Launching for Watersports Made Easy

All three products that make launching a breeze! The ladder slides up and down with the floating dock.

By Mark Ambert Contributing Writer

Here on the Florida Coast, with so many houses built on or near the Intracoastal and canal systems, life often comes with the unique opportunity of direct water access.  Having said this, it’s not always easy to get a kayak from a private dock to the water and safely launch.  With tidal swings and the general instability of launching a kayak in deeper water, it can be easier said than done. Being a recent transplant here and now having a home with direct water access, I set out to solve some of these issues.  Here are five great products I found to deal with safely and easily launching your watercraft after doing considerable research.

The first step for me was to secure a platform that would rise and fall with the tides. I opted to have a floating dock built by Custom Marine Construction (CMC) to meet specific needs. The team at CMC provide turnkey dock solutions that cover new construction and restoration of decks, seawalls, and docks, including floating docks in a wide variety of colors and materials. CMC used a durable PVC decking option called Wear-Deck that matched my fixed dock they recently updated.  It’s a marine grade surface made of a low maintenance, non-slip composite material available in many different colors. I had my floating dock custom made to fit a particular area.  I also had extra-large floats installed to handle the additional weight of a multi-tier kayak storage rack along with four fully outfitted kayaks. The quality, fit, and finish were second to none. You can also buy pre-made floating docks at places like AccuDock.

Note the safety strap used to easily stand in the kayak. The hand crank brings the cradle up and out of the water for storage.

Once a floating dock was purchased and secured, I needed a safe way to get from my fixed dock to the lower platform. The length of the ladder would need to adjust to the fluctuations of the changing tides. After many hours of research, I found a great line of products from a company called Seahorse Fender and Docking that not only easily addressed this issue, but also the concern of safely launching the kayak.

The problem with a fixed ladder is twofold – the up and down movement of the floating dock in a tidal area in relation to any fixed bulkhead or surface creates ladder length changes. Being low enough to accommodate low tides will place ladder rungs under water at a given tide point.  In salt or brackish water this creates a significant issue with marine growth that over time, will make it impossible to use the lower rungs of a fixed ladder without getting cut and scraped by barnacles. An adjustable ladder usually will not cover the full range of tidal swings in our area without a drop to the floating dock deck.  Enter the Seahorse solution which is both simple and elegant. His ladders rise and fall with the tides on a sliding system and are never in the water! The ladder is always in the perfect position relative to the tide as it attaches directly to the floating dock.  The upper ladder rungs fold up, and to the side, and can be deployed as needed during tide changes. This provides complete and safe access during all tides.

With everything in its place, launching is safe and easy.

Next up was the issues of successfully deploying a watercraft.  The Seahorse Marine Launch Cradle is a thing of genius. With it I can store, launch, and return safely from my dock in any of the four watercrafts I own – even ones with propulsion systems.  Mike at Seahorse Marine envisioned all the obstacles to launching from a dock and has successfully eliminated them. Using this product, I’ve launched from the edge of a dock or seawall and not been concerned about safety. It holds the kayak in place while a person can easily step down onto or stand up and get out of a watercraft without fear of it moving or tipping. I have the worst balance and never feel uncomfortable getting into or out of a kayak using this system. Returning to the dock is just as easy with the kayak floating onto the cradle without tipping or rolling.

Getting out of a kayak at the edge of a dock can be even more hazardous with the “roll and tumble” maneuver that only gets harder as we get older. Some floating docks utilize a center cutout and safety bar system, but this takes a lot of precious real estate away from the floating dock and is still prone to rocking. The Seahorse cradle has a strap for lifting oneself out of the kayak while the cradle arm holds it firmly in place. You must try this system to believe the simplicity and safety – it’s amazing! Installation was simple and straightforward. This solution also works for canoes, SUPs, and smaller boats (check with the manufacturer for your specific needs).

I have also installed a roller system from a company called Get Kayaktive that allows easy placement of the kayak into and out of the water from any dock edge.  The product which is simply called “Roll-Aid”, has a foam-padded roller that ensures protection for the boat’s hull while remaining out of the way on your dock or bulkhead. It can also serve as a tie-off for your watercraft if needed. It is easy to install; four screws hold it in place, and it’s well made and durable. With it I can easily maneuver a kayak or canoe in or out of the water without much effort and zero damage to the hull or dock.

Lastly, a kayak storage rack custom made by AccuDock completes the configuration. I can now launch any kayak in my arsenal and when company comes to Florida, can easily maneuver, and launch multiple kayaks with ease! A task that normally put me off kayaking with a mixed family group of elders, young adults, and very small children. Now we kayak and enjoy our trips deploying and unloading safely and in just minutes. It’s become an effortless task to launch and return safely having these products installed. Even a single person can navigate the task of moving a heavy kayak with ease. All products are locally sourced and made in the USA, and most right here in Florida.

Kayak safety bar and cutout take up valuable real estate on a small floating dock with no room left for storage.

Take the time to explore these products and you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be having too much fun enjoying your day on the water!

AccuDock –

CMC Marine Construction  –

Get Kayaktive, LLC   –

Seahorse Fender and Docking –

Mark Ambert

Author – Avid outdoorsman,

sportswriter & photographer

Follow me on Instagram @marksgonefishing or contact me at for collaboration