dock entry/exit

After more than a year of recreational Kayaking I have not entered or
exited my boat from a floating doc. Is there a recommended source of
tips to help me with a technique? Thanks in advance. ....... Ron

floating dock heights can be very different, so can water action around docks.

Method of entry/exit depends on many things.

It takes a lot of …
upper body strength and a silent prayer!

Markinnc does it pretty good, maybe he will chime in here.



how I do it
First, what was said before is correct - much depends on water condition and height of dock. All the docks I have done have a dock height that is roughly equal to the height of the kayak.

So - how I do it - which may or may not be the official right way…

The entry requires a lot of balance. Until you are fully in your boat, you should have weight on both the dock and the kayak. Slow and smooth motions, and keeping your body low, as you slowly transfer from dock to boat. You are balancing and keeping the boat from getting away at the same time.

You can use your paddle to help balance by placing it on the deck behind you and across to the dock, sitting on it as you enter. This can help you balance. But if you are not careful, it can also result in a broken paddle. Your call as to whether you do this (I usually do). Otherwise. having paddle in hand and using it to brace on water if you start to tip would be an option.

If there are others with you, they can raft up to you to hold the boat in balance. Helps everyone except the first on the water (or last off the water when landing).

Relatively easy
1. Equip your kayak with a bow line and a snap hook of some variety with enough length to go past the cockpit and clip onto the aft bungie cords.

2. Come up to the float and “stretch” the bow line over a cleat.

3. Bring feet up to seat and SLOWLY stand up using your forearm closest to the float as a brace.

4. Keeping the foot that shall remain in the boat the last, along the centerline, SLOWLY step (or crawl) out onto float.

5. Most important thing to remember: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you lunge, the boat will move out from under you. Splash is not graceful.

Bow Line…
I use a bow line long enough to be cleated to the dock near the cockpit. This will keep the boat from going forward on entry/exit and helps in getting your feet under you while holding onto the dock.

o/k - o/k…

– Last Updated: Jan-03-07 10:30 PM EST –

I'll tell you how.
Take a short tie-off line & secure it around the bowline/cleat nearest to the cockpit on the side of the kayak you wish to disembark from, & then to the dock. Make it with little to no slack (it's a floating dock & a floating boat so no problems) & just lean into the dock side (line side) when exiting (& entering)

Nothing to it. (but be careful anyway)

(works on regular docks too, just slack the line after exit for tides)

This works for me
And admittedly I have rather decent balance, but any advantage from that is lost when the dock I have to get off of or onto is up to three feet higher than the water. The day we did our BCU 3 star the water level had dropped a bit over the prior week…

I find getting out to be the trickier part. For that, I position the boat right next to the dock and find the best purchase I can for one hand while I slide up onto the back of the boat from my cockpit. I stabilize and balance there then move my weight up and onto my upper body - arms, chest or whatever torso portion the dock height allows me for purchase - in one motion. Hopefully I complete the transfer before I push the boat away from me and end up going splash onto the water.

To get in, just get the boat positioned under you and reverse, again make your goal a seated postion on the rear deck right behind the cockpit. Then slide forward into the cockpit once your weight is solid there.

If the dock is quite high, messing around with the paddle to stabilize may give you a really tricky moment of having to transfer your balance from the paddle to the middle of the boat as you are rising. Something I could get away with in some boats in calm conditions, but I think it’d entail a decent percentage of swimming.

whats the big deal?
unless the dock is way high up or you have a kayak with an ocean cockpit or the water is rough…

#1 dump boat in water

#2 leash paddle to boat and dump it in water on the side that’s not the dock side.

#3 get your feet in the boat while firmly holding onto dock

#4 sit down, gradually loosening grip on the dock.

once i got out of the kayak onto a log that was chained down to a ship(to board the ship). as i learned quickly it was chained down on one end only as the end i was on started sliding away from the ship’s side(but it all worked out). and later i got back in the kayak the same way,now that was somewhat peculiar but fun experience.

Harder for some
I have seen people who were less limber or lack relative strength in some body region have the devil of a time getting out of relatively easy boats onto a fairly low dock. Sea kayakers get pretty casual about this, but the rec boat crowd often includes people who aren’t accustomed to managing the same kind of balancing act. Try working with a knee that hasn’t recovered its full range of motion after surgery, that kind of thing.

Besides, anyone will at some point be trying to deal with rough water and a lousy launch spot, where it will be useful to break down the parts of the motion.


– Last Updated: Jan-04-07 5:56 AM EST –


not sure what kind of kayak you are using, especially how long it is, and how good your balance is, so this might not be for you:

If the dock is a bit higher, I usually just set the boat on the dock, perpendicular to the water line, climb into it, grab the paddle and then splash into the water.

Only works with a good sprayshirt of course, and you should be able to keep your balance after hitting the water. The bow, up to your waist, will very likely be completely underwater.

Have fun!

Good Question! But additional advise
please. We will be going down Juniper Run (in Central Florida) this Sunday 1/7/07. The lunch spot is a dock that was approx. 3’ above water level last time we did this run a couple of months ago. The current is constant and a little swift.

I am recovering from cancer treatments. Anybody who has been there will know what that does to your strength. Folks are wonderful, they want to help and hold my boat, but I have a hard time balancing especially when they are trying to offset any movement I make. I’d prefer to do it myself but just don’t trust my ability yet.

Last time, I just gave my hubby his lunch and sat in my boat to avoid the hassle. Upper body strength is returning, but can be tricky.

Which of these methods do you think would work best under these conditions?

Appreciate any advise,


At that dock height…
Using a paddle or trying to simply lean over onto the dock from sitting in the boat are not options (unless you have very unusual build). I don’t see any option but to do what I described and pass thru a standing position, to drop your chest over onto the dock to get out. Once your torso weight is dropped over onto the dock that way, your husband can stabilize you and help you lift the last bit out of the boat, sliding over onto the dock.

Whatever you do, you will need to have your husband out of his boat and on the dock helping you. I understand not wanting to take help if you need it, but right now you do.

With that current, it seems that you’ll need to have a line from the bow and stern of the boat stern of the boat to something on the dock to hold it solidly close and parallel. So he’ll have to be first one out to tie off and last one in to cast off.

I suppose that if you could find some way to affix it you could carry a rope ladder like they have for motor boats, but the moment of transferring your weight from the boat onto the bottom rung of that may be more precarious than what I described.

Thanks for the advise!

– Last Updated: Jan-04-07 9:19 AM EST –

We'll try it this week end. I'll let you know how it worked out. I always carry a long painter with a brass clasp on the end. That can be the bow to stern line.

It may be hard for him to steady the boat from the dock...perhaps we should try his boat on the outside of mine, positioned like an assisted wet re-entry or when I stand up am I liable to capsize us both?

I'm in a CD Kestrel 140, it's a bit wider and has a generous sized cockpit. He paddles a Necky Looksha IV. Right now, the kestrel has been a blessing.

I believe your method will work...thanks!

Opps! Got it! He helps me, not steadying the boat...sorry, guess I should read more carefully.


High dock
I have been forced to do a re-entry and roll in the case of a high dock or launching off boulders/rocks. Hey - kayaking is not supposed to be a dry sport…not sure your skill level or the water conditions/temp though.

If you can’t do a re-entry and roll and have a partner in a boat nearby - as this is always a good opportunity to do some re-entry or assisted rescue practice.

If you do want to stay dry through it all, then having your partner on the dock first to hold your boat steady or having them outboard of you (if they are still in their boat) to steady or hold your boat will help alot too.

Like the other posters noted - slow and steady movements, no lunging and keep your weight centered is key. Treat it like a high brace in that you shouldn’t extend your reach too far or put too much weight on your extended arm/shoulder either.

Enjoy the paddle!


Yeah - you got it
With that kind of dock height he can either steady you or the boat - not both at one time. Tho’ he could come alongside and steady you for the motion of sliding up to sit on the back deck I suppose, as long as you can hold your boat against the dock by holding a mooring or something while he gets out of his boat for phase 2.

If you are balanced sitting on the rear deck to start with, you’ve shaved about a foot off of the distance you then have to cover as you stand up. (or maybe a couple of inches more if I remember that boat right). If you have him steady you as you stand up and keep it to one motion to come up and flop your chest over the edge of the dock, and are tied up to boot, you should find it fairly easy to avoid a swim.

Practice getting on the back deck first
In some shallow water, place your paddle behind the cockpit extended out (like you enter the boat) and just try sitting on the back deck using the paddle as a outrigger. Until you get that, getting on to a dock higher than the back deck will be tough. If it’s the same or a tiny bit higher you can bridge across the back deck onto the dock with no problem.

It’s tough. For a higher dock, I brace off the back deck as described and sit on the back deck. Then I grab whatever is on the dock that I can hold on to and pull so the kayak doesn’t push away and quickly lift myself up a bit and slide my butt on the dock. I think learning to roll is easier.

If you own the dock, you can make a stick on a hinge that folds down on the back deck. I knew somebody who did that.

For future reference, when you’re…
…feeling stronger.

Hi Deb,

I understand that strength and balance are issues for you now, and it does seem that you’d be requiring some help with a 3’ dock at this time. I’ll get back to this in a moment, but first, I’ll offer something to look forward to…when you are feeling stronger and more balanced. This is a post I wrote a couple summers ago when someone asked about high dock entries/exits:

I hope that will be helpful to you; sooner rather than later, as I wish you a speedy recovery from your treatments! :slight_smile:

Now, for your current situation…

While I’m sure that you’d be able to work out an assisted entry/exit strategy with your paddling partner, I also wonder if there might be some other lunch/launch spot nearby that would be a bit more forgiving? Are there any natural beach and/or boat launch spots nearby?


Great advise!

– Last Updated: Jan-04-07 7:47 PM EST –

I'm really glad someone else got this started. The info from everyone is very helpful.

The paddle down Juniper Run is with Tom & my Sunday paddle group, the Happy Paddlers. The dock is pretty well accepted as the "lunch" spot. I am going to try it. Got a really good picture of how its going to work in my head now.

Water at the dock is fairly deep and clear, just cold (to me) spring water. If i get wet, I get wet. I will be sure the camera is safe before I attempt this.

Ya learn by doing....

Should clarify- Tom & I paddle a lot with these wonderful folks. Charles is our leader. I should mention Jack is our entertainment comittee. He has even launched his kayak from a cypress tree! (I know there are pictures somewhere.)
Thanks again!

otter slide
I’m really surprised no one suggested an otter slide, modified of course. You can’t slide off the dock, but get the bow hanging out over the edge, so the cockpit is basically on the edge of the dock, climb in, fasten your skirt and jimmy off the edge, big fun! And a definite opportunity to practice your bracing and/or rolling skills!