Kayaks & Docks

A general “rookie” question: Any tips on entering or exiting a kayak at a dock?


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Keep the weight on your hands

– Last Updated: Sep-03-04 3:14 PM EST –

and the boat will not tip if you are entering fron a high dock. Turn toward the dock and put the weight on your hands while your feet and bottom find their way into the boat.

If you use your paddle to assist off a low dock, make sure and put the back (non-power) face down to minimize the beating it will take.

These and other tips are available in Seidman's The essential sea kayaker", books fron Derek Hutchinson and other places.

So now you tell me!
I dumped today getting into my kayak after a portage. The water was only a few feet deep and I managed to keep my head above water. Oh well, rookie lesson I guess (just bought my new Catalyst 12.8 4 days ago.) Think I’d better practice getting in/out from docks and take some lessons too!

Tie a line on the bow…
And if you can cleat it off on the dock near the cockpit it will keep the boat from going forward. Should make it easier. GH

Cowboy style
From a dock I enter the kayak just like cowboys leap onto their horses in the movies. I set the kayak down in the water, take a few steps back and make a running jump off the dock into a straddle position.

A word of advice. Make sure the pump is not resting up against the seat. The doctors tell me it will be another couple of weeks before I can sit with no pain.


Happy kayaking,


Real Yakers Seal Launch
Some where I have a photo of two guys dropping in from a helicopter

Honestly if you get a chance to try seal launching I highly reccomend it. It’s really fun.

“From a high dock” ?
that is easier said than done unless there is a ladder coming down to the water from the dock



Perhaps some definition is in order
If you cannot put the weight on your hands while you put the bottom in the boat then the technique I described cannot work. so if the dock is more that two to three feet high you do need another technique.

Now to a paddler in florida a three foot dock may be quite low, but for a a new england lake or harbor put-ins they are quite common.

We’ve had a couple of cases down here of nice watrside facilities being developed and set up for paddlers by State Parks.

And when we kayakers saw the plans, they were all docks -great for the old tin tanks that we all recall from our childhoods, and with which the site designers all think when they perceive paddlers. Not a sloping entry for any of us dual-bladed breheren in sight, and no capability for retrofits…

But there IS a far better perspective living at Miami-Dade County Parks -they have developed plans for two south county sites that take both canoeists AND us kayakers into account. In fact, one should be ready, pending Frances’ impact (and Ivan-the-I-hope-to-hell-ain’t-so-Terrible, still out there but looking ominous) and cleanup & REconstruction needs -by the end of the month.

I’m trying to raise awareness of kayakers needs and how they differ from those of canoeists in the recreational planning community down here, and it looks like it’s working.

Next -development and marking of our own Miami-Dade Blueway. We shall see…

ALl this makes for a LOT nicer environment to launch and take out from, as well as one that’s great to

Paddle On!

-Frank in Miami

I’ve seal launched my 8’ whitewater
boat, but I don’t think that would work well with my 17’ touring boat, I keep picturing the Titanic. ???

rocks vs docks
On our paddling tour a week ago after a night and morning of pouring rain and gusty winds, 2 canoeists showed up at our campsite to invite us to dry out at the cottage across the way. We waited til the rain stopped, dried up a bit and thought we’d just paddle over to say thanks for the invite altho not go in still sodden as we were…however it was a group of 9 artists who were on a retreat together and were busy painting and fraternizing. I couldn’t resist going in to see their works, but there was only a dock or steep rock to land. And there were 8 men watching. I didn’t know how to get in or out from a dock about 2 ft up so I chose the steep rock and thank goodness didn’t capsize. After reading this thread I’m still kind of at a loss as my boat doesn’t have great initial stability…so the cowgirl jumps are out and I’m not sure about hanging from my hands from a dock with those spiders under the docks staring me in the face. We’re invited back next year so I have some time to practice :wink: Any other suggestions? That would be helpful?

too high docks
I tried to do a very high dock last winter and hurt my shoulder. I still can’t get my left hand behind my back or push up with my left arm enough to get out of my kayak. It wasn’t worth it.


– Last Updated: Sep-06-04 6:02 PM EST –

Just kidding ...seriously

Let them know you need some help getting out of your kayak at their dock. One person can steady the bow one person the stern and one can give you a hand climbing out and in. Keep your weight on the dock, once you transfer your weight to the dock you are commited. Also look for a cleat on the dock for tying boats down, they are very handy to hang onto when climbing in and out. You can tie a short section of rope off of it and let it hang and use that as a panic line if you start to go over. If the line has some knots in it , its easy to get a grip. If you are really worried practice in your living room or back yard off a couch or picknic table. I ease my feet in and sit on the back combing and then slide forward, by pulling the kayak on like pair of pants, but by using my feet and knees to pull myself into the boat and my hands wrapped around the cleat or ladder. If you do capsize use your panic line to roll back up and pump your boat out.
A while ago someone posted video of getting in and out at a dock.

The first time I took a kayak class I was the slowest person getting in and out of the kayaks from the dock, including some ancient types, my teenage son has never let me live this down.

In my situation,I didn’t want to look like a female in distress-I wanted to maintain my CoolwaterCathy image ;)…so I opted to get out on the steep rock and then scramble up it on all 4s,haha. What we do for our egos.

Thanks for the suggestions-I’m glad I rarely if ever have to use docks but I realize now that I need to know how.

"What we do for our egos. "
I never thought about this until about a year ago. We were at a fair and there’s a chest high fence we could either walk around 1/2 mile through a gate or climb it. I went first. Up and straddle the fence, then slowly and gingerly lower myself down to the un-even grass below. My buddy thought I looked really clumsy. He chose to hop up and over in one smooth move! Only he landed wrong and sprain his ankle. That really ruin the rest of the day. We had to go home early because he couldn’t walk around much at all!

re:Now you tell me…
For the early part of the summer I had a host of fishermen entertained on a daily basis with my attempts to enter a vastly smaller cockpit than the huge america cockpit. I didn’t want to scrape the hull of the just finished osprey and the learning curve was painfully slow via floating docks and straddle entrys. Am I glad I practiced…Yep…I intend on trying out as many craft at Northfounds rendezvous as possible and that means getting into em in the water.

Dock Anxiety
I too had dock anxiety until I took my San Juan island trip and we HAD to launch and land using docks. They were about 24" above the water. I found it was much easier than I feared. I can’t believe I let it rattle me so much. Once I tried it I felt foolish to ever worry.

The cleat tip is great - makes a good handle. Lean over the dock and see if you can get your elbows up on it - if you can, you can lean on the dock while scooting up out of the boat so you are sitting on the back deck. If you stay leaning on the dock, your boat won’t go anywhere. Once you are sitting on the back deck, you are up higher, and can lean more of your body up onto the dock. Then you slowly stand up (keeping the boat under you) and get your butt over the edge - you’re out!

Getting in is easier - as has already been described in this thread.

Stop worrying and just try it somewhere. You will be amazed . . .


P.S. (I’m one of the ‘ancient ones’)