Canoe Entry from Dock

Ok, I’m really frustrated. I was solo canoe camping in the Adirondacks this weekend and having a great time. I paddled to an island, pulled my little Peregrine up to a dock that was about level with the gunwales, and got out, no problem. That’s easy. When I tried to re-enter later, I tipped toward the dock and swamped. Bailed… tried tying the canoe to a cleat, and tipped again, this time away from the dock, and bailed again. Third time I found another place to enter and had the canoe wedged between a different dock and a big boat. Couldn’t tip… got right in. Each time what I tried doing was bracing across the thwart in front of the seat with the paddle resting on the dock and both hands holding it firmly to the thwart as I enter. My hands aren’t strong enough to keep their grip as my weight eventually leads to the tipping. I’m a big woman. And my balance isn’t great before I’m sitting. Not very agile. Once I’m in, I’m fine. Confident and stable for miles in lots of conditions.

So any tips for me for entry and exit? Even in shallow water, it’s a bit hairy. Thanks.


Getting into narrow canoes
Balance and speed.

The Peregrine is a narrow boat right?

You have to keep your weight centered and get down to your paddling position quickly.

I kneel so when I get into my Osprey or Outrage it’s all one motion, in and down. I’d guess it would be similar if you are sitting.

Practice makes perfect.


step in the middle
You might try to make sure that you step right into the middle of the boat. Picture a line going from the tip of the bow to the tip of the stern. When you step in your first foot needs to go right in the middle…if you are off even an inch or two to either side, the boat will try to move under you.

And keep your weight as low as you can as you step in.

Dock entry
1)Begin standingon dock alongside canoefacing the bow.

2)Place canoe side foot into canoe, slightly on offshore side of canoe centerline,keeping weight on foot on dock.

3) Transfer weight to foot in canoe,reaching for gunwales with both hands and keeping body low.

4) With weight on foot in canoe and hands on both gunwales, bring shore side foot into canoe placing it on opposite side of centerline from foot already in canoe. Smoothly lower bottom onto canoe seat and straighten legs moving feet apart and foward.

The trick is to transfer your weight after the first foot and hands are in place to balance the weight as it moves from the foot on the dock to the boat. People who try to just step aboard like they were boarding a pontoon boat end up doing the canoe to dock split or doing the half roll. This technique was passed to me by the wise old Man of Plaid, and has worked for me with countless beginners.

Using the paddle clamped to the thwart by your hands with the blade on the dock works if you keep the canoe leaned ‘slightly’ towards the dock. Leaned offshore you roll. Leaned heavily toward the dock will break the paddle shaft or your grip, and then you do the dockside roll and can get a nasty whack from the dock.

The boat you bought gets some of its responsiveness from being very tender when the center of mass moves. Raising or lowering the center of gravity an inch will be noticeable, and when you make a partially standing entry your center of gravity is many inches above your paddling position. A 40# dog in an 85# canoe can hang out of the canoe with no effect. A 200+# person in a 30# canoe becomes much more aware of the effect of their movements.


The way I usually do it in that type
of situation is lie belly down on the dock, or with one knee down on the dock and using both hands and arms to keep as much of my weight on the dock as possible, get my legs out into the center of the canoe.

Then still keeping as much of my weight as possible braced on the dock (by my arms) ease the rest of myself into the canoe.

Once I am sitting in the center of the canoe and know I am stable then I ease off on my weight on the dock.



You are going to hate me
But you also have a good start, sounds like you found an exercise that you enjoy, that’s half the battle. Now look at you diet, can you make it healthier? And maybe lose some of the weight that you can’t control. I can guarantee you will feel better, look better, and also enjoy paddling more. It is a hard battle, easy to abandon, but almost nothing is worth doing more.

Canoe Entry from Dock
I do similarly, but generally start from a position sitting on the dock. Most of my dock encounters involve docks that are a foot or more higher than the gunwales, so this may be the deciding factor in difference in technique. The higher the dock the more difficult it seems to be. Getting out is harder than getting in due to the inherently less stable platform you are starting from.

no hate
nah, no hate here. just over two years ago i had stomach bypass surgery for weight loss and so far i’ve lost about 125 lbs. i’m going down all the time. in fact, i just re-joined a gym to help stay fit and to lose more weight. but yeah, i’m pretty sure that there’s not going to be much dock entry going on until i drop about another 50 lbs. i’m looking forward to it! thanks for the brave response.


We all have our demons to fight. Stay on the straight and narrow, winning is worth the trouble and pain. It turned out it was just as easy for me to say ‘no thanks’ as it was to say ‘sure, I’ll have another’.