Launching Techniques - Input, Please!

I just got my first touring kayak! I’m very excited about it, and have just completed our first (myself and 2 boys) overnight (2 nights, actually) kayak trip.

Although the boys have their own kayaks, I carry the bulk (especially the weight) of the gear. As we got ready to depart for our excursion we carried the kayaks to the beach and started to load them. With a lot of gear, and 2 little people to get ready, it takes quite some time. By the time we were ready to go, the tide had risen to the point that my kayak was now floating, and I got in and we departed.

When we got to our first night’s destination, I helped the boys carry their kayaks up out of the water, and then it was time to carry mine out. Keep in mind this is a fibreglass kayak, and there’s no way I’m going to drag it up on rocks or barnacles. So I go to grab the one end of the kayak, and the boys are about to pick up the other end, when I realize that this thing now weighs several hundred pounds, and it would be impossible to lift it, let alone carry it, with all the gear in it. So I take everything out of the hatches and finally get the kayak light enough to carry.

The reverse occurs when I go to launch the next morning, only now, I have to contend with a wind that’s going to blow my kayak away every time I step away from my kayak to grab another bag on the shore 20 feet away. From the time we had packed up from our campsite, until the time we actually got under way paddling had to be about 90 minutes, what with carrying all the gear down, loading the kayaks, retrieving the kayaks from being blown away, (it wasn’t a very strong wind), moving the boat back away from the rocks every time I took my hand off the kayak, etc., etc. This wasn’t real rocky, either. A sandy area, sloping up to the rocks. But I couldn’t have slid the kayak over the sand, either. Lot’s of pebbles, and barnacles, etc that would grind away the bottom of my kayak.

I’m not complaining, (and I’m glad the tide was rising when I first put in!) but just trying to paint a picture of what transpired. Is there a better way of doing things? Standing with your feet in the water for 30 minutes while you get everything loaded is not all that comfortable, and it’s hard to load a kayak while the wind and waves are tossing it around. Is this something I just need to get used to, or could I be doing something different? What do you guys suggest, and what are your experiences.

To keep the thread on track, please assume that there is no way to reduce the amount of weight in the kayak.

Several hundred pounds?
That’s the first thing to work on. Leave the cast iron cookware at home. Seriously, the weight and your description of how much work it is to load suggests to me that the problem isn’t one of skill, you’ve got way too much stuff.

I agree with gary
If you are several hundred pounds, you are doing something wrong. Kayak camping should be much like backpacking, so your load should be perhaps 50 pounds max on top of the 50 or so pounds for the boat.

Experiment with packing methods and you will speed up a bit. I arrive with my dry bags (2 or 3 mediums per boat, and a bunch of smalls) all filled and ready to be stuck in to the boat. Then load the small loose items. Should only be a couple of minutes to load each boat with pre-paddle preparations done.

The way we do it
First get everything taken down, put in dry bags and in a pile at the camp site.

We usually have the dry bags labeled with duct tape long before the trip what is going where.

For instance JF means Jack’s kayak front compartment, JR =Jack’s kayak rear compartment

When all is ready we carry it as close as we dare to the boats and make another pile there.

If the tide is going out the pile is right at the boats.

If the tide is incomong allow some space between the boats and the pile

When that is ready load the boats.

If it is a outgoing tide, have one of the young ones hold the boat in the water and keep it floating in water while you load it.

The worst place for loading and unloading them is in Alaska on a multiday trip with the eighteen foot tides and guaranteed slippery rocks.

You learn to do everything fast there.

The easiest is the off shore Florida Keys where lots of times the tide is negligable.

As you have alrady learned, it is one of the things that makes for memories when the trip is over.



Couple of Ideas
I have come across a couple of tips for moving loaded kayaks a short distance but have not ever tried them.

  1. 2 or 3 short sections of pool noodles carried on the rear deck. After initial landing put them down as rollers and slide the kayak over them up the beach. Reverse when launching.

  2. Same roller system but with PVC pipe pieces instead of pool noodle. The rougher the beaches the larger dia pipe you need to use.

  3. Use a plastic frisbee as a protected pivot point. Put frisbee under one end of the kayak then raise the other end so only point of contact is on the frisbee. Walk the raised end around 180deg in your desired direction. Move the frisbee to the other end and repeat the 180 deg swing. Frisbee can just be stored on deck at end. In addition you have game for kids to play while in camp.

    Please let us know if you figure out something that really works.


Why not a pfd at the pivot point?

mesh duffel for dry bag transport
If most or all of your stuff is in medium to small dry bags,you can carry a large lightweight mesh duffel and when you land, unload the dry bags into the duffel and carry it separately to the campsite, and then carry your kayak when its either empty or empty enough to be a comfortable carry.

Also, with two kids, turn them into beasts of burden and have them ferry all the bags to the campsite and back. Sometimes it becomes kind of a game and they even enoy it…

migrant workers to haul your gear. They can also set up camp, cook and clean. You could consider a cart, but the frisbee thing works well too. I usually take out most of my gear just above where I land and haul up above the high tide line.

Do you have seaweed?
Seaweed over rocks makes for a pretty easy slide, and aside from normal wear and tear it won’t hurt the boat. Just gotta make sure you have the shoes to walk on it.

Or start loading it on an incoming tide and work fast enough so that it is floating when the loading is done.

Unnecessary wear of the PFD

That’s what I think when I wear one

“kayaking is a wet sport”
“Standing with your feet in the water for 30 minutes while you get everything loaded is not all that comfortable”

Maybe not 30 min., but I don’t see what’s so bad about standing in the water while putting stuff in the boat.

You’ve already figure out an incoming tide is helpful. So for outgoing tide, you just have to leave the boat floating.

Just have your little one holding the boat so it doesn’t float away with the out-going tide.

migrant workers to haul your gear
Best suggestion yet! They probably make better meals, than I do, too.

Yes, I did put them to work, and I did have them hold the yak, but the water was rather cold, and so was the weather - cool and damp, to be accurate; so subjecting them to the water for too long was causing them to get too chilled.

One thing I did learn was that perhaps smaller dry bags would be appropriate. I had four 20L, one of which was strapped to my deck for things I may have needed right away, or while paddling. Inside the boat would have been better served by no more than 15L, and maybe 10L would be best. I’ll have to do some experimentation. Labelling the bags is a good suggestion (thank you); I admit I’m not the most organized person. but it was also my first time loading, so I did not yet know where best to fit things.

Believe me, when you have two children and no certainty of fresh water and they need changes of clothes ‘for various reasons’ it does take up a lot of weight, and room. And you have to help them load, and transport their kayaks, too, don’t forget. The youngest took all the lightest stuff (TP, and dried foods), while the elder took some medium weight stuff. I find I can take about a 1/4 of the weight if it’s just me, when you add little people to the equation things go exponential.

Thankfully, though, it does sound like others here do face the same trials as me in terms of needing to load in the water. That’s comforting.