Beaching a Fiberglass Kayak on Rocks

Kayaking newbie question here: if one had a kayak loaded up for a week trip and the first stop was at a tiny island with no beach (which is common around here - maine coast), should one be nervous about placing the loaded kayak on the rocks during one’s stay at the island? How does one deal with this problem, or is it not really a problem at all? I assume one would exit the kayak while still in the water and carry, not drag, it up the rocks.


You can anchor it for a short visit
We simply unload the boat each time it comes up on the rocks.

Rockweed is nasty to negotiate a path on. You have to be careful to step between the rocks…and that is done only by feel.

The trick is to be quick… a partner feeding you stuff is helpful. With 12 to 24 foot tides time is of the essence.

Been doing this with fiberglass since 1993. The boats getting old but the hull is still intact. A friend tried a center cart and the loaded ends stressed the hull. Plus it was no fun going over rocks. He cracked the boat. It all turned out to not be such a good idea.

Look carefully on islands. Know your islands. Often there is a beach area at low tide. Come in so that you can take advantage of it at the right time…unload and then carry your empty boat into the woods.

Conversely some islands have rocks surrounding the beach at low tide.

Never fail to tie down your boat.


– Last Updated: Sep-01-11 4:37 PM EST –

If you must drag try to do so on seaweed covered rocks, as long as you have safe footing. As said above make sure it is way up above the tide line and always tie it off. But a decent fiberglass boat can take some beating too.

What islands are you going to stay on? Anything in Muscongus?

I just did a 4 day solo paddle around Stonington Maine last week and had this problem in spades. I was alone in a fully loaded glass boat. This is what I did to minimize damage. I got out of the boat while it was floating, before it hit the rocks. I picked up the bow and walked up the “beach” as far as I could with the stern floating until the back of the boat hit the rocks. Gently lay the boat down. This usually got 2/3rds to 3/4th of the 17.5 ft boat out of the water on the beach- say 12 to 14 feet or so. Then I would get the stern and carry it around, rotating the boat on the bow. Usually I found kelp to put the bow on so that it would not really get damaged while pivoting. I suppose you could put some sort of pad under the bow to do this but I didn’t worry about it. Now the boat is parallel to the water’s edge and 12 feet or so away. If I was staying I unpacked the boat then carried it above HT line (and tied it). Reverse the steps to launch.

In 4 days and maybe 16-20 launch/landings, virtually all on rocky Maine “beaches” my hull suffered very minimal scraping. Nothing I am worried about.

One trick I used to make loading/ unloading quick and (relatively) easy is the use of those large, blue plastic IKEA bags. All the gear in each hatch fit in its own IKEA bag. So unpacking was- pop the hatch cover, pull out the blue bag, put all the dry bags in it and walk away, almost all my gear carried in two IKEA bags.

Good luck, have a great trip.

My Experience
"Rocks" vary a lot. And number of fellow paddlers is important. If you are not alone then there are lots of ways to help each other out. Even if you are only landing on a sand beach it is a good idea for paddlers to help each other carry boats up on the shore to safety. I almost always sea kayak with a group of people and when we land, even for lunch, we always help each other land. The other nice thing is that the more experienced paddlers can help the newer paddlers with landing. That being said, I have to comment that if you are paddling alone and have difficult rock strewn landings to deal with then that is a lapse of judgment on your part. I will probably get roasted for that comment from the solo paddlers but it really is safer and better for your boat to paddler with others.

White Squall Paddling Centre
We just completed a trip through the Mink and McCoy Islands on Lake Huron. The outfitter near there (White Squall) gave us a lot of advice, including carrying a couple short 2x4s for beaching on the islands, which are almost entirely granite. Some of us used sections of pool noodles. Photo link:

2x4 hull skids

– Last Updated: Sep-01-11 9:54 PM EST –

My brother and I recently spent a week paddling parts of Georgian Bay, in classic Canadian Shield country, with many rocky landings:

Another paddler had recommended we carry short chunks of 2x4 studs, and we often used these as protective skids when landing:

As outlined by jbernard above, one paddler would lift his own bow up onto the shore, drop the 2x4, and set the boat onto it, then the second paddler would swing the first boat's stern up onto the shore and set it on a second 2x4. Repeat for the second boat.

More Killarney trip photos, for those who are interested:

Good luck!


Funny moment

– Last Updated: Sep-02-11 11:13 AM EST –

We have spent time paddling in mid-coast Maine every summer for a number of years now and have camped on some of the islands, and I have spider crack sealant and tenacious tape on one spot to prove it. So yeah, it's a consideration until someone gets accustomed to the idea that boats can operate fine with a few scratches.

Rock strewn beaches are the norm - once you get into mid-coast and up in Maine you are often looking for the least rock strewn as the best option. Forget true sand beaches if you really have to land NOW.

I was in an assessment in the Downeast area that started out as one of my really bad days and kept going. At one point we were asked to point out viable landing points based on a chart. I looked at the chart and picked one that was a fairly sheltered side of an island and moderately rocky with some sand between. It seemed a better choice than the sheer rock cliffs that dominated the seaward side of most of the nearer islands.

Well, apparently I picked wrong and was supposed to find a sand beach with no rocks. In that bay, there was only one such beach and it was at the other end of the bay from where we were.

I redeemed myself a little by pointing out the array of rock cliffs around us, but not completely. A few minutes later I realized my error - the coach in that class was from Florida. They had very different expectations about finding sand beaches.

The day was lost by then anyway, an early lesson about me and this organization that took me until this last fall to get. Sometimes I am thick. But the sand beach thing was sincerely funny.

Great question and
some great advice…i found this helpful and hope i can remember them when the time comes that i need them.

protected rocky beach, no waves, paddle up until you begin to touch, pop skirt and swing legs out putting feet on bottom and stand straddling kayak, or put paddle out like out rigger and get out. Now that the kayak is riding 3" higher in the water drag it up a bit further until it’s no longer floating but not so far that you’re removing gobs of gel coat. Then quickly unload kayak (assuming a rising tide) and move when empty. When with friends lift the loaded kayak a very short distance to minimize dragging then unload before the long carry above the waterline.

Protected inlet with seaweed over rocks, paddle on in until you’re bumping and get out CAREFULLY so as to not wedge feet between rocks. Pull further then unload.

Basically get as far as you can without grinding too much, move yourself off, move a bit farther, empty, move all the way.

Don’t try and move a loaded kayak all the way and don’t drag the kayak more than you have to. Maybe 10’ total.

Don’t worry, the gel coat is there to remove.

or big mesh bags
nothing better than Ikea bags or big mesh bag for moving a bunch of small bags quickly

except with Maine rockweed
you have to wedge your feet between rocks. Its the best way to avoid breaking an ankle.

Like others I live near the Maine coast and can vouch there is no slick easy way to “beach”. Ignore the cosmetic abrasions your boat gets in favor of your own safety.

Its always a good idea to study the chart to get a hint o where the beaches might be. But avoid the dreaded clam flat…(green). You will get out and sink so your feet are stuck.

Muscongus is a wonderful bay with the occasional beach…Its quite a bit milder than other waters in terms of current races.

The MITA guide is very handy too. Most of those islands have kayak friendly landings and advice on when the landing is not kayak friendly.

Nothing planned yet
but based on my last trip, sandy beaches are non-existent out in Maquoit, Middle, and Quahog bays. I’d love to get out to Muscongus or even around Deer Isle. I imagine it’s beautiful out that far.

Pool Noodles and Ikea Bags
Love these tips - thank you! And this would be with several friends. I don’t think i’d do something like this solo. I use the MITA book as much as possible.

Tide state matters
Higher tide makes some landings easier, Thief for example in my opinion. Rocks, but nice round ones and no seaweed. As kayakmedic says, the MITA book is pretty good about pointing out this out when it makes a significant diff in ease of landing.

I should have said don’t stand on rocks but make sure your feet can’t slip down between rocks you can’t get out of

What kind of boat ??
If its one of those brit boats built like bath tub it should be fine to drag around for years according to some. ; )

Perhaps I am a barbarian without concern for my boat, but after a long day I am not inclined to worry much about getting a few more scratches on its hull nor to mess with gadgets to avoid them. I just want to be safely ashore and relaxing quickly with camp set up.

I suppose it depends on where you paddle and the boat you paddle.

My frame of reference is the coast of Maine and my experience is there are often nice soft pocket beaches if you look for them, landings are generally easier at high tide than low, all those horrible grating sounds as you slide a boat up a bit sound much worse than the resulting scratches, far better to unload and load close if not partially in the water than moving a loaded boat over slick stuff let alone trying to carry it, and going light in gear and boat really, really helps if you are solo.

Overall, advice about using big bags to haul stuff to and from boat and being more careful about yourself than the boat when you must deal with large, rocky bottom covered with slippery stuff seem excellent and on point to me.

CD Gulfstream

My take FWIW
Paddled a few thousand expedition miles and know the scenario you speak of well. Never had 2x4’s and wouldn’t bother. Most kayaks are tough and can easily withstand a pull up and onto rocks, even loaded.

I was involved in engineering the Necky boats made in Thailand and they are built based on expedition stresses. The epoxy glass lay-up can withstand years of that abuse, major hits etc. Very tough boats but as I say many are adequately tough. Actually, most simple glass lay-ups are tougher than Kevlar by far, so don’t fuss. Most Kevlar 49 lay-ups are a combo of glass and aramid but “tend” to be lighter builds all around, as that’s the whole intent for that consumer.

As others have said, lots of small stuff bags that get tossed into large net bags for fast load / unload.

Often sounds of scraping etc are worse than the real damage. A scraped up hull is part of a used kayak and can be refreshed often.

Stick the bow into a slot, get out and get wet if needed, pull boat up and out, unload, etc.

I actually go light enough that I often carried my loaded boat on my shoulder up the beach after removing cockpit gear.

Don’t over mind freak the thing, just go and have fun and use your kayak.