Obese kayaker and a floating dock

I have a question. I’m a large woman and while I’m not old, Im not in my 30s anymore. I have bad knees and enjoy kayaking because of the low impact. One of the places we frequent has a floating dock that you pull your kayak into. There’s nothing to hold into in order to pull yourself up, and squatting and standing up in not an option. Short of rolling myself onto the dock like a beached whale, can anyone think of a way to get up and out with some dignity?

Hi jbgirl. Welcome to the forum.

What type of kayak do you paddle? SINK (sit-in) or SOT?

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And how tall is the floating dock? Same height as your Kkayak when the kayak is next to it, or taller (and how much taller)?

forget about dignity, it is overated. Get out any way you can. Anything short of tipping the boat over and having to completely empty it is considered a success. If there are others around ask them to help hold the boat and lend a hand while you get out.


Maybe just a couple of inches taller. And not wide enough to put feet on either side to stand that way.

Its a tandem sit on. I was on back and younger kiddo was in front.

Do you have to use the floating dock? Is there a spot where you can pull into shallow water and just get your legs wet?
I assume the tandem is plastic, it can take a little abuse if needed.

Other option may be to get sideways on the kayak, back to the dock, and lift yourself onto the dock with your arms. Wouldn’t be an option if it was a lot taller dock but at 2 inches may be worth trying. It would protect your knees.

If there is anything on the dock you can get a carabiner around you might make a rope ladder. Easy to place in the cockpit and when you get to the dock you could clip it to the anchor points and use it to climb out. Let it hand down and outside your kayak so you need not place any pressure on the kayak at all.

Tdaniel offers the best advice but if you don’t want to take it, why not do the reverse of how you get in the boat from the dock?

I used a fixed dock to get in/out of my SINK. To get out I get my legs under me, skootch my butt higher in my seat, then climb out of the boat onto the dock keeping one leg in the kayak so it doesn’t float away. I do clip a line to the boat to keep it in place as I get to my feet. Not particularly graceful but it works and I haven’t fallen off the dock. Yet.


I built a lower floating dock to make it easier to get out. I screwed a stainless steel towel rack on with a rope. It let’s me pull myself out of my kayaks. I can slide heavy rope to where I need it depending on where cockpit is located. 22’ tandem Libra XT is different than the other hulls. I have two bungee’s I clip on the cleats. Then I get one leg out and roll up while pulling. I don’t care what it looks like.


I’m not overweight and I would have a very tough time getting out on a floating dock without something to grab on to. Fortunately the one I’ve used has a cleat that I can grab. Is there something you could loop a line around so you can pull?

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Make a hook you can use on any dock to grab. Small grappling hooks are sold. Throw it over to far edge if dock and pull.

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Yes, we have to use the dock thing. I can easily get out on the beach by running my kayak up on the shore as much as possible. This is a picture of what the dock/launch looks like. My arms are pretty useless after a long paddle, so I wasn’t able to push up on them and get myself into a squatting position. I ended up scooting on my bum until I got onto the dock, but it was a sight. :joy: If there was a railing to grab onto, it would have made it much easier…

Ok, now what you said earlier about just being able to get a foot on each side of the boat makes more sense too.

It is hard to see in this photo exactly where you get from the ramp to the dock, but l am guessing it is forward of the side structure with the hooks for your paddle.

I am not seeing that the ramp affords you a lot of extra space to maneuver in there. Unless you can get on your hands and knees to start moving out of the boat, I have no idea if that is doable, l suspect the technique of flopping onto the dock is your best plan.

FWIW, more than one of us has handled floating docks similarly. The flop technique is still the only reliable way l have found to get out onto those rubber cube docks they use for sculls. One perfectly accessible dock with stuff to grab onto was extended with that for sculls several years ago. If the motor boat ramp is busy you have to use it.


We have the same floating launch on a lake near us. I haven’t used it because my canoe is too wide but she has used it and liked it. To launch you place the kayak in it and launch down it like a sliding board. Coming back she paddles fast and rams it and then hooks her paddle into the slots and pulls up one notch at a time until at the big slot. She had some trouble flopping out using the paddle to help pull forward.

If I were to suggest something to try and having too many lbs myself and bad knees, I would suggest taking your paddle and placing it behind your back and your seat back and into one of the slots even the big exit slot might be best. Once there use your arms and legs to raise your butt until you are sitting on the paddle. That should get you 6-8” higher than the seat. Once there you should be able to get your feet back under you better and then reach forward and grab the dock slot ahead of the big slot and pull and push standing on the floor of your kayak and step out.

A SOT makes it a bit harder as the floor is spaced away from the hull a few inches for the floatation.

It would take a little practice but that my best idea for that type of a launch and staying dry. If there was a ramp or shallow beach area and I had a SOT I would not use the launch and just get my legs wet getting out in about 2’ of water by swinging my legs over the side and standing up.

One of the problems I find with bad knees is they tend to tighten up when sitting with knees mostly straight for a few hours. That’s why getting out is so much harder than getting in. That and gravity is helping plopping in. This is the major reason I like the canoe over the rec-kayak.

Your explanation made perfect sense. I will try different exits in my backyard (not quite the same, but so I can be prepared), especially the using the paddle to assist with getting out. We launched from more like a beach type area, but this is a new exit point that everyone has to use to prevent the launch site from getting too crowded.

I think my issue with getting out is

  1. I wasn’t prepared for this type of exit and just kind of panicked.
  2. My legs were quite stiff from being in that position for 1.5 hours straight and of course I got a Charlie horse as soon as I tried to maneuver to get out.
  3. They had young staff working the dock to assist people with getting boats out. One young kid, who bless his heart, probably weighed 100lbs, tried t9 give me a hand, but it was pointless.

Thank you to everyone who responded with their suggestions. I appreciate it and also that everyone was super friendly and non-judgemental. :slightly_smiling_face:


That is a "handicap " kayak launch dock. There are hand rails that can install on either side to make it easier to pull yourself up. It is not my favorite mode in fact i’ve capsized twice coming off of one of those in my solo canoe and sea kayak. It is when the long , pointy end boat does not clear the dock and ends up on a pivot point. ( a different problem)

I prefer to come up along side a floating dock, kayak dock, or even that dock and roll my upper body over the dock, rotating out of the cockpit, bring legs out and getting into kneeling position. Then getting up. I also use my wood greenland paddle as a cane/walking stick at this point. Qruiser says I look awkward . Perhaps, but I get out.


I forgot to welcome you to the community as well so we are glad that you found the site and posted. Just in my getting to know the folks here I see there are all levels of paddlers here and quite a few of us have some knee issues and your problem is pretty common. What we have in common is we want to keep going and are not ready to give up.

I think you could practice at home setting your boat on some soft grass in the yard and placing the paddle on the coaming / cockpit rim and trying to sit up on it with it behind you. Some paddles are much stiffer than others so be careful not to bend the paddle bracing with it. I think after you get used to a method it will become easier to do.

I was at a local river float a few weeks back where we launched 450 kayaks/canoes in an hour. At the take out it was a poor location with a steep bank and they had a bunch of 4 wheelers to pull boats up after you got out into the water. I wasn’t thinking and I paddled right up to the 4 guys helping people out and I should have got out myself away from them and lined my boat over. These guys were in a hurry as boats were backed up all over the place. I know what you mean where someone helping isn’t aware of what problems you have and you don’t need help as much as a few seconds to plan what you want to do.

Oh to have them young springy knees of youth. Then again when my dad was the age I am now he was an old man and wouldn’t have thought of getting in a kayak.

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I see lots of people use the rolling out into the dock technique. Plus I’ve personally capsized twice when trying to run my kayak up onto one of those docks with slots for your kayak. Yeah, a bit embarrassing but it’s good practice, and if anyone else wants to laugh at me they can have at it.


I’d suggest that while practicing in the yard, use a broomstick or other pole instead of your paddle at first. That way, you won’t risk damaging your paddle.