Keep On Boating: Age-friendly Mods for Your Boat

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Getting from the cockpit to the dock and moving around a boat may seem simple, but as you get a little bit older it’s worth reassessing your boat’s set-up. We take a look at some simple changes you can make to your trailer boat that will make it more accessible.

A Ramp or Demountable Gangplank

Have you had enough of clambering from the side of your rocking boat onto the jetty, or leaping up to the jetty at low tide? Boat ramps or a gangplank will make it much easier to board and disembark from your trailer boat.

As the tide, wind and waves change, your vessel will constantly move in relation to the dock, so the ramp or gangplank needs to be sturdy and skid-proof. Make sure you can secure the ramp to the boat, and if you always use the same jetty try installing points for ‘anchoring’ the ramp to it.

When it’s not in use, your demountable gangplank could be placed on deck as another seat so it doesn’t take up room.

A wider ramp can be used to load a wheelchair onto your boat; however, the inevitable instability due to waves and tides can make doing this difficult. If you need to load a chair regularly, a company in the US makes a portable hoist for lifting a wheelchair onto a boat.

Floating Dock 

A floating dock will rise and fall with the tide, making it a lot easier for you to embark or disembark. Look for a marina that offers this option or see if you can use one where you usually launch your boat.

Rails On the Fore and Aft Decks

Handrails will add extra stability and security for both ageing sailors and youngsters. Find some that can be removed and folded away.

Rails offer endless possibilities for mounting fishing rods or storing oars, and can act as holders for drinks or electronic equipment. For extra safety, add them wherever you have steps or stairs, as well as on the transom.


As people age they tend to prefer to sit in the shade rather than spend hours in the open sun. A bimini will offer protection from both sun and rain without interfering with access to the sides of the boat or detracting from the view. Prices start as low as $150. The bimini can be removed or collapsed when you don’t need it.


A level floor makes it much easier to get into and move around the vessel, so if your trailer boat doesn’t have flooring, install some now.

Lay carpet or paint the decks with anti-slip paint to improve stability.

Comfortable Seating

Bare seating might be practical in your trailer boat, but most people prefer to be comfortable, especially when they’re sitting down for most of the day. Cockpit cushions are relatively inexpensive to buy, or you can make them yourself, with foam blocks cut to shape and covered in canvas. Use good solid foam that will hold its shape, and source fabrics that are UV and water resistant and easy to clean.

Swivelling seats are easy to buy new or second-hand and can be bolted in place to give you a sturdy spot for fishing without the need to constantly turn and twist your body.

Invest in a Good Winch

Who needs to keep manually cranking the boat back onto the trailer at the end of a long day out on the water? An electric or premium marine winch might be more expensive, but it will repay you with its power and simplicity.

A lot of the changes you can make to your trailer boat so it’s easier to manage and more accommodating as you age are quite basic and effective. You’ll be wondering why you hadn’t made them before.

Let technology help you cruise through your day on the water: take a look at our guide to some of the best boating apps available.


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