Proper Setup for Canoes & Kayaks
For most paddlers the worst part about kayaking is lugging the boats around on your vehicle. Who wouldn’t be concerned about strapping a long torpedo like object on top of your car, then driving at high speeds on mostly crowded highways? Nobody wants to be front page news.
You can save yourself a lot of grief by fitting crossbars properly on your roof. Once those are on, mount the boat on a reliable rack and strap them down solid. Take those precautions and no worries- you’re off.
For canoes and kayaks, the least expensive option is the low tech, but still classic foam block method. Tried, true and …cheap. Used properly they do the trick. If you’re on a tight budget this is where boat transport starts, but if you’re not careful it can leave your car with scratches and dents.
Also, tying down a kayak with ‘foamies’ in the middle of a strong wind or thunderstorm gets farcical in a Mr. Bean sort of way: lift boat, wind blows ‘foamies’ off car, drop boat, reset ‘foamies’, lift boat, wind blows….You get the picture. There is one other big drawback to foam blocks. Imagine yourself driving with two boat straps running through your car. Put the front strap in the wrong place and you bump your forehead. Baseball caps are nearly impossible in some compact cars.
Better to invest in a set of dependable crossbars that are fitted properly to your car. Higher end models provide a more customized fit and they offer high durability. Others are made to fit a broader range of roof tops and work with or without raised side rails.
Once the crossbars are in place, there are many different ways of mounting boats. J shaped racks carry kayaks on their sides which gives better gas mileage to the water because they’re more aerodynamic. Mounted side by side also lets you take your buddy’s kayak. Saddle racks, on the other hand, mount the boats hull down. To make life easier, some even have rollers so you only have to lift one end of the boat at a time. For fiberglass boats, saddles are your best option.
Whatever mount you use, straps are what holds it all together. Rope is prone to errors at six in the morning before that first cup of coffee. With straps you don’t have to second guess your knots.
Safe Traveling with Kayaks
For maximum safety, tie down both ends of the boat and have at least two straps around the belly or the middle of the boat. The trick is finding suitable anchor points at the front and back that will hold the straps. Don’t be fooled by plastic bumpers. You may have to look further underneath the car. If you’re having trouble finding an anchor, hood loops let you tie off nylon loops coming out from under the hood.
Once you park the car. If you find yourself carrying a kayak long distances whether it be across a busy downtown street or down a long dirt track, kayak carts take a big load off. (Soloists take note: carts break down into three pieces for storage.)
Taking care of the safety details when it comes to transporting boats pays off in many ways later. As for lugging that kayak around, look at the bright side: paddling trips begin when the boats are on the car and you’re headed to the water.
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