I refer mostly to my polyethelene kayak but also to a fiberglass canoe, when I ask if some dragging of them on the ground is permissable.

I realize that rocks of any kind must be avoided, but is it ok to drag them on grass, or even sand?

I have never portaged, but I would never drag a boat on a trail because of the material that may be under the leaves. I just wonder about sand and grass, and if a particular material is more vulnerable.

Dragging will beat the heck out of the hull. But there are times when it is the only way. I guess I would say that if I have a gorgeous kevlar boat with gelcoat I’m going to do everything in my power to avoid dragging it. On the other hand, I do own royalex canoes that I’ll admit I treat in the same way you might treat an old pick up truck with 150,000 miles on it. A lot of dragging will cause damage over time and shorten the life of a boat - but sometimes on certain trips and situations I’ve been known to drag my boats. I plead guilty to that.

Sand is maybe the worst
It literally acts like sandpaper. No big obvious dings from an individual drag, but over time it will leave you needing to do some repair.

Grass is messy and leaves stains, but I have dragged with impunity across it and not seen any loss of coat.

A wheeled kayak cart for one end of the boat is the usual solution, either one that can break down and fit inside or a larger one solely for car-launch point transport. Is there a reason you are not mentioning this?

well …
Depends on YOUR view. I look at a boat as a tool. A means to get from point A-to B. I drag mine a lot since I do a lot of upstream paddling. However my boat is also the strongest production layup of any boat in the world with 12- layers of kevlar. In 2004 I paddled 2400 miles upstream on the Missouri, by the time you reach Montana, the rivers are shallow and are a drop-pool type flow…so you have to get out and drag through to the next pool. Plenty of scuff and even down to the kevlar cloth!! Not a big deal considering its been dragged nearly 3000 miles by now. Ive only had to add a little gel coat one time. Again I look at it as a tool. I USE my boat to get me places. I dont polish and wax my wrenches and screwdrivers do I? So why worry (FEAR) about the bottom of the boat. It will still last a lifetime. I think I would worry if my boat did not have as strong of a hull and would probably baby it. But I also drag my MR Explorer too. I prefer good tools—Craftsman, Black & Decker…NOT Kmart Blue Light Specials…same goes for my gear. Use it!!!

Paddletothesea made me smile…
Since I at least 1/2 agree with his attitude (for the most part). However, dragging boats over sand can be fairly destructive and will take off material. I avoid doing any damage I can, but I don’t stress about damage that does occur through use.

I was washing off a (rather nice) boat I rented from MBK and one of the staff said that it must be my boat since I was being so thorough. I replied, “No, this one is yours. If it was mine, I’d be done already.”

By the way, if you can find the children’s book, “Paddle to the Sea,” which is long out of print, you could do worse than read that to any children in your life. We still have a copy here from when James was 3 or 4 and he still remembers it fondly. Excellent and pretty way to introduce a youngster to the concept of paddling.


It’s all relative

– Last Updated: Dec-06-12 12:26 PM EST –

I've seen poly kayaks with holes in the hull due to dragging, usually over asphalt or concrete between the car and the put-in. Also, just look at rental canoes. They get dragged in and out of boat landings more than most boats because the users don't care about them, and nearly 100 percent of them have big, thick, ugly skid plates bonded to the places where the hull was worn most of the way through. For any individual dragging situation, I think you have to weigh the damage done versus the convenience. I tend to be more careful than a lot of people. By the way, if your boat is "worn down to the fabric" in some spots, that's really not so bad considering how you treat it. A hull of any thickness would show the same amount of wear, as seen from the outside, but yours just has a lot more material "left to go" before you end up with a weak spot.

Personally, I don't like the "tool" analogy at all because it only works for people who barely own any tools. You might toss a wrench into a bucket of similar tools from 6 feet away, but would you do that with a wood chisel or a plane? Would you kick a micrometer across the shop floor to get it out of your way or "deliver" it to where you are about to use it? Then of course, the word "tool" also applies to innumerable high-tech items that can't be abused

Okay, here's a rant since you mentioned Craftsman tools. Craftsman tools are too glitzy nowadays, and very "cheap". I've often heard it said that today's Craftsman tools are barely any better than what you can get from the discount shops, and since my newer Craftsman wrenches weigh only 3/4s as much as identical models made 30 years ago I can believe it. Also, I just bought a new ratchet wrench that is "just like" a model that my dad has, but it has a plastic tab for setting the ratchet direction, and does NOT have the robust "feel" in operation like the old ones. In fact, if you aren't really careful about how you set it, it will slip. Also, it does not move nearly as freely in the "coast" direction as the older models (tends to seize up), and it's clearly not made to be used for years and years because it doesn't even have a lubrication port like the old ones. But my biggest gripe is that my middle-aged eyes can hardly read the size designations on their new wrenches. The new wrenches have a mirror-shine surface and a "dainty" style of stamping that makes them SO hard to read, especially when I'm under a car with a bare-bulb light source nearby. The letter stamping on my old Craftsman wrenches isn't any bigger than what's on the new ones, but instead of being "dainty" on a shiny curved surface, it's printed on a flat spot that's designed to make it readable, and it's very legible and clear even from several feet away. The older wrenches don't have any polished surfaces at all, let alone the whole wrench looking like a mirror. What ever happened to "functionality"? I believe that Sears just wants their tools to look pretty so that they appeal to the kinds of people who shop there - home owners who have a few dozen wrenches laid out neatly in drawers or hanging on a ridiculous peg-board - people who might change a lawnmower blade once in a while. Okay, rant over.


– Last Updated: Dec-07-12 5:16 AM EST –

Is fine but sand is a no no with a nice gel coat boat.

Paddle to the Sea
Holling Clancy Holling’s lovely “Paddle to the Sea” was my favorite book as a child (it helped that we lived in Michigan at the time and I had visited all the Great Lakes on family camping trips). My siblings and I literally wore the book to shreds but I have a newer copy. It is still available in reprint,


as are Hollings other woondrously written and illustrated books “Tree in the Trail” (about a tree growing in the desert Southwest that witnesses natural and human history in that region)and “Minn of the Mississippi” which follows a turtle through her life along the river and it’s delta. I have given all these books as gifts to children over the years – they are some of the best parent-child reading available and appeal to kids of all ages as well as adults.

Grass without question for me and it
depends on the ‘sand’. I’ve never considered fine sand like our beaches a problem for an empty poly boat. The sand in our upstate lakes is very course with lots of rock in it. That will result in a repair if you do it often.

common sense and moderation
I drag my fiberglass boat 20 feet over fine wet sand all the time to move it close to the water for launch. Longer distances, courser sand or worse then I carry the boat. All you have to do is monitor the effects and if too much either better protect the bottom or don’t drag as much. There are no rules, it’s your boat and your unique situations. I try to neither baby nor abuse my boats to get the most fun.

Sand isn’t as bad as old, rough concrete
Sand grains are rounded, and to a certain extent will roll on a hull dragged over them. Grit in concrete just sits there and cuts.

I drag plastic all gthe time
I drag my plastic boat all the time. The rock gardening I do is much harder than dragging. But I also choose when and where. The sand we have here is decomposed granite, and usually pretty rounded, so dragging seems fine. Dirt also seems fine, especially if there is plant life on it (which can make it easier on the boat - but is tough on the plants). Concrete launch ramps and barnacle covered or sharp rocks are no nos. And this I only do with my plastic boat - wouldn’t do it with composite.

I do not have one, and I had forgotten about them. For me, though, they are too expensive, and I just wanted to know how damaging dragging the hull on the ground would be. I have only done so on grass so far, but I will be much more careful now!

When you have the resources…
This little cart is cheaper than the rest and will work over a smooth surface as long as the boat has perimeter lines or some other rigging to run the strap through. It tends to comes up on sale at Amazon and places like Outdoor Play if you check regularly.

Paddle Boy Molly kayak cart, full retail is $65.


lpaddling can be be a drag or not…
I’m pretty much a boat slob. Hardly ever washem, I draggem if thats the easiest way to get to where I’m goin’. Some of my boats have deep gouges. I’m not a composite type of guy. I found that out over 30 years ago when plastic kayaks were still pretty new and I spent all of my time patching fiberglass. That being said, I’m not a total Neanderthal. I get it. There are many real advanages to composites.

I generally buy used plastic boats,beatem to death and sell them off for next to nothing. If it gets holes in it then it becomes one of them new fangled “self bailers”.

if you drag the plastic boat …
… across the sand and dirt , through the woods and rubble … that should negate any nessesity of shaving the hull .

Think of it as a check and ballance situation . Scrape up the hull on the rocks and other stuff while out on the river , then drag the hull across the ground to smooth out all the gauges , nicks and hairs that appear from river use .

Got to keep the hull at it’s peek speed advantage .

Plastic canoe owners (like me) know that is why they make the hulls out of plastic in the 1st place :slight_smile: … Scrape it up and then Drag it smooth again .

I’ve been dragging a 110lb tandem…
…fiberglass kayak on sand since we bought it in 1998 w/o much wear and tear showing. Also I drag our plastic kayaks on sand fairly often with minimal wear and tear showing. Of course I am talking about nice soft beach sand and I never drag my carbon/kevlar boat on anything.


These Are Fun Boats
And not $5000.00 high tech super light weight composite surfskis or outrigger canoes. All my Zuma Twos, Scupper Classics are all scratched up and grooved out all over. Even my 3 man Cobra too. These boats are super heavy, how else are kids going to move them. I don’t recommend carrying them either, for you’ll bust your back or something doing so. These boats are cheaper than paying medical bills. So drag them, for that’s what I do and I tell the kids to do so too. I only carry the lightweight 17 lbs outrigger and 22 lbs surfski.

A slight word of caution

– Last Updated: Dec-07-12 3:12 PM EST –

I've seen folk attach a carabiner and some string
to the FRONT carrying handle, dragging their poly
boats along the banks, ground, snow, etc.

Those same folk then inevitably complain in a
year or two about pinhole leaks in the rear
of the kayak. Poly fixes can be troublesome.

Polyethylene is a generic term with many, many
different molecular structures and forming methods.
Once you get a hole in your boat, you may be sorry.