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Old 08-27-2019, 01:41 PM   #1
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Marina safety requirements

Are there any mandated safety requirements (OSHA, for instance) that govern safety requirements for public marinas in the state of Washington? I'm trying to figure out why most marinas I've visited here in the Pacific Northwest have safety ladders well-spaced throughout the marinas to aid reboarding of the docks in case one falls overboard from the dock, and some do not.

Urban legend has me believing there is some sort of state or federally-mandated set of requirements for such things as fire safety (hoses, extinguishers, water manifolds, etc.), lifesaving (life rings, boarding ladders), and electrical codes (National Electric Code (NEC) in particular) that govern marina management practices.

I'm stirring this pot as a result of falling off a dock, and being unable to clamber back aboard without assistance because of the lack of an accessible dock ladder in the reasonable vicinity. Makes it kind of a personal issue when it's impossible to reboard after going in the drink! Makes me mad, too...

Regards,

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ps-and yup, I've tried contacting this particular marina directly, with no comment in response. And trying to approach the issue from the federal end via the OSHA website is highly daunting. Haven't poked at Washington State regulations yet. Can't wait to wade into THAT briar patch!
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Old 08-27-2019, 01:46 PM   #2
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Doubt it's OSHA.... or any federal requirement as many have no ladders at all.


Even state or county it seems hit or miss.


If anything it's just good practice but some types of docks make it almost ridiculous because without one in every slip it might me a long dangerous swim anyway.


Insurance might be the key.
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Old 08-27-2019, 02:01 PM   #3
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Pete,


I have seen more and more marinas adding these ladders and I'm happy to see it happen. I spoke to the dockmaster of my own condo marina a couple months ago and asked about possibly adding them to our marina. He said that the HOA board has discussed it in the past but never decided to do it. While our HOA has rules regarding what can be attached to the docks, he said that if I wanted to add a ladder I could.


I think it is great idea. It has been a number of decades since I fell off a dock, but it could happen. It would be very difficult to get back on the dock if I did, and next to impossible if it happened in the winter while wearing warm clothes. It would also be a long swim to were the closest ladder is located.



I don't think there are any state regulations requiring them but there may be some insurance carriers that require them. If nothing else, ask your marina if you could install one at your slip.
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Old 08-27-2019, 02:21 PM   #4
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I've never given the ladder thing a whole lot of thought. I've seen some marinas that have them, but most don't. I've always kinda figured that if I end up in the water near my own boat, I'd be heading for the swim platform. Dragging myself up onto the platform would be a challenge if there's nobody around to drop the ladder (pretty sure I can't quite reach the latches to drop it while in the water), but it's do-able.
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Old 08-27-2019, 02:43 PM   #5
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I've never given the ladder thing a whole lot of thought. I've seen some marinas that have them, but most don't. I've always kinda figured that if I end up in the water near my own boat, I'd be heading for the swim platform. Dragging myself up onto the platform would be a challenge if there's nobody around to drop the ladder (pretty sure I can't quite reach the latches to drop it while in the water), but it's do-able.
While there's a remote possibility that this is a regulatory matter, it's far more likely to be a question of liability. Most municipalities are self-insured and therefore city attorneys try to act as proactively as possible to avoid loss. Private marinas must, as most of us boat owners do as well, answer to their insurers.

My surveyor and insurance carrier both required addition of a boarding ladder accessible from the water. My wife used it in early March within a month of installing it. I wouldn't be without it, and I certainly wouldn't rely upon one that's difficult to use for a person who may be numb and exhausted.
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Old 08-27-2019, 03:02 PM   #6
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Our marina (400 slips) still allows swimming (and paddleboarding, and maui mats, and floaties, and water polo and...) anywhere in the yacht basin and fairways so dock ladders are very convenient for climbing out after a swim. The slipholders can choose to install them or not at the end of the fingers. I keep waiting for the marina to outlaw all that recreational swimming for liability's sake but the slipholders would probably riot. They have posted signs for years that say "Swimming is not advised..." but water sports are half the fun of life at the marina, especially for all the kids. Just have to be very careful and make sure you're well clear if you're firing up the engines or coming in.
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Old 08-27-2019, 03:14 PM   #7
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My understanding is marinas are specifically exempted from a lot of OSHA-type rules. Can you imagine a floating finger dock with a safety railing all around? Or requiring marina staff to be tied off to work more than four feet off the ground? How would you haul a boat, or frame a boat for shrink wrap?

Insurance companies are a more likely source for rules marinas have to follow.
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Old 08-27-2019, 03:22 PM   #8
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Before I throw this particular municipal marina under the bus, I'm trying to work behind the scene in the hopes of gently persuading this marina to please, please provide not only the paying public that use (and pay dearly for the privilege of) their facility, but their own employees as well, from the potentially fatal virtual certainty of falling into the water from their docks.

After further research, there are, in fact, federal regulations that govern waterfront workplaces. In particular, 29 CFR 1917.26 titled FIRST AID AND LIFESAVING FACILITIES state in part:

"... A readily available portable or permanent ladder giving access to the water shall also be provided within 200 feet (61 m) of such work areas."

In addition, the Marina Policy Guidelines manual, published in December 2016, by the University of Wisconsin lists 9 additional federal and state governing authorities related to best practices for marina management.



7 of these 9 authorities cite safety ladders as a best practice.

So, short of blackmailing this particular marina by threatening public shaming via social media, how do you suggest I get the Harbormaster off his dead ass to fall in line with universal marina best management practices????? In particular, GET SAFETY LADDERS ON HIS DOCKS!

Regards,

Pete

ps-and I agree with several posters, in that this may well be an insurance issue, and the agency assuming liability for this marina may be far more receptive to my overtures than the harbormaster. Were I an attorney, I'd simply drop the marina a note on my letterhead, requesting the contact information for their insurance carrier, in the high likelihood I'd be filing a claim in the near future for a potentially VERY expensive dock accident or fatality.
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Old 08-27-2019, 04:38 PM   #9
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Would that marina allow the slip holders to install their own (I assume optional) ladders? That might be a more palatable, less coercive way to get it done. In the about ten years we've been at our marina there was one fatality in the marina itself, but he tumbled off a boat, not a dock and never surfaced. I fell off a dock myself last year for the first time in my life, slippery wet boat shoes and I had jumped from the swim platform to the finger without pulling the boat closer. Lowered and climbed the swim ladder on the boat next door. I think I was more surprised than anything else.
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Old 08-27-2019, 04:53 PM   #10
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Pete,


If you are talking a municipal marina, then I would suggest raising the issue with the controlling authority. If the marina is run by the Port, then that might be the Port Commission. They are an elected body and probably the first place I would go to if the harbormaster isn't interested. If the marina is run by the City then it may be something to bring up to the City Council, city attorney, or City Manager.


Again, if you can get permission to install your own, I would go ahead and do that in the mean time. As I said, I'm in a similar situation and see the expense of an emergency ladder as being relatively minor compared to the prospect of falling off the dock, during winter, in the dark. I know that for many the concept of being at the dock at night during winter is strange, but we have long boating seasons and short winter days.
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Old 08-27-2019, 05:00 PM   #11
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Just a wild guess but most likely it is the insurance carrier who is requiring the ladders.
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Old 08-27-2019, 05:40 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by jungpeter View Post
Before I throw this particular municipal marina under the bus, I'm trying to work behind the scene in the hopes of gently persuading this marina to please, please provide not only the paying public that use (and pay dearly for the privilege of) their facility, but their own employees as well, from the potentially fatal virtual certainty of falling into the water from their docks.

After further research, there are, in fact, federal regulations that govern waterfront workplaces. In particular, 29 CFR 1917.26 titled FIRST AID AND LIFESAVING FACILITIES state in part:

"... A readily available portable or permanent ladder giving access to the water shall also be provided within 200 feet (61 m) of such work areas."

In addition, the Marina Policy Guidelines manual, published in December 2016, by the University of Wisconsin lists 9 additional federal and state governing authorities related to best practices for marina management.



7 of these 9 authorities cite safety ladders as a best practice.

So, short of blackmailing this particular marina by threatening public shaming via social media, how do you suggest I get the Harbormaster off his dead ass to fall in line with universal marina best management practices????? In particular, GET SAFETY LADDERS ON HIS DOCKS!

Regards,

Pete

ps-and I agree with several posters, in that this may well be an insurance issue, and the agency assuming liability for this marina may be far more receptive to my overtures than the harbormaster. Were I an attorney, I'd simply drop the marina a note on my letterhead, requesting the contact information for their insurance carrier, in the high likelihood I'd be filing a claim in the near future for a potentially VERY expensive dock accident or fatality.
Before you stir up the angry mob too much, why not tell us what happened to you. How did you fall in? What had you been doing and what were you doing at that time? What injuries did you incur?
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Old 08-27-2019, 05:48 PM   #13
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I recommend to each boat owner that they ensure that the boarding ladder is able to be deployed from the water. My boats ladder was not configured to easily be deployed. I added a short line spliced to the ladder with a snap attached to the edge of the swim platform. If you are in the water just grab the line and pull. The snap will come undone and the ladder will drop into the water.
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Old 08-27-2019, 05:57 PM   #14
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I recommend to each boat owner that they ensure that the boarding ladder is able to be deployed from the water. My boats ladder was not configured to easily be deployed. I added a short line spliced to the ladder with a snap attached to the edge of the swim platform. If you are in the water just grab the line and pull. The snap will come undone and the ladder will drop into the water.

Agreed. I need to do this on my boat. The PO had one installed after he bought the boat and it was not installed well, and therefore leaked. I had that ladder removed and the leaking fixed but have not replaced it yet. I need to since my dinghy on the Seawise davit blocks the stock swim ladder.
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Old 08-27-2019, 06:04 PM   #15
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Had a Seawise davit on a previous boat, loved it.
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Old 08-27-2019, 06:05 PM   #16
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Agreed. I need to do this on my boat. The PO had one installed after he bought the boat and it was not installed well, and therefore leaked. I had that ladder removed and the leaking fixed but have not replaced it yet. I need to since my dinghy on the Seawise davit blocks the stock swim ladder.
Yes, it was a simple fix. It took me 15 minutes from start to finish.
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Old 08-27-2019, 06:25 PM   #17
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In the interest of full disclosure, I'm posting this long (sorry!) missive of my recent overboarding incident. For fairness, I've redacted the marina's name. And thanks to all for their responses to date. All good stuff!

CAUTION-CAUTION-CAUTION
This missive is provided to remind ALL of us (not just us wrinkles, but you young unís too) of the stuff that can happen around the docks, even on a nice sunny summers day.
So, itís Sunday morning and Iím preparing to get underway from XXXX for the next leg of our cruise. I was the outermost boat of four, moored bow-out in one of the marinaís several ~100ílong, ~40í wide floating guest docks. I was moored ahead of another boat, port-side to, with two additional boats moored on the opposite side, starboard-side to. Designed for monster boats, in this slip the floating dock is something like three feet above the waterís edge. I proceeded to move my dinghy, moored about 100í away, back to my boat to secure it for sea. As itís pretty tight quarters, between the moored boats, I decided to moor my dinghy temporarily on the end of the dock, so I could rig my towline. As Iíve previously boarded and departed my dinghy from this end of the dock, I was very aware of the high dock, and the difficulty in getting in and out of the dinghy from here. Iím no duffer, and pride myself on my seamanship and common sense. Well, no more!
After tying my dingy alongside of the end of the dock, I proceed to stand on the gunwale of my RIB and hoist my leg over the dock edge, as Iíd done many times in the past. And yup, you guessed it-my dinghy promptly departed the dock, and there I was at 10,000 feet, upside down, out of gas, and on fire. Or rather, there I was hanging by my fingertips to a dock something like three feet above my head, and submerged from the waist down. Well doh, you dummy, whatíd you expect?
So now, whatís next? To XXXX Marinaís discredit, there is NO, I repeat NO safety ladder at the end of this guest dock. Nor any in the immediate vicinity that I can see. No sweat, says I, Iíll simply climb over the dock floats and scramble back aboard. Nope, thatís a non-starter, as the floats are barnacle encrusted, slippery, and too high to reach with my foot. OK, Iíll simply swim to my swim step boarding ladder and climb back that way. WellÖmaybe. Itís over 50í away, I have no floatation aide except my waistline blubber, Iíve got some breathing issues to deal with, I havenít swum for a while, Iím fully clothed, and the waterís sorta cold. So, maybe I can climb back aboard my dinghy, which is still tethered to the dock, and merrily swinging at the end of its bow line several feet away. To do so, I have to commit to letting go of the dock, and hoping I can grab something on the gunwale of the dinghy, and then hope I can hump myself aboard. An equally poor option, in my now somewhat concerned opinion. Well, poop.
As no one apparently saw my abrupt departure into the drink, fortunately I was able to hail one of my friends on the dock, and ask her to please alert my strapping, millennial son-in-law aboard my boat for assistance. While this wonderful and generous lady was happy to oblige, it took some time for her to figure out who in the heck was calling her name, and where in the heck was he, for gosh sakes, and why was he swimming way down there anyway????
The first brute force attempt by my son-in-law to get my lard ass over the dock edge by grasping my arms and pulling resulted in numerous lacerations to my legs from the barnacles, followed by a prompt fail and a return to the water to re-group. Finally, after piling into the dingy and hoisting mightily from there, my son-in-law was able to land me aboard like a giant carp, and thence back aboard the dock.
A couple of take-aways from this all:
a. IT HAPPENED IN A FLASH! From warm and cozy to in a pickle took less time that saying ďOh sugarĒ.
b. With more summers behind me than in front, I donít swim well anymore. A true water baby in my youth, Iíd of laughed at this incident, even a few years ago. NO MORE! This got my attention in a big way.
c. I DONíT FLOAT WORTH A DAMN! The combination of cool water, my personal breathing issues, no supplemental floatation, clothing, and the surprise of falling overboard made me realize that remaining afloat until rescue could arrive might not happen. While no panic ensued, this was NOT a fun place to be. Wearing of a Personal Floatation Device when appropriate is obviously indicated here.
d. Staying dry is an equally obvious mitigation. STAY ABOARD (the boat, the dock, the dinghy, etc.) is WAY better than trying to figure out how to re-board in the moment.
e. In my opinion, XXXX Marina has a responsibility to its paying guests (and visitors, and staff, andÖ) to provide reasonable safety features on its docks. This includes such things as National Electrical Code-compliant power boxes (a topic unto itself), adequate fire protection capabilities (ditto), and in this example, adequate man overboard safety equipment. Again in my opinion, XXXX Marina is grossly negligent by not providing adequate re-boarding capabilities on ALL of its docks. To my knowledge, all marinas I have visited in the recent past in the Puget Sound area are equipped, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, with boarding ladders at multiple locations throughout the marinas. I can personally attest that this guest dock DOES NOT HAVE SUCH A LADDER, or reasonable access to same.
Should this incident have occurred at night or during the winter with fewer persons around, the outcome could well have been fatal. I lost a close friend from just such an incident many years ago, and itís apparent-IT COULDíA BEEN ME. Something to think about.
Ps-this missive was submitted to the Harbormaster at XXXX for comment. No response to date.
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Old 08-27-2019, 06:56 PM   #18
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Thanks for the further info. BTW, anytime you end up in the water in the Salish Sea, it is more than "sorta" cold. I'm very glad that you didn't drown. I could see myself in the same situation easily.


Your experience is why I think marinas should have ladders around the marina. It is why I brought it up to my marina and will continue to work with the HOA board to see if we can do it. Oddly enough, one of the things that derailed a prior attempt, according to the harbormaster, was where to put the ladders. Some owners felt that if their slip didn't get one, then they didn't want any (sigh). Typical HOA type BS.


Anyway, I say "should" because I'm afraid that if it were to be mandated, then it gets tough. It is hard to write rules to govern every marina configuration and situation. While I think it is a good idea to let the marina know about the situation and encourage them to make changes, I think it is one of those things where it would be best to let marinas decide if they want to implement best practices or not.



Another thought, in your example, if I understand the situation, if an emergency ladder was behind another boat tied up to the dock, a person in the water may never be aware of it. Therefore just having one there, won't help us when we fall in without any help nearby, particularly if we are a transient boat. Having said that, when I check into a hotel, I always glance to make sure I know where the stairwells are in case of an emergency. I have noticed that I've also been making note of the location of emergency ladders when I visit another marina IF they are there.



Finally, your experience also reinforces the idea that we should all think about having boarding ladders that can be deployed by the person in the water. In other words, taking our emergency ladder with us.
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Old 08-27-2019, 08:37 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jungpeter View Post
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm posting this long (sorry!) missive of my recent overboarding incident. For fairness, I've redacted the marina's name. And thanks to all for their responses to date. All good stuff!

CAUTION-CAUTION-CAUTION
This missive is provided to remind ALL of us (not just us wrinkles, but you young unís too) of the stuff that can happen around the docks, even on a nice sunny summers day.
So, itís Sunday morning and Iím preparing to get underway from XXXX for the next leg of our cruise. I was the outermost boat of four, moored bow-out in one of the marinaís several ~100ílong, ~40í wide floating guest docks. I was moored ahead of another boat, port-side to, with two additional boats moored on the opposite side, starboard-side to. Designed for monster boats, in this slip the floating dock is something like three feet above the waterís edge. I proceeded to move my dinghy, moored about 100í away, back to my boat to secure it for sea. As itís pretty tight quarters, between the moored boats, I decided to moor my dinghy temporarily on the end of the dock, so I could rig my towline. As Iíve previously boarded and departed my dinghy from this end of the dock, I was very aware of the high dock, and the difficulty in getting in and out of the dinghy from here. Iím no duffer, and pride myself on my seamanship and common sense. Well, no more!
After tying my dingy alongside of the end of the dock, I proceed to stand on the gunwale of my RIB and hoist my leg over the dock edge, as Iíd done many times in the past. And yup, you guessed it-my dinghy promptly departed the dock, and there I was at 10,000 feet, upside down, out of gas, and on fire. Or rather, there I was hanging by my fingertips to a dock something like three feet above my head, and submerged from the waist down. Well doh, you dummy, whatíd you expect?
So now, whatís next? To XXXX Marinaís discredit, there is NO, I repeat NO safety ladder at the end of this guest dock. Nor any in the immediate vicinity that I can see. No sweat, says I, Iíll simply climb over the dock floats and scramble back aboard. Nope, thatís a non-starter, as the floats are barnacle encrusted, slippery, and too high to reach with my foot. OK, Iíll simply swim to my swim step boarding ladder and climb back that way. WellÖmaybe. Itís over 50í away, I have no floatation aide except my waistline blubber, Iíve got some breathing issues to deal with, I havenít swum for a while, Iím fully clothed, and the waterís sorta cold. So, maybe I can climb back aboard my dinghy, which is still tethered to the dock, and merrily swinging at the end of its bow line several feet away. To do so, I have to commit to letting go of the dock, and hoping I can grab something on the gunwale of the dinghy, and then hope I can hump myself aboard. An equally poor option, in my now somewhat concerned opinion. Well, poop.
As no one apparently saw my abrupt departure into the drink, fortunately I was able to hail one of my friends on the dock, and ask her to please alert my strapping, millennial son-in-law aboard my boat for assistance. While this wonderful and generous lady was happy to oblige, it took some time for her to figure out who in the heck was calling her name, and where in the heck was he, for gosh sakes, and why was he swimming way down there anyway????
The first brute force attempt by my son-in-law to get my lard ass over the dock edge by grasping my arms and pulling resulted in numerous lacerations to my legs from the barnacles, followed by a prompt fail and a return to the water to re-group. Finally, after piling into the dingy and hoisting mightily from there, my son-in-law was able to land me aboard like a giant carp, and thence back aboard the dock.
A couple of take-aways from this all:
a. IT HAPPENED IN A FLASH! From warm and cozy to in a pickle took less time that saying ďOh sugarĒ.
b. With more summers behind me than in front, I donít swim well anymore. A true water baby in my youth, Iíd of laughed at this incident, even a few years ago. NO MORE! This got my attention in a big way.
c. I DONíT FLOAT WORTH A DAMN! The combination of cool water, my personal breathing issues, no supplemental floatation, clothing, and the surprise of falling overboard made me realize that remaining afloat until rescue could arrive might not happen. While no panic ensued, this was NOT a fun place to be. Wearing of a Personal Floatation Device when appropriate is obviously indicated here.
d. Staying dry is an equally obvious mitigation. STAY ABOARD (the boat, the dock, the dinghy, etc.) is WAY better than trying to figure out how to re-board in the moment.
e. In my opinion, XXXX Marina has a responsibility to its paying guests (and visitors, and staff, andÖ) to provide reasonable safety features on its docks. This includes such things as National Electrical Code-compliant power boxes (a topic unto itself), adequate fire protection capabilities (ditto), and in this example, adequate man overboard safety equipment. Again in my opinion, XXXX Marina is grossly negligent by not providing adequate re-boarding capabilities on ALL of its docks. To my knowledge, all marinas I have visited in the recent past in the Puget Sound area are equipped, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, with boarding ladders at multiple locations throughout the marinas. I can personally attest that this guest dock DOES NOT HAVE SUCH A LADDER, or reasonable access to same.
Should this incident have occurred at night or during the winter with fewer persons around, the outcome could well have been fatal. I lost a close friend from just such an incident many years ago, and itís apparent-IT COULDíA BEEN ME. Something to think about.
Ps-this missive was submitted to the Harbormaster at XXXX for comment. No response to date.
I totally agree with the need to have ladders. Still, how far apart? I ask as your swim step was less than 50' away as were several other boats and you felt they were too distant to swim to. I fear places with colder water. I've known of persons falling in where there were ladders, but they felt they couldn't make them and ended up holding on to a swim platform until someone arrived to help. The swim platform also had a nice fold down ladder but in his condition he couldn't figure it out.

Especially in cold, we tend not to think all our subsequent actions through and in panic situations so do those rushing to our aid fail to think as they would otherwise. I noted that no one got you flotation which would have lessened the time urgency.

I would not characterize them as grossly negligent but I would hope your incident would have them look at the issue of ladders.

This story is filled with shouldn't have's but also with what if's and worse outcomes. Shouldn't have made the move with the dinghy even though sure hundreds of times before. What if you'd hit your head on the fall. Shouldn't have not worn a PFD. What if it had been the dead of winter. Shouldn't have been doing what you were alone. What if the lady hadn't been there or heard. Shouldn't have tried manhandling you to the dock rather than stabilizing you first with flotation. What if he'd fallen and been injured in the process. Shouldn't have manhandled you into the dinghy versus a ladder on it or using another ladder. What if it had capsized.

Then shouldn't have such expanses without ladders. Most serious injuries and deaths are the combination of many things that could possibly have been done differently, but in spite of all those, a well placed ladder might still have saved a life.

Fortunately, you're fine and able to discuss it. They don't all end so well.
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