once it finally arrived in the mail I was able to take measurements and see how to best tackle the method of installing it without drilling holes into the kayak and still be able to support the operational forces of using the ladder itself. I decided on making a deck for the rear of the hobie (open space not utilized much on my kayak) onto which I would mount the ladder.

Material was now the focus for which this deck would be made of. The material would have to be waterproof, easy to work with and be fairly inexpensive. I figured why not use something similar to what the kayak is made of. After a short search I decided I would use high density polyethylene for the deck. I was able to find this material in a size that would minimize how much fabrication would be involved with making it.

Now it was time to dust off my cad software and begin designing the deck panel. The deck itself would utilize the steering access panel screw inserts for mounting of the forward portion of the deck. The design itself did not take too long to create but when finished, I realized I would need supports for the rear portion of the panel. These supports, although they look simple, took a bit to design. In the end it was time well spent as the design of the supports worked out beautifully.

The deck panel would be cut out using my cnc router but the riser supports would need to be made using my 3d printer. These risers (pictured below) took the longest to make – roughly four and a half hours each and two are required. Tie-wraps are used to mount the risers to the grab bar while countersunk stainless steel screws are used to fasten down the deck to the riser.


Once I obtained the required stainless steel hardware, installation was a breeze! I am very pleased on how it all came together as envisioned. This rescue ladder setup has boosted my confidence on dealing with going overboard on my kayak. Soon I will test it out when the weather and water get warmer but for now it is there “at the ready” should the situation arise.

Go here if interested in making this deck: DIY Hobie PA Rear Deck

2 thoughts on “My Hobie Self Rescue Ladder

  1. You did a great job installing the ladder. Like you I searched for a solution for reentering my PA14. In my case, it was after I rolled mine in Pacific Ocean. I did stupid but that is a discussion for another time. I found my ladder at West Marine. At 67 years young, 6′-2″ and 240 lbs it is very difficult at best to reenter the kayak, even with help from a buddy. Luckily, he was only a few yards away. There was no way I could have done it alone. Before finding the compact stainless steel ladder, I tried hanging a rope ladder from the rear handle of the PA. The rope ladder had a couple of 10″ PVC pieces as steps. I tried it out in a pool and found it to be a poor solution. Although I was able to get back on board, it was anything but easy. Once you grab the handle and place your foot on the lowest step, your weight shifts and your foot goes straight up to the bottom of the boat! I would try keeping one leg back and near the surface of the water, then kick and pull myself up. Ugh! Although I did it in a pool, it would be far more difficult in the ocean. I knew at that point a better solution was needed. One other item you will need to install is a short throw rope to turn your boat upright should it fully capsize. I connected mine to the H-Rail at the point where the rail is supported and connected to the boat. I use a Velcro strap to keep it secured to the rail until needed. With the boat upside down, find the rope and toss it over the bottom of the hull. It should only be long enough to go about two-thirds over the bottom of the boat. Grab the rope and use your knees to turn the kayak upright. We hear all the time to practice self rescue. Do it but more importantly, always have a buddy with you when you go out. Remember, practicing in a pool is one thing, but doing it in the ocean or the lake is another. Again, great job putting the ladder on you kayak. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Rick! Thank you for your comment and kind words. I’m in total agreement concerning the safety line on the side h-rail for capsized situations. I will post my version of this safety line soon. In a capsized scenario the ladder will function as well to allow you to get out of the water and onto the top of the capsized hull and grab where needed to help flip the kayak back over when ready to do so.

    For me the rear of the Hobie is by far the best point of re-entry onto the kayak when you take things into consideration like all the gear we have attached to the side h-rails which makes it virtually impossible to get back on from there. Then you have the nose of the kayak as another re-entry point and in this area there is the potential problem of water entering the hull around the front hatch seal as most know is a problem on the PA’s. That leaves the rear of the kayak which is pretty much water tight, when partially submerged, and still leaves some room to get back on even with most of the stuff we carry with us in the rear cargo area.

    The rear deck panel was the best option for me to come up with a solution on re-entry. I’m glad you liked it! Tight lines!


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