Roller Launches

How many of you have damaged your boat on one of these babies? Let’s hear the stories.

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Ouch! Never used one and probably won’t.


Wise man.

No way to escape those rails (I suppose that was to prevent those on dock wheelchair moments with Richard Widmark or Joan Crawford?), you’re forced to sluice abuse.

HEY! Wouldn’t it be cool if someone invented the Hydromatic Seal Launch System. So, let’s say ya just ditch the rollers. Next, with your vessel placed in commodious sluice, bow towards water, you climb aboard, and then, per perhaps several conveniently placed options, ya flip a lever, which begins feeding a reservoir at sluice top, to then discharge its contents down sluice, thus discharging you into destination launch. It’s the dock re-entry that still has my Duckheaded Engineering Department in a fowl mood. Damn hydraulic cannons due tend to overshoot there target. Well, there are many ways to quack a boat. Sorry 'bout yours, mjac. Remember, West Systems GFlex is the Bactine of we boo-boo prone boaters.

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Two wise men. You done found out about GFlex heh? For the time being we opted for Flex Tape baby.

The man is right though, for any kind of repair on any kind of boat, including ABS, GFlex 650 and GFlex 655 are superior repair products and comparatively economical.

Only used one once. Thought “oh this is so cool, and so nice of the city to provide it” (which it IS, I guess, they’re trying). Then I mentioned it on a trip report here and got myself rapidly edumacated. Fortunately no damage was done.


It only takes one time sometimes. I looked at that thing and thought it was the best thing since popcorn. Practically gives you a running start, super stable platform to enter the boat, no mud on the feet thus mud in the boat, no need to push off, one launch, one crack, as pictured above. These things are so destructive I do not understand why they have not been removed. If someone was going around the parking lot with a sledge hammer putting holes in people’s boats, there would be an effort to catch him. I don’t curse, but these #### things are doing the same thing.

As CWDH noted, the perimeter fencing seems like an especially poor/limiting idea. Most handicapped-accessible kayak launches I’ve seen at least give you an (awkward) option of launching over the side.

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I’ve used them here and there- never had a problem. Maybe some designs are better than others?

I think I like these better though- no roller but still super easy

Before moving to the invention stage perhaps we should compare and contrast the OP’s handicapped-accessible kayak launch with a handicapped-accessible canoe launch

The canoe launch is friendly to all types of paddlers and all types of boats. It’s dog-approved. It’s made out of a material that isn’t nearly as slippery as plastic when wet or frosty. It has no moving parts. It sometimes includes U of M coeds.

The plastic and metal kayak launch eats the one type of boat it’s made to launch, but looks durable.


Which makes this one double hideous.

If someone designs a launch ramp that literally destroys boats, there is something wrong with the process, like, experience perhaps? As it was explained to me by the manager of Hurricane Kayaks, the boat is loaded at the bulk heads, as the roller exits the bulkhead it buries itself in the flexible ABS and basically shears it right there. Mine didn’t even do that, the boat may be so old and brittle it just cracked on the side about thigh high.

One of these super fancy launches was installed last year in a park where we used to have a natural wash-out that worked like a beach, and which had a grass/dirt approach from the parking lot which was great for dragging the kayak. It was all fine for launching single-handed.

I tried the new handicap launch, and it just isn’t made for a single person to get a kayak into. In the process of lifting and pivoting my 12’ kayak into the launch, I bumped it into a bunch of metal corners, which was alarming. And since they paved and concreted (?) over the ground leading up to the launch, I had to carry my boat to even get to it. I’m all for improved access to the lake for everybody, but they eliminated single-person launching from that place.

So, I found/made a small hole in the woods along the shore and now I launch straight in through the mud. My hole in the woods works much better than the newfangled handicap launch.


I have a Kevlar boat and a couple of thermoform boats. I know of one roller launch site but would never use it as it’s easier just to launch from the shore next to it.

If there was no access other than the roller launch, I’d paddle elsewhere.


That is absolutely amazing, virtually the same thing happened to me. I got sick of the damage the main built launch did and all of the stupid politics about the small mud launch next to it and scouted the whole Park for a better put in where I would be left alone and cleared a spot right near the entrance gate to be able to launch from. So even if the park is closed, which it often does for really silly reasons, I can dolly or carry the boat to the spot.(made a little dolly)…Much happier.

Not only does the launch damage your boat, you have to carry your boat along a 30-40 foot ramp with railings on both sides just to get to it and like you said, you are bumping into things. Not a wise set up at all.

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I think you should blow it up.

In the state of Maryland and local jurisdictions began installing these roller ramps of death in many areas. The reason for this was twofold. The ramps were the first to be ADA certified and for the most part the people authorizing them knew little or nothing about kayaks. In many cases the constructed launches have approaches and platforms with railings that make it very hard to maneuver a long boat.

After one of our members severely damaged an almost new Kevlar kayak to the tune of about $700, I contacted the manufacturer and explained the problem. After a series of emails the manufacturer came out with a new design that eliminated the rollers and instead used a smooth Teflon-like material.

It then came time to contact the various jurisdictions that were installing them. Most had no idea that the problem was occurring. Although the old ramps are still in place for the most part, new launches either use the new designs or install sand beach launches protected by bulkheads or riprap where possible. Sometimes these are in conjunction with a new boat ramp or are stand alone soft launches for cartop boats.

Kayak launch at Downs Park

Dedication of new launch at Solleys Cove

The new sand beach launches are actually cheaper to construct, require less maintenance, and are less susceptible to vandalism.

Roller ramps work fine with rotomolded boats, but I’d never use them with a composite boat and with caution with a thermoformed boat.


Well at least that displays some progress, I thought these things were entrenched in the bureaucratic abyss. What has to happen now is a design effort has to be made to retrofit these roller launches to the new smooth fabric design, this is inexcusable. I damaged my brand new boat to the tune of $700, I am going to jail. I have to disagree, I would not launch anything on a roller launch, absolutely not a Thermoform, not even a Rotomolded or Aluminum. It will at least stress both and it will dent the aluminum.

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What were you launching?