Starting Out

Moving the Stone—Carrying and Launching Your Kayak

By Tamia Nelson

Kayaks are lighter than canoes, aren't they? Well, yes, they are. Sometimes. While Kevlar kayaks may weigh less than 30 pounds, many plastic recreational boats tip the scales at 45 pounds or more. They're not exactly featherweights.

That being the case, moving and launching a kayak involves many of the same considerations that moving and launching a canoe does. In fact, since most recreational kayaks are solo boats and most canoes are tandems, a kayaking couple will find themselves lugging twice as much gear from car to put-in as a pair of canoeists.

This needn't be a problem. Even a 55-pound kayak can be carried short distances by most reasonably-fit adults. Just have your partner lift the bow of your empty boat and rotate it until it's "on edge," leaving the stern resting securely on the ground. (Pad the contact point.) Now stand next to the open cockpit, face forward, and reach into the boat with your near arm. Next, tuck your shoulder under the upper edge of the cockpit coaming. Stretch your arm out to steady the boat—you may want to grab a foot-brace—straighten your legs, and walk forward. It's as simple as that, and surprisingly painless, particularly if you thought to pad the coaming with a short length of pipe insulation or something similar.

Of course, if you're strong, or your boat is light, you'll be able to lift it up yourself, without waiting for your partner's help. Try this at home first, though!

If you have to walk more than a few hundred feet to get to the put-in, however, you may find this over-the-shoulder carry too painful. You can still double-carry each boat, of course. To do this, just stand at opposite ends of the kayak and pick it up by the grab-loops, or—better yet—cradle the ends in your hands. Now walk down the trail. Piece of cake. You'll have to make another trip for the second boat, though.

There's another possibility, particularly for long, difficult carries: use a pack-frame. You'll need to glue a couple of foam chocks onto the floor of your boat, and you'll want to pad the frame where it rubs on the coaming (use pipe insulation here, too), but it's a simple job. The sketch below shows how. You can also buy similar commercial rigs.

Frame Your Kayak!

If you decide to use a pack-frame to carry your kayak down the trail, there are three things you'll want to keep in mind. First, you may need help getting into harness, particularly if your kayak is one of the heavier models. Second, you'll find that the kayak tends to bob up and down as you walk. Just run the painter between the bow and stern grab-loops and use it to control the angle of the boat. Lastly, you'll have to find a place to put the frame when you go out on the water. I lash mine on the stern deck.

Once you reach the water's edge, load your boat in the shallows or on the beach. If you opt to "wet-foot" it, be sure you don't let your boat float away when your attention is elsewhere. And if you load on the beach, don't overload! Whatever you do, don't drag a heavily-loaded kayak over rocks or broken glass. Plastic is tough stuff, but it can be cut. Taking care of your gear doesn't just save you money. It could save your life. 'Nuff said.

Copyright 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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