Docking it

Looking for uses, ideas, or suggestions for how to dock your kayak (canoe too) to exit at a low or floating dock. I more commonly just beach it, but every so often there’s nothing but a dock to hop out onto and attach the kayak to temporarily. When it’s too choppy, I usually resort to pulling the kayak up on the dock to avoid having it bump around too much and risk damage, although doing that can mean a kayak in other people’s way. When the wind is calm, I don’t mind just leaving it in the water attached to the dock, even if just while I unload gear.

So… the dock may or may not have cleats. Do you generally use one or two ropes? Do you tie the bare end of a rope, use a carabiner, use a spring cord/cable, loop around a post? Where do you store the rope? Do you use your rescue rope? So many options, but what’s more common? And what about the attachment at the boat? Do you have any loop-type attachments on the kayak?

I thought there’d be tons of photos or videos to point you to, but there isn’t. I found this video, and he has the bow tied to a cleat. If you have cleats, you’re golden. If not, I’d look for something accessible to throw a line around with a carabiner; for example, the piling supporting the dock. That might be easy to secure to from the boat, but more difficult when it’s time to leave.

If current/waves mean the boat would get pushed into the dock I’d (a) remove it onto the dock or (b) use bow and stern lines to secure it. My experience here is one-sided: I used to do a group paddle to a seafood shack with like 15 other people. The shack had a public dock that was used by paddlers and boats. We always took our kayaks out of the water so no power boater would bash into them when trying to dock. We would line the boats up perpendicular across the dock separated by a few feet, this way pedestrians could step over them safely.

Just have to have enough odds and ends tools to be able to adapt to whatever. Generally there is no such thing as having too little in the way of rope lines on a boat.

Between various docks including the floating ones, I am not sure there is anything I have not done. Sometimes I have carried extra lines that can be tied off to perimeter line on the boat, but this comes down to a good argument to always wear a tow belt. Like a paddle float, It can have many uses other than towing.

Yes, a tow belt as @Celia mentioned is a good emergency dock line. It doesn’t take much to secure a small, light boat to anything, but if you envision doing this frequently, brushing up on some knots, and learning how to properly tie a line to a cleat (technically a “cleat hitch”) would be beneficial.

I have kept bow lines on some of my kayaks at various times, but I always take the tow belt, and have used it for tying up boats far more than I have for actual towing.

I live in a marina, and it’s amazing how many boaters (with large boats!) don’t know how to properly tie up their boats. I have retied a few lines on several occasions, and check mine almost daily.

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I have a painter on mine that goes from the bow to the front of my cockpit in length and has a carabiner on the end. I find it very useful for mooring to dock, hooking around a tree on the bank, wrapping a post, etc.
I’ve even started using it as a bow line for leashing my paddle to.
It’s easily accessible right from the cockpit so I can have it in hand when I get out if needed.

I’ve also been at some docks where you moor on one side and load/unload boats on the other.
If there were waves I would consider mooring my kayak on the opposite side if that was an option.

I have a long line led aft and kept under the bungees so it is always accessible, tied to the padeye with a bowline. It’s long enough I could cleat at the bow then stern but, I always have an extra length of line anyway to use.

I don’t leave my kayak tied to any dock for long. One wake by an inconsiderate boater, of which there are many, and a kayak can get pounded against or lodged under a dock and turned to splinters.

At most dinghy docks one is expected to leave the boat on a long bow line only, so it floats away from the dock and others can access the dock too. In some places if one hogs the dock space by tying up along side they can expect their error to be “corrected” for them.

As a full time cruiser on the east coast, one of the things that irks me most at marinas is cluttered docks where I have to step around and over other boaters’ junk. I always move my kayak out of the way so no one has to move around or over it.

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At home we have two cleats about two and a half feet apart and run short lines from the boat to the cleat. There are two lines… Snug up tight. Then your boat can’t pivot from under you.

This worked till we got old… Our floater dock is on 18 inch tall floats and we need a sissy bar to help us up! Sometimes I run the lines on to the uprights of a swim ladder and exit that way… ladder makes it easy.

Chickess in the Everglades have little room to store kayaks on the deck… impedes getting to the blue vault of heaven so we store our yaks in the water with bow and stern lines. Wakes are not much of an issue

Thanks! Seems I got some useful tips:

I was thinking of getting something like this:

Or, anyone find these things handy, or are they just for bigger boats?

Either way, I’d like to have something attached to the kayak bungees, perimeter line, or even installed pad eyes, just to avoid having cords tangled about in the cockpit.

At a dock…I pull the boat and lay it on the dock. At a busy floating dock I pull the boat and take it to the grass. Tying the boat to the busy floating dock…invites power boaters to use the kayak for a fender.

At a non beach shore…I take the contact tow stowed in front of the cockpit and clip it to a life line and a tree, root, rock, etc. One favorite place with out space to pull boat out is a shell mound along a spring run at Salt Springs, FL.

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You must be young. None of us old paddlers hop that well anymore. :thinking:

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@Otterway I wouldn’t use bungee for a dock line, even on a small boat. It will magnify any wave action, and bungee is prone to fail with UV exposure. It is also harder to tie knots in. Just a plain old piece of braided polyester will do, similar to the perimeter lines on a kayak.

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Ha! Not so much. I’ll change that to “a dock to clamber out onto”.

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If the only option for getting out is a public dock, after getting out (often imitating an arthritic seal) I’ll pull the kayak up onto the dock and then move it off the dock and out of the way to the grass or parking lot. I have a painter with a clip that I can hold onto to keep it from floating away. I don’t like to inconvenience others by taking up space on the dock and wouldn’t leave it in the water tied to the dock where it can get banged around and be in the way. I always carry a tow rig so have plenty of extra line if I need it.

On narrow overgrown beaches I’ll often leave the kayak in the water and just tie the boat to a bush or something else. Helpful if with a group and the landing spot won’t accommodate all of the boats. If there are waves or wakes however, I avoid leaving the boat in or partially in the water. I’ve seen many a boat swamped or capsized in this situation.

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I would not use a bungee. The object is to stabilize the kayak so it does not move. From the variety of responses you can see not all docks are equal… Chickees in the Everglades are usually in shallow quiet water
My dock is a private dock and on a quiet lake. We do have neighbors who use the dock too) six of us; each has a finger side so leaving on the dock is not a good idea.

Some public launches in Maine have docks and yes after unloading the boat we get it out of the way pronto no matter how we have gotten out of it.

Alternatively if you are at a private floating dock ( or fixed) you can use springlines after exiting the boat … allows you to leave it in the water and it does not float away. With a cockpit cover of course for keeping rain out.

I agree at a public dock leaving the yak in the water will invite bashing it or more likely a lot of cursing by powerboaters trying to unload gear and people onto the dock.

An interesting variation locally. We have a rare bird visitor, the Stellar Sea Eagle. Its from Russia and northern Asia. It has attracted hundreds of birders to its current site. The best viewing is often from a working dock… Imagine some kayakers , two hundred camera carrying birders and the lobstermen who are trying to haul out their gear for the winter. All at the same time.

One lobsterman is making the best of it… He isn’t licensed for commercial riders but is giving free rides to get closer to the eagle ( it knows to stay out of sight on the backside of an island and tempt viewers with brief in view flights). It is doing quite nicely and is not harassed. Someone set up a Venmo for the lobsterman… If he cant get his gear and boat out might as well make the best of it.

Is that something like this?

Haha…. OK you made me get up and go outside and take some photos of my dock lines. I’m working from home today so it was a nice excuse to go outside for a minute!

Spring lines are lines run at a diagonal from the boat to the dock, as opposed to bow and stern lines which run more or less perpendicular. Spring lines keep the boat from moving forward and backwards while the bow and stern lines keep the boat close to (or away from) the dock.

Bow line (black, running across kayak) and two springs (white and blue). Note the painter (bow line) on the kayak

Three spring lines (I have an extra on since we had a front come through last night)

And a closeup of a proper cleat hitch, just because it was there. This is 5/8” line on a 15” cleat but the principle is the same for any size line. My sailboat is 16,000 lb so I don’t skimp on dock lines.

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technically I was referring to mooring whips which are overkill for small boats. We just call em springlines though they are not. Brodies are true spring lines.

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Mooring whips would be great for long term docking, but not often done with a kayak. Would be OK for a Hobie fishing kayak or AI/TI maybe, I have seen them used for other smallish boats like Sunfish.

We have a private kayak dock. We can tie to that dock. It is floating and within 6 inches of the water. The problem is we are on the channel to a five lane boat ramp with a lot of traffic on those summery weekend days. Spring lines, fenders, … It is easier to just pull the kayak up on the dock.

Well, it does look sunny and warm out there (unlike here) :grinning:.

A picture is worth a thousand words of explanation. So that’s 3000 worth.

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