Crawling out of a pack boat

I’m the proud owner of a Northstar Rob Roy. It’s everything I want in a canoe but these days getting in and out is proving to be a lot more difficult. Is there any advice on how to smoothly pull this off?
Thanks as always.

I have a Bell Rob Roy, but I don’t think the dimensions have changed much over the years, if at all.
Two questions:
Are you ordinarily entering and exiting from a sandy shore, rocky shore, concrete boat ramp, deep water dock … ?
Are you sitting on the oem foam pad with backband or a raised seat like Northstar’s “Lounger”?

Hey, thanks for writing. I also hd a Bell RR, The seating position is very similar as you suggested. Right now I’m using the stock seat, which I don’t like much. After-market seats of various kinds have helped with the comfort but I bought a Lounger at Canoecopia this weekend. I typically use sandy or finely graveled beaches in my paddling spots.
Given that I’m about to turn 76 some of this is pretty much inevitable but any techniques that help would be greatly welcomed.

Try a kayak?

Been a canoeist for years, and the easiest way to get out of a canoe is from the kneeing position. Even if I am sitting I will usually knee before getting out. Probably not an option in a pack boat.

I recently bought a kayak, and I am still struggling to get the knack of getting in and out. At least with a kayak you can you put the paddle on the back deck and use it as a brace. Is that an option with a Rob Roy.

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You may be able to adapt this “kayak” method, given how your Rob Roy seat support and deck are configured:

If you are already using this method but are having difficulties, you may want to be more specific about which part you are being challenged by.


The Rob Roy, what Northstar calls a decked canoe, is mostly a kayak IMO. Most of us sit low and use a double-bladed paddle so kayak techniques usually apply.
There are a bunch of entry/exit videos out there. Has anyone found a particularly good one?

@eckilson good advice. When I got back into kayaking after a shoulder injury, I didn’t have the tricep arm strength to lift myself out of the cockpit. The easiest option was to rotated inside the cockpit until facing down and do a push up with my hands on the rear deck. I looked like a worm crawling out of a log.

After about 30 trips, I finally developed enough strength in shoulders and triceps to lift myself high enough out of the seat while facing forward, then sliding backward enough to clear my legs and sit on the rear deck.

Bystanders would rush to help, then feel frustrated watching me struggle with the boat when I refused help. I always thank them but explained that I had to figure out how to manage it by myself, because most times nobody is around to help. Getting in and out at the start of a trip is not a problem; however, by typically pushing myself to the limit during the last 2 miles, I’m physically worn out when I hit the beach. The left shoulder is weaker with detatched tendons and arthritis from sepsis damage.

The trip when I could again lift myself out of the kayak at the end of the trip was the point where I realized that I had recovered.

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“…getting in and out is proving to be a lot more difficult…”

Author Itis, my traveling companion, makes getting out of a canoe/kayak awkward no matter the boat. I just do it and ask folks not to provide help confusing my balance.


Some light core exercises will make it easier to get up.

If you are like most of us and your launch site isn’t always fine, gently sloping sand, and if you’d rather not jam your favorite paddle into gravel and stones, and then shove and rock the boat’s hull over the same stuff until it floats, then entering and exiting a floating boat is the only option. And if there’s no dock or paddling partner handy, then you’re on your own.
I have long enough legs to straddle the Rob Roy in a few inches of water, then sit and draw my legs into its generous cockpit. Exiting is more difficult. As far as I can tell, there is no graceful way to get out of a kayak or solo canoe in shallow water. Sometimes I can get out by reversing the entry technique as I still have decent upper body strength. @jyak’s post above seems worth trying too. However, when my knees complain too much I have found the sidesaddle method works reasonably well - not so much for getting into the Rob Roy, but for getting out. In fact, because of the partial decking, there’s more room for error in the Rob Roy than there looks to be in an open canoe like the Slipstream in the video.

I was unable to make it to Canoecopia this weekend. Glad the show is fully back, and I hope your new Lounger seat works well. After trying various pad and backband arrangements in my '04 BlackGold Rob Roy, I installed a first or second gen Old Town ACS seat (no drilling, just double-stick closed-cell foam) a couple of years ago. I don’t like the extra weight, but that’s the trade-off. Good luck.

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All good advice above. If I had two right shoulders, my problem would be solved. I spent eight months, three times a week in physical therapy. My answer to how long does it take to recover: thirty trips.

My suggestion to anyone who suffered shoulder damage is to study your paddling technique to make sure you aren’t contributing to future injury. Go though the high angle paddling cycle and imagine the load you place on the shoulder joint, especially when using a paddle with a large surface area. The shoulder is the most complex muscle group to rehabilitate.

Because of the extent of my shoulder damage, I can no longer do some thing. A lack of rotation, arthritis, detatched muscles. Replacement only gives a partial remedy. So my decision is whether I first replace my shoulder, the right knee or the left knee. I figured out how to compensate for now.

I also have an original Bell Rob Roy, so it’s nice to see Ted Bell back in the game again. Exiting really depends on what you’re exiting onto. I sometimes get parallel to the shore (right up to land) then just get on my hands and knees and climb out. Or, use the paddle behind your back trick, which helps to stabilize the boat, and use the paddle to boost yourself up and out.

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This page from Slipstream has a video with one method, plus some other notes - it may be worth reaching out to them.

And from Hornbeck:

A method I developed with PLASTIC kayaks and beaches: get parallel to the beach, just barely deep enough to float. Lean the boat away from the beach, and push toward the beach using your paddle in the sand on the lake side to make contact with your hull against the sand. Since you were leaning as you did this, once you level your weight, the boat should be firmly beached in the mid-hull area. Now grab the gunnels with both hands and stand up as you would from sitting on the ground, keeping as much weight as possible on the foot closest to the beach. Your weight pins the hull solidly against the beach, eliminating wobble and allowing you to stand as you would getting up from a boat on solid ground.

I think most (all?) composite pack boat makers would ADVISE AGAINST this technique due to wear and tear on the boat and potential for damage. But if I had to chose between hurting myself, not paddling, and wear and tear, I choose the last choice. A pointy rock in the wrong place could puncture a hull with this method.

Best done on sand and fine gravel. Steepness of beach should match the boat hull - steeper beaches work better on deep vee hulls, shallower beaches on flatter hulls.

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I’m an old fart (83) and too large at the same time. I don’t kayak as much as I used to, but…when exiting my small kayak, I have found that having …enough… water under the boat is key.

If I try to exit in only a few inches of water, I’m pushing the boat away from me.

If I leave a foot or so of water under the hull, I can hang my big old legs over the side and simply stand up. I use the paddle as a brace either against the hull, or as a stand-up pole, depending on the bottom.

The kayak comes close to rolling over, but it stops as my body rises up. It isn’t graceful, but it works. p.s. I always have the painter line in my hand so the boat doesn’t drift away.


You have described my preferred put-in, a beach with no waves, perhaps slightly convex and at least as long as my boat. If the grade is real shallow you can also push down on the bottom with both hands and lift the boat a bit to get it to move sideways. If it is real steep, I usually plant the end of the paddle into the sand right against the hull so it doesn’t slide into deeper water. I don’t ever grab the gunnels though.

I’m 69, and thought about a pack canoe because it is nice and light. However, getting in and out was problematic when I demo’d it. I ended up buying an NRS Star Pike inflatable SOT kayak because of how light it is (48 lbs.) The floor is drop-stitched and rock-hard when inflated correctly. My adult children stand in it and paddle. It is not real efficient for paddling, but works great for fishing. I have two other SOT kayaks and they are also quite easy to get in and out of, but they are quite a bit heavier (70 lbs.) and I PREFER help getting them on/off my SUV.

I was trying to think how I do it and you’ve pretty much described it. It’s one leg out and then pushing the canoe around a bit to find that correct depth of water to be able to tip and stand up. An adjustment here or there if the footing is uneven.
I’m 71 and have three pack canoes; if I’d worried about exiting at that first demo I might not have bought. My technique has evolved and I find myself noodling around til I can find an exit spot that will accommodate me.
Gotta keep those legs and glutes strong for canoeing and life in general.


Yep. It isn’t anyone’s exact age. It has more to do with if they’ve kept their flexibility and core muscles in shape.

I had wrist problems for a long time. I had them reworked about 15 years ago. I took up Skeet and Trap shooting at age 80. Opening and closing the shotgun was an issue. A couple of months into it, and my wrists are the strongest they’ve been in 30 years.

I’m not going to rust out, I am going wear out!