Getting out at dock

I went paddling last night and we took off from a dock and returned to one. The dock was near water height. It was maybe 8-12" above, almost at the height of my deck.

I paddle a recreational boat (Old Town Dirigo 140). When I went to get out, I lifted myself up (maybe by the edge of the coaming - I honestly don’t know what I did at this point) and leaned/started towards the edge of the dock. The kayak moved away from the dock and I hit the water.

Fortunately, they have a ladder, so I swam myself and the kayak back to that and simple climbed out.

But, I’d like to NOT do that again.

Any types? Recommendations? Witty sarcasm?


so the dock
is about the same height of your kayak deck? and so i guess this is on a lake or a river? something NOT tidal?

so approach and bring yourself parallel to the dock…be careful to not be swept UNDER if there is any current.

carefully bring your paddle up and place it horizontally across your rear deck behind the coaming and brace it across over onto the dock…make sense? the paddle is on BOTH the rear deck and the dock.

now place your hands palm down on the paddle where it’s supported on the dock and on the boat and carefully lift yourself out of the boat and swing your backside up and over and onto the dock.

Do you have to
use the dock? Or can you put in and take out next to the dock on the shore? Your feet won’t stay as clean or dry, but I find that to be the easiest way in my OT Loon. It’s easier for the dog that way, too.

If you can pull up to the ladder…
Just hold the ladder and stand up in the kayak and step out onto the dock…

Shore’s not accessible
From what I recall, in this particular place - the shore wasn’t accessible.

Strangely, the night before - that’s exactly what I did, but it was mostly to avoid a couple of guys fishing from the doc.

Weight on Dock
Don’t raise your center of gravity pushing on the boat, put two hands on the dock and lift up and move your body so you are sitting on the dock. You can do it so you are facing the dock, pushing up, moving weight over the dock and swing your but under you with your feet in the boat until your butt is on the dock. If there is a cleat on the dock for tieing up boats they are great to hang onto for doing this. Practice at home with your couch.

Stabilize halfway

– Last Updated: Apr-18-08 4:46 PM EST –

Slide up onto the rear of the boat, behind the coaming, and stibilize there for a moment before going any further. That puts your feet in a much more natural position relative to your butt, similar to how you'd get up from squatting in the ground, than when you are still down in the boat seat. There it takes a bigger effort because feet and posterior are at the same level. From the back deck, raising up should be less of a balance challenge.

Works on taller docks too.

One more tip
When standing up or stepping into the boat, put the majority of your weight on the foot that is away from the dock. That will make your boat want to hug the dock, rather than being pushed away from it.

Translation: with the dock on your left, put more of your weight on your right foot, placed just to the right of the centerline of your boat.

We’re used to beach launches down here in South Florida & the Keys, so when we hooked up with Alder Creek to rent boats and go for a quick afternoon jaunt on the Willamette, we sort of expected the same thing.

But when we arrived, we found we were to launch/take out from a doc.

Now it was about the same situation -dock low, about deck height, so what we did getting in was -well, to be honest, I forget, LOL! But it must have worked pretty well, because neither of us swam.

After we returned, getting out was no big deal, either. We pulled up parallel to the dock, put our paddles on it, then with both hands on the dock, leaned over and levered ourselves up a bit and literally rolled onto the dock.

It was, really, pretty simple!

Your big problem, and that which affects almost all newbies I’ve seen, whether it be in kayaks or canoes, is that they weight shift away from the boat’s centerline either by stepping/standing off to one side, or by using the edge of the kayak deck or cockpit coaming, or the edge of the canoe’s hull, as a support point.

As you now know, there’s not enough friction in water to prevent the boat from rotating, and rotating out from under you!

hat’s why you support your weight along the centerline of the boat, or by an immovable object, like a ladder or doc surface.

But at least you’re OK, and only your pride, perhaps, rueful in review.

You’ll have many more opportunities to have fun on the water, perhaps to even do a dock-mandated entry or exit, and I’m sure the NEXT time you’ll do just fine and continue to


-Frank in Miami

Thanks everyone
I’ll take all of this and try to pull off a dock exit more gracefully next time!


Try rolling (not THAT kind of rolling)
One time I needed to get out of a kayak at a dock that was fairly high above the water. I got the boat parallel and close to the dock and steadied myself with one hand on the dock cleat while standing up (slightly crouching) in the cockpit. Next I put the other arm on the dock and simultaneously pushed hard against it while lunging up, which got most of my body onto the dock, followed immediately by rolling so that I ended right-side up. It sounds more complicated than it was, but it was pretty much an all-or-nothing effort, with little margin for timing errors. One big lunge/roll.

Hands on dock. Outside foot to centerline of boat. Stand up slowly onto that foot using hands to steady yourself. As soon as your butt is high enough to clear the edge of the dock, pivot around so you can sit on dock. Keep your leg partway in your boat if you can so it won’t float away until you are ready to grab it.

Then try it from docks of increasing height…

try this
I launch from a seawall 3-4 times a week, and it is anywhere from six inches to three feet from the edge od the seawall to the water. Here are some tips from years of experience, not all of it good!

  1. You are in the most precarious situation when you are between the boat and the dock. Commit to one or the other and go.
  2. When you are transitioning to a standing or moving to a sitting position on the aft deck to get out of the boat, just keep you hands off the dock altogether. Your center of gravity and balance will be much better.
  3. Go some place where ther is no audinece and just practive moving to a standing or seated on aft caoming postion. Once you get a little more confidence, this gets a lot easier.
  4. Don;t lose the boat! As you move to the dock, the boat will move away. Figure out a way to hold on to a bow line without getting it in your way.

This works on docks up to about 4’ higher than the water:

Move your butt up to the rear of the combing, with your feet firmly on the seat or bottom of the kayak, weight on the centerline. Reach up to the dock and commit your weight to the dock. It helps if there is a piling or vertical support to grab too. Most of this is done with the arma. Get your weight on to the dock. Then try to get your legs up. It’s not pretty to watch, (but people do watch for entertainment purposes)

After doing it a few times, it is easy.

When boarding from the dock, Keep weight on the dock till you get feet onto the centerline, then, still holding the dock, lower yourself to sit on the rear combing, then slither into the cockpit.

standard method and I’m guessing if it was tidal it was a floating dock.

Just curious …
… but doesn’t the dock end up on land ?? … I’m guessing there is some reason why you couldn’t of just followed the water up to shore line , huh ??

Thanks from me too.
I have only tried a dock entry and exit once (it was about 1 foot above the top deck of the kayak. And I nearly hit my head on the dock as the boat went out from me and I made my all or nothing move.

Horrible experiece but I have gotten some good tips from here.

Tide was a minor issue. If the dock is closer you can use the paddle with a standard exit but it was too high for that.


Mt. Pleasant, SC

On hand on the coaming centerline
behind your back, and the other on the dock. Lift and swing your butt to the dock. I can use the shore at high tide, but can’t wade through the mud at low tide. I use my neighbor’s dock at low tide. His floating dock is really high. Being the friend that he is, he built me a flaoting dock that sits right at water level, and ties off to his floater. Works like a charm.