Tips to successfully launch a tandem kayak

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Tandem kayaks are kayaks that are meant for use by 2 people, and they allow you to spend time engaging in this enjoyable recreational activity with someone you enjoy spending time with. Whether it is a child, significant other or a friend, you will have an opportunity to share the experience of kayaking with someone else. Paddling with someone else allows you to cover more ground quicker and lets one to rest if the other one gets tired. While they’re slightly more expensive than the single kayaks, you will quickly realize that it is a good way to spend some leisure time with someone whose company you really enjoy.

However, it is not always a rosy situation when you’re using a tandem kayak, this is especially true if you are the kind of person who likes to make quick decisions on their own and are not very good with consulting other people. When using a tandem kayak, you lack the freedom to do as you wish because you have to take another person’s wishes into consideration. There are times you may disagree with the person you are kayaking with, but a quick resolution of the issue will result in you enjoying the experience very much.

You also have the option of converting a tandem kayak into a solo kayak if your kayaking partner is not available. It may be a bit difficult to use a tandem kayak solo because they tend to be a bit heavier than the solo kayaks and you may require some level of skill to operate. Some come with the option of allowing you to remove the front seat so that you can move the back one into the middle position, thus giving you more control and maneuverability. It may however be uncomfortable depending on the type of water you are paddling in, the type of paddle you have, and your paddling technique.  There are some paddling techniques that you can learn, as well as variations in paddling strokes which can help you achieve great movement with the tandem kayaks.

 

The pre-launch check of the kayak.

Before launching the kayak, you both need to do a check to make sure that you have all the gear you need. Make sure that you have safely stored away everything in the hatch or in the dry bags, make sure that you have the correct adjustments for the foot pedals, check that you have the correct gear including the personal flotation devices, paddles, bilge pump, spray skirt if you need one, proper attire, first aid kit, a whistle, enough water and snacks, among other things.

Do any necessary adjustments before you go into the water, this will ensure that you have a stable and comfortable kayak for the both of you to enjoy. Check that the angle of the seating is comfortable,  check that the foot pegs or foot braces are well-adjusted so that you’re both stable during the kayaking and make sure that when you bend your knees you are well braced against the sides of the kayak. All these checks need to be done on dry land before you get into the water.

 

Launching the kayak.

Launching a kayak can be a daunting task because if you do not do it well, you will not be able to get into it because it will lack stability. There are two basic scenarios when launching your kayak, one is where you’re at the shoreline or the other is if you have a  dock launch system or the normal dock launch without a system.

When launching your kayak, be careful not to drag it across rocks or sand. The advantage of a tandem kayak is that two people use it, so you can easily carry the kayak to the water.

 

Launching from the Shoreline.

If you’re launching from a shoreline, carry the kayak to the shallow point of the shoreline, put it straight into the water, parallel to the shoreline. One of you should then gently push the boat slightly away from you and while standing in ankle deep water lean against the kayak to provide some support. The person sitting at the front should then put the paddle across the board so that it is out of the way then climb in. Once the person sits down they should adjust their sitting appropriately to make sure that they are completely stable and comfortable. This will also prevent the boat from tipping over when the other person climbs in.

The person at the front can then use the paddle to stabilize the boat against the shoreline so that it does not tip over when the person behind climbs in. The person at the back should then lay the paddle across the boat so that it does not get in the way when he’s climbing in. By leaning on the paddle, the person at the front provides additional stability thus making it easier for the person at the back to climb in.

Once you are both sitting comfortably, simply use the paddle to push off the shoreline. It then becomes a simple matter of synchronizing your paddling movements to achieve seamless motion.

Dismounting.

This will pretty much follow the mounting steps because the person at the front will exit first while the person at the back provides support and stability. Make sure that your kayak is at a shallow point so that you can easily stand up. Also, make sure that the paddles are out of the way so that you do not trip over them, and if you have spray skirts on, you need to remove them. You will need exit with the knees first so use your arms to raise your hips from the cockpit. Once out, you can then provide support for the person who is still in the kayak by holding onto the boat for that additional stability. Use the paddles to give you additional stability.

 

Launching from the dock.

When launching from a dock, you’ll both need to carry the kayak to the launching system and load it on. The loading systems are pretty easy to use and once you get the hang of it, you will quickly find that you are a pro at it. Make sure you use the adjustable cradle banks to make sure you get the right hull size for your boat. If you do not get the right size it may simply slide off or not be firm enough for both of you to get in. Use the brake winch to line up the ladder to the dockside. The winch allows you to move the kayak up and down thus enabling you to lower it gently into the water.

Once the kayak is in the water, the person at the front will get in first and sit comfortably. Because the boat will have shifted a little when the front person is sitting, he can simply use the arm rails on the dock to position the kayak for the next person. The rails also provide stability for the second person as he climbs into the kayak. You can then use the railings on the side of the dock to push off. The person at the front of the kayak should start the paddling motion.

If you do not have a launching system, simply use the lowest part of the dock and follow the steps above.

 

Dismounting.

The person at the front will use the rails to position the kayak, he will then he put his paddle on the dock and using the railings climb out of the kayak. The person at the back will help keep the kayak steady, he will then be assisted by the first person to climb out. Then use the winch to raise the kayak out of the water.

If you do not have a winch, you need to bring the kayak side to side with the dock, set both paddles up on the dock then use your hands and knees to help you raise yourself up onto the dock. The person who is sitting at the back will help keep the boat steady as the first on dismounts. Once out, he can help the second one dismount.

 

Final thoughts.

Tandem kayaking is great because you have the support of someone else to either get in or out of the kayak, as well as to paddle. It is also a good learning opportunity for beginners because they can watch and learn from the more experienced kayaker. Before going out to kayak, make sure that your kayak is in good condition and you have done a checklist to ensure you have everything you need. Tandem kayaking is about teamwork and if well done you will have a very interesting time in the water. Take some time to practice some of the things you need to do for example mounting and dismounting, as well as making sure that your paddling technique is on point to avoid any mishaps in the water.

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About Author

Steve has been into sports all his life. As a young boy, he started with swimming; this only propelled him into more water sports. When he tried kayaking, the thrill captivated him and now, it is his favorite sport. As a ranger, Steve is always in the outdoors where he likes it. He became a ranger right after college. He is married and has three kids whom he loves going to expeditions with. When he is not at work or with his family, he loves writing. He is now the lead blogger at Tandem Kayak Report, always writing about his passion.

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