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News Letter

Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
With Some Adaptations, Most Arthritis Patients Can Enjoy the Boating Life Print E-mail

For many people, arthritis hits at the age when they are finally able to afford the time or money to pursue some of their dreams. To some, "the good life" means life on the water, boating, and all the good things associated with boating, such as fishing and swimming. Arthritis can put a damper on those plans; but it doesn't have to.

You may have to make some adaptations and adjust your goals, but the good news is many people with arthritis are able to enjoy water activities despite their condition. In addition, boating or sailing will get you outdoors and may motivate you to maintain an active lifestyle, healthy for both mind and body.

If you have mild arthritis, you may be able to get in and out of smaller boats. This is not the best approach for many people with more severe arthritis, because getting in and out of a small boat on a dock or from shore can be taxing on the joints.

Thankfully, there are several alternatives. One of the most accessible types of boats is the pontoon style. A pontoon boat straddles long supporting floats, with the floor of the boat rising above the water. "Pontoon boats are great because you don't have to climb into it," said Bernie Boone of Denny's Marina in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "The floor of the boat is generally level with the dock so you don't need a ladder; it's a very accessible boat for people with joint problems."

"You can walk straight onto the boat," agrees Carter McLaughlin of Harris-Kayot, one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of pontoon boats. McLaughlin said that many boaters with limits to their mobility lean toward pontoons. "They're very stable in the water, with less turbulence and rocking," he said. "They have a wide footprint on the water. Some pontoons even have wheelchair ramps."

Features to look for include ergonomically designed controls and seats that are easy to get in and out of.

For other types of boats, accessibility is the key for passengers with arthritis. As lake levels fluctuate, boats can sometimes be three or four feet below a dock. Many boaters use pool-type ladders, but these require quite a bit of agility and would be impossible for many with arthritis. Special ladders are available allowing passengers to board just like walking down a flight of stairs. Rather than the straight-up-and-down traditional ladders, these extend from the dock into the midst of the boat, with a more gradual series of "stairs."

These are just a few of the most common adaptations enabling people with arthritis to enjoy life on the water. Similar adaptive equipment exists for most other types of boats, from sailboats to cabin cruisers. Your local marina should be able to help you research the available options in adaptive equipment.

As with any new activity, you should consult your doctor before starting boating. Also, you should avoid any activity which may make you feel unsafe or unstable.


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