Canoe Entry

From Shore

To enter your canoe from the shore, load all your gear into the boat and make is secure, then put your paddle in the end of the boat you will be paddling in so it will be easy to reach once you are in the canoe. Slide the boat out onto the water almost completely (bow first is typically best), keeping just enough boat on the shore so it doesn’t float away, and it’s usually a good idea to hold onto the boat – just to make sure it doesn’t float away (awkward moment!).

One person should hold the boat while the other carefully walks down the center of the canoe, holding onto the gunwales as they go. It’s important to keep your center of gravity as low as possible to minimize your chances of flipping the boat over. The second person should then carefully put one foot in the canoe and push off with the other. Once you’ve pushed off, the sternman should then carefully step over their seat and sit down right away.

From A Dock

If you are putting in from a dock or pier, you’re still doing basically the same thing – get in one at a time, taking turns holding the boat steady for the other person.

Unlike puttng in from a slopping shoreline, when you initially put the boat in, you will really have to make sure you keep a hand on the boat when you put it in the water, or it will very likely float away and you will have to swim after it.  If you have a length of rope tied to your stern and/or bow (generally referred to as a bow line or stern line), that’s a perfect thing to hang on to. Otherwise, just keep a hand on the handle, the gunwales, or something.

It is easiest and best to hold the boat horizantal to the dock while you’re getting in. Remember to put your paddle in the end of the canoe you will be sitting in so it’s within easy reach once you’re seated.

As shown in the illustration, the person holding the boat from the dock should hold it at a slight angle, so the end that their partner is stepping into is as close to the dock as possible. Minimizes the risk of tipping. Or just flat out falling in.

Once the first person is in, the person already in the boat should stick their paddle in the water for stability (don’t move it around, just lay it flat on the surface.) Then the person still on the dock should swing their end of the boat closest to the dock and carefully step in, get settled, and push away from the dock.

Now, getting into your canoe from a traditional wood dock can be awesome, or a total pain. It could be a great alternative to wadding through mud on the bank to get into your canoe. But if the dock is a foot or more above the water line (because of low tide, it was built for motor boat use, or whatever) then getting yourself from the dock into the boat without flipping the boat will take some care.

It may seem completely impossible in fact. Daunting at the very least. Follow the same principles for proper canoe entry above. And be all the more careful to move slowly and keep your weight along the center of the canoe.

If you don’t have a bow line or stern line, this is where you slap yourself. But in all seriousness, one of you may have to lie flat on your stomach so you can reach down to the boat and hang onto it while the other lowers themselves into it. Then first person in the boat get’s to hang onto one of those dock piers to stabilize the boat while the other person takes their turn climbing down into the canoe.

If you’re living lucky though, you’ll find yourself boarding your canoe from a floating dock. Like cube docks. This dock style rises and falls with whatever the water level is, and it’s actually pretty much the perfect height for canoe entry.