Safely Transport your Kayak
Too many reports of rack failures and damaged boats can be attributed to sloppy or incomplete vehicle mounts. The lives of other people on the road are at risk when you transport a kayak at high-speed so understanding a good mount technique is an essential skill.
The Columbia Gorge (www.crgva.org) National Scenic Area is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River is the second largest river in North America, starting in northern Idaho and south-eastern British Columbia, and travelling over 1,200 miles to the ocean. The gorge canyon stretches for over 80 miles as the river winds westward through the Cascade Mountain Range forming the boundary between the State of Washington to the north and Oregon to the south. The gorge forms a natural tunnel that accelerates wind speeds, providing an amazing variety of wind and water conditions. During storm conditions the gorge can experience peak wind gusts exceeding 80 mph.
There are a variety of mount and tie-down techniques for kayaks but whichever one you choose it’s a good practice to keep a printed copy of the instructions and tips with you as part of a safety check list.
In the procedure below we use the Mazama Outdoors RAPIDS J-Rack Kayak Rack as an example, but the techniques described here will apply to similar J-rack style racks on the market.
(1) Install Kayak Racks
See the manufacturer directions to assemble and mount your kayak rack to your vehicle’s load bars. The Mazama Outdoors RAPIDS J-Rack Kayak Rack uses a mount bracket, carriage bolts, and knobs to secure the J-frames. The popular J-frame style makes loading an awkward boat easier by allowing the frames to be mounted at the vehicle edge and minimize the amount of overhead reaching you have to do. The other advantage of J-frame racks is the minimal foot print required on your roof. You’ll appreciate the extra room for other gear like your bicycles or a cargo box.
(2) Strapping a Boat to the Rack
Thread the nylon strap through the upper J-rack frame strap guide. Place strap out of the way of the frame opening.
Figure 1: Threading load straps into the J-rack frame
Empty the kayak of water and equipment. Lift your kayak with another person whenever possible. It’s easier and safer than lifting it alone. Lift your kayak using your leg muscles, keeping your back straight and your knees bent.
Load boat with cockpit facing the outside of the vehicle.
Figure 2: Center the Kayak between the J-racks
Center the boat on the J-rack frames fore and aft.
Wrap the strap over the top of boat, thread the strap underneath the load bar of the vehicle rack, inside the load bar tower, and then back up to meet to buckle.
Figure 3: Adding cam straps
Thread the strap end through the buckle spring clamp and cinch the strap. Ensure the nylon sleeve of the buckle faces the boat. Tie off the loose strap end. Tie a half hitch over the cam buckle for extra security.
(3) Add Bow and Stern Lines
Start under your vehicle bumper and secure the tie down lines. If your lines don’t feature a hook then tie a permanent bowline knot and loop in one end.
Figure 4: Bowline Knot
Pass the free end of the rope through the towing eye under the bumper or any other structural element without sharp edges then back through the bowline loop.
Figure 5: Taught Line Hitch
Draw the rope up and over the boat’s bow or stern, then pass through the carry loops at the end of the kayak. Pull down gently and then make a taughtline hitch. Increase the tension on the knot by sliding the knot along the taught line. Tie off any loose ends using half hitches. Repeat the tie down for the other end of the boat securing to the vehicle’s bumper, hitch, or tow hook.
Transporting your boat safely requires careful attention to strapping it down and attaching bow and stern lines.
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