If you own a canoe or kayaks and will be heading out on the road this summer, here’s a reminder from a fellow user of the highways, “Please tie down your boats securely!!!” In my 20 years of paddling, I’ve heard my share of horror stories when it comes to boat carnage. All but two of the stories involved damage that was done while cartopping the boat. All canoes and kayaks should be tied down at the bow and stern and secured to the vehicle in addition to any straps going over the hull in the center of the boat. If you have a Yakima rack, it is required that you secure any load extending over the windshield (with the exception of the cargo boxes) both front and back. Not doing so voids the warranty from Yakima. (I suspect that Thule may have similar conditions.) I’m not a lawyer, but if your rack comes off and hits another car, I suspect that someone could make a case that you were negligent, if you haven’t followed the manufacturers recommendations. There can be a lot of torque exerted on the ends of a long kayak or canoe when driving at highway speeds especially around semi’s. I know of people who have had the whole rack with kayaks attached come flying off the roofs of their cars. Luckily, no other vehicles were hit in the process, but I don’t want to see anyone’s rack and/or boat flying toward my windshield. With that in mind, here’s some strong recommendations from someone with lots of experience transporting boats on cars and trailers.
1. Get a decent rack or cartopping system. Don’t jury rig something. It may seem expensive at the time, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of replacing your boats or paying for car repairs (not to mention, God forbid, that someone is injured or killed in an accident with a flying boat or rack.
2. Learn to tie a respectable knot. The trucker’s hitch, bowline, and half hitches have served me very well since I bought my first canoe in 1988. If you are not good with knots, there are plenty of good bow/stern hook straps on the market that can be used in place of ropes and knots. If your car has plastic shields under the vehicle that make it impossible to tie down the bow and stern of your boat, buy “hood loops” that can be attached to the car frame under the hood and pulled out when needed. Seattle Sports makes a set of hood loops that sells for less than $10 a pair.
3. Use good quality rope and/or tie down straps. Bungee cords are not adequate to secure canoes and kayaks. If you don’t pull them tight enough, they will stretch when the boat is encountering the increased wind resistance as the car moves. If you do pull the bungees tight enough to prevent extra stretch, then they are in danger of snapping when you add the extra strain of the wind resistance.
4. Check and recheck the security of your tie down job before you hit the road and whenever you stop for gas, lunch, etc. Plastic boats, especially, can change shape on a warm day causing ropes and straps to loosen up. Rain causes nylon to stretch, and sometimes boats and straps just shift position causing the straps to become loose.
Here’s hoping I never see you dealing with a boating accident on the side of a road.
Let’s go paddling!