Launching from a dock

My wife and I are beginners and are having some trouble launching from our dock. It stands about 3 feet above the water. The water is very shallow and bottom is soft mud making getting in from the march impossible. Can anyone offer some suggestions? Jim

Too Far Of A “Drop”

– Last Updated: Jul-08-05 10:51 AM EST –

I may not happen on the first try, or the fifth... But at some point, one of you are going to slip or windowshade and possibly take a good conk on the head. Make a floating platform closer to the water and tied that to your dock. I would say a 4'x8' wooden frame with styrofoam floats underneath should work for a launching pad, one at a time. Either that or build another section of the dock that's lower. Problem with this is that if the water goes down, it's too high again. Or, if the water comes up, it's submerged.



Sound bit like my place. I built steps from the dock down into the water. Get those precut steps from the lumber yard and 2x6s. Mine are about 10’ wide, used three precut step and with three steps down. One step is under water must of the time. I also painted some grip stuff on the steps, so they are not so slippy.

Arm and leg strength; and the balance…
…between the two.

I’m fortunate, in that most of my launching/landing takes place on beaches, but when I’ve been paddling in urban settings, I’ve had to deal with high docks now and again; even higher than three feet off the water. Both entering and exiting the boat from a high dock is possible, but it takes bit of balance between arm and leg strength (and a smooth transition between the two). With a dock “only” three feet off the water, you should be able to keep first both hands, then at least one hand, holding onto the dock until you’re seated in the boat.

A keyhole cockpit can make things easier, but it’s even possible with a smaller “ocean cockpit” opening.

With a keyhole cockpit, you can lower yourself to the point where you can place both feet inside the cockpit (standing), with one foot (outboard foot; the one away from the dock) right in the center of the boat (balance your weight between this one foot and your hands on the dock). While maintaining this balance, lower yourself on that one leg, and let your other leg (inboard leg) slide into the cockpit; until you’re sitting with one leg fully inside the boat, and with the leg upon which you lowered yourself still bent (with knee pointing skyward). By this time, you’ve shifted most of your balance to yourself sitting in the boat rather than your hands (or one hand by this point) still holding onto the dock, and you can then slide your other leg into the boat.

With an ocean cockpit, it’s nearly the same, except that you’ll probably have to sit first on the aft deck just behind the cockpit rather than in the seat. Once you’ve steadied yourself in that position, with minimal balance help from your hand on the dock, you can then slide both legs fully into the cockpit until you can sit in the seat.

The real trick in high dock entries/exits is to use your arms and legs together (especially the outboard leg) to maintain just the right (light) pressure on the boat (as much on the centerline as possible) as you transition from a standing to a sitting position. At the start, most of your weight is supported by your arms. Then, you gradually shift your weight from your arms to your outboard leg…and by the time you’re sitting (either in the seat or on the aft deck), your hand grip on the dock is just for steadying your final drop into the cockpit.

An additional aid to balance can be a paddle, and I find a wooden Greenland Paddle to be perfect for this (very buoyant without the need of a paddle float). If you can secure one end of the paddle under the bungies either fore or aft of the cockpit, so that the “outrigger paddle” is pointing away from the dock, this can help to further steady the boat as you lower yourself into a sitting position.

Good luck!


consider adding a ramp
I visited a nice place that had a launching ramp. It worked really great at any water level. I don’t recall exactly how it was all connected together but I do remember having to walk down a wide plank with a nice traction surface from an upper deck onto the water level floater. The ramp section (connected to the floater) had hinges so it could be folded back up onto the main section for security or just to keep it out of the water when not in use. It all moved together with the water level changes but the main “dock” was fixed. Made for great launches and landings.


Take a look at this :wink:

Good description and try a 4x4?
Your description of transferring weight is excellent! I found myself doing this too when I lived on the water with a 3-foot bulkhead and no dock.

My secret to getting into the boat there though was the 4x4 that was bolted right around water level that I could put 1 foot onto easily while I lowered my weight down or up.

The “chickees” in the Florida …
…Everglades are very similar to your dock in height and they have a ladder attached to them which makes it very easy to get in or out of your yak.

If I recall rightly they were made out of pressure treated 2" x 4"s



Bow painter…
I go off my dock everyday. I have a dock ladder, like a pool ladder but longer.

The big trick is to have a line tied to your bow and if you can tie it to the dock it will keep the boat from going forward and allow you to to climb out much easier.

Do the Bill Gates thing…
He has a hydraulic platform that allows him and Melinda to enter their kayaks from the dock level and pushes a button and it lowers them (in the boats) into Lake Washington. In the return trip, just the opposite, paddle on the platform, push a button and you are lifted to the dock. Of course, if you are not a multi-billionaire, this may not work for you, but I thought I would share.

Launching from a dock-thanks
Thanks eveyone. I got some great suggestions and very good advice. Jim