launching from a ladder

Friend just got a house on a canal. There is only a ladder on the bulkhead to get in & out of of kayak. Has anyone done this ? Video would be great. I can see getting out of a kayak but tying it up so it does not float away how would you do that ? & steadying it to get in & untying to launch. I don’t know.

A very long rope!
Done that once. Not my favorite but perfectly doable.


  1. Drop one end of the boat into the water by holding the other end.
  2. Drop the other end in by holding the long rope (boat weight now supported by water).
  3. Climb down the ladder with rope in hand. Get in (*) and paddle away.

    The “getting in” part isn’t always easy either. But with practice you’ll get the hang of it. It’s no different than getting in from a high dock, for example.

    Basically, you need to support your body weight by your arms holding on to the ladder. Use your feet to maneuver the boat under you and DROP YOURSELF INTO THE COCKPIT. (if you have a large keyhole cockpit or you have good balance, you can also sit on the rear deck and slide in)

Simple - watch …

Of course, there are easeier ways too - you don’t need no stinking ladders at all -:wink:

Launch from ladder
It can be done, but it’s not easy.

I have a 4’ high seawall at my home. Launching from a ladder requires some upper body strength, and depending on your kayak, can be pretty tippy.

To make it easier, I made a “dingy dock” (weaterproof wood), and hung it over the edge of the seawall. Nylon ropes from each corner allow me to adjust the height according to the water level, and also to tilt the dock flat against the seawall when not in use. This keeps it free of duck droppings.

The small platform measutes 2’ x 4’. Small, but just enough to launch and retrieve from.

In my estimation it is very hard to do
many times we have camped on chickees in the Everglades national park, and they have the same set up -Usually just a ladder to get up.

What I do is use a lot of upper body strength to hoist myself up onto the ladder. Once on the ladder, I fasten a line to the bow. then when I am up on the platform, I pull the bow up onto it, and then pull the whole kayak up.

In launching I do just the reverse. I have done this with the yak fully loaded with camping gear.

Jack L

never by a ladder
But I’ve climbed in and out of a kayak that I tied to a sheer cliff.

Tied my side painter to a bush, stood up, balanced, grabbed a rock and hauled myself up the cliff.

Getting back in was the same, climb down the cliff, step into the boat, balance, sit, untie painter.

I cannot see a ladder being any differnt other than you have better steps and handgrips.

It’s just a matter of finding calm water nad dracticing standign up in your kayak until you learn balance.

use your tow belt
This is another situation where a tow belt is really handy. When I’ve had to climb up a ladder to a pier that’s 15 feet above the water (not uncommon up here in the land of 15-foot tides), I first clip my tow line to the perimeter line of the boat, and tuck my paddle under the deck lines. Then you can simply worry about getting in and out of the boat. To do that I hold my weight on the ladder, and get up to standing in the cockpit, but still holding my weight with the ladder.

At the top of the ladder, put your tow belt around a piling for lunch or whatever.

I don’t know, but
the water is warm and I know a ladder where I can try it this weekend!

How I do it
As above, getting in is easy. I don’t stand on it like in the Ken Fink video, just kind of slide my weight over and butt plop in then sort out legs and feet. If the dock is high enough (and ladders are of course easier because you can get lower down) I might park on the rear deck of the boat, sitting behind the coaming, then worry about sliding down and into the cockpit.

Getting out would actually be much easier on a ladder than on a dock. On a dock I basically line myself up then launch my torso over the top in a single push, though this does require that you get it on the first try unless there is something to grab like a mooring fitting. Other wise there is the risk of sliding off and out from the dock. Ken Fink’s technique does handle this risk well.

But with a ladder, there’s lots of grab. Just gradually get your weight up and out of the boat, hang on the ladder, and step onto it.

As to tying up the boat, you can use a tow belt or a short tow line that may be clipped to the deck to secure it to the dock while you are getting in and out. Clip it off the the perimeter line on the side, near the cockpit. And either use your paddle in the cockpit or have a longer line in hand and tied off to the boat before you get out to walk it to someplace good for a longer term mooring.

That last vid is a good example of grace under fire!

Bad launch but great rolling practice.

Look at this link
on how to get out of the yak onto a ladder without the boat escaping from under you. You should be able to stand in the boat.

I copied this for my use on chickees.

Yes we have a swim ladder at home as our lake is really deep at the dock. But its fairly easy to get out of the boat onto it and almost as easy in.

Your talking about getting out
from a canoe.

I have never had a problem getting out on a chickee from our 17 foot Jensen

Try that guys method with a 21" wide kayak and the odds are you will be swimming.

Besides, who wants to go through all that bother.

Much easier to use some upper body strength, and make love to the ladder !

Jack L

One little trick
that helps in getting out onto a ladder or a slightly higer dock involves pulling the boat back under you before you try to stand. When you first lift your weight up on the ladder or dock the kayak will normally try to move slightly forward. Before you get all your weight on the ladder or dock use a little pressure on your heels on the hull and draw the kayak back under you before trying to stand up. On a low dock like in the Fink video you can get leverage to keep the kayak from sliding forward, but with a ladder or a higher dock the forward slide as you start to stand is more pronounced.


The last photo …
… shows how the ropes work on a kayak that actually makes no contact with the ladder and there are no pillars to lean it against either. I had not thought of that situation, but there it clearly shows how the ropes stabilize one side of the kayak where there is no contact with it anywhere else (free floating under the ladder). Doable without any props if one has enough strength and balance, but the ropes appear to make it easier. On our decks in town the kayak usually rests against the floats under the deck so it is an easier process with no props required…

I don’t know why, but
this sound like it is just bound to show up on youtube, preceeded by the statement, “Here, hold my beer and watch this!”

How about a spectacular otter launch?

ladder issues
hey there, some thoughts on your ladder situation…

  • can u tie the boat to the ladder or dock prior to getting in to prevent it from floating away? possibly even put a line around your wrist, providing there’s not safety issue there.

    -there’s a local guy that has a 30’ drop to put his kayak and paddle in the water below a ladder. he uses a rope to let it down first, then climbs down the ladder with the other end of the rope in his hand. not sure of the rest…

  • is there space behind the ladder or solid wood? if there is space, place your paddle through the ladder rung and also on your kayak as a brace as you get in - lean to the ladder side (solid side) as you get in.

    -there may be inflatable bladder things you can get for kayaking that act as training wheels per se widening a boat making it more stable - thus making it easier to get in in your case.

    -check utube, there are a few ‘getting on from a dock’ kayak vids. goodluck.

Thanks for all the advice. Never thought about holding the rope in my hand. Think that would make it work.

worst-case scenario

– Last Updated: Sep-27-11 5:00 PM EST –

Kayak attached to ladder. Jump in the water, free the kayak, and work on your re-entry!

I was just thinking that was the best case senario!

for me it was!