We were launching at an isolated creek in the middle of the night. The only way to access the spot was through a neighbor’s backyard. My buddy and I dragged our boats down the dock and dropped them in the water.
I swung my feet into the cockpit and flopped into the seat. Paddling away, I turned to check on my friend. He was standing at the edge of the dock, looking nervously at his kayak. I could see it was time for a dock launch lesson.
Launching from a dock is an exercise in weight distribution. Floating docks, a ladder launch or high tide places the paddler in a position to step off the dock and into the kayak. Properly shifting weight from a solid surface to the wobbly boat takes balance and timing.
If the boat is below the dock, sit or lay on the dock with both feet in the cockpit. If the boat is level with the dock, first step onto the far side of the kayak while holding onto the dock. Hold the paddle vertically with your free hand. Prepare to transfer weight from terra firma to wavy gravy.
Continue to hold the dock with one hand. Use the paddle like a walking staff to steady the kayak and support your weight while transferring the dockside foot to the boat.
The boat will try to slide away from the dock. Use the dockside hand to keep the boat directly below your center of gravity.
Center weight over the keel. Continue to use the paddle to steady the kayak. At once, sit down and let go of the dock while dropping into the seat in a controlled fall. Make the move easier by clearing the deck and seat of gear and accessories. A buddy can assist by pulling parallel to your kayak and steadying the boat. The maneuver doesn’t have to be graceful as long as you stay dry.
Gravity is your friend. Photos: Kevin Whitley