Saturday, September 24, 2016

Transporting The Kayaks -- Safety First!

"Look deep into water and you will understand everything better..."
--Albert Einstein

One of the most boring parts of kayaking, and one of the most terrifying, is the absolute necessity of transporting your kayak from where it is to where you plan to launch. Unless, of course, you live on the water and always put in from your back yard launch... not me.

We are fortunate to live 5 road miles (about 3 as the crow flies) from the Saint Johns River. We are within 6 or seven road miles of a half dozen decent launch sites into the main stem of the lower basin of the Saint Johns or tributaries and residential canals. Our favorite launch is at the deteriorating County Dock -- not often used anymore by motorboats. So getting from here to their is a piece of cake. But now we are interested enough to wander further afield. That means hitting the interstates (I-95 or I-10 or both), or fairly long road trips down Florida's back roads, which I prefer and truly love. Either way the imperative is keeping one or two kayaks securely stowed to a motor vehicle moving down the road at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. The second imperative is to avoid damage to the boats in the process. As novices, this was (and is) my greatest anxiety producer to date, so I expended quite a bit of time on research -- online (reading and looking at YouTube videos) and talking with experts ( highly experienced friends and the owner of the outfitter we use the most). So far it has paid off well. Here's what we have done...

My Hurricane Skimmer on the roof rack.

We started by having a Yakima roof rack system installed on the roof of our Honda Ridgeline. We bought it at Black Creek Outfitters in Jacksonville -- and they had it set up when we arrived, and did the installation for me. We still had the 8 foot starter kayaks when we bought it and they easily fit the rack bars without any pads or shoes or additional stuff like "J" bars. They were also light enough to just lift up to the roof. Then came the Hurricane pictured above -- bigger and heavier (I can lift it down from the roof, but not up). I used the "load from the back" technique, protecting the cab of the truck with a towel (that mostly worked), and added a pair of $3.00 swimming noodles to cushion the bars.
Noodle padding on rear bar.

I bought two pairs of Yakima straps. The folks at Black Creek showed me how to use them and had me participate in the first racking. Then at home I also found a few useful YouTube videos on strapping, and I practiced. This is one of those things that you become more proficient at the more you do it.

Both of my primary mentors (Jim and Joe) admonished me about the ABSOLUTE necessity of at least a bow line. So I bought a pair of Yakima bow/stern lines with the adjustment ratchet. The Ridgeline has a convenient tow hook welded to the frame below the left from fender. a perfect attachment spot for the bow line.

Because my boat is a sit on top, she is mounted upside down (hull up), and still requires no special mounting gear other than the bars and noodles. As you can see in these pictures, I have her mounted stern first, and point of great debate as I found out by polling fellow members of a large paddling group on Facebook. That poll returned a result of 75% preferring bow first mounting. A few noted that the reason is aerodynamics, but the vast majority reported it as a matter of water-faring tradition and not wanting to tempt fate by racking counter to tradition. So yes, I have now taken to mounting my kayak bow first. It stays well balanced, though the bow extends considerably further over the driver's side window. I may yet reconsider...

The last thing that I added was the Yakima "Boat Loader" rack bar insert. The precipitating event for that was purchasing Kay a Perception Tribe 11.5 (that we will pick up near Orlando next week). It weighs in the neighborhood of 53 lbs, so I figured a little assist in loading would be helpful. My friend and mentor Jim D. has one on his van, and recommended it, especially since I'll be loading two boats pretty much myself since Kay has a very problematic back. I'll have to let you know how it works out after we pick up her new boat. I was able to install the bar in less than 15 minutes and I expect that it will prove to be money well spent. Here's what it looks like extended:

Using this bar extension you can lift one end of the kayak onto the extension, then easily raise the other side up and onto the rack, walk the first boat over to the right side, then repeat the process for the second.

Just a final point to mention is that when making significant trips I intend to use BOTH bow and stern lines on both boats for added security and safety. The proof of all of my preparation will be in the pudding of the almost immediate future. Here's to hoping that future posts to this blog will not include horror stories of lost kayaks! Happy paddling!

1 comment:

  1. That caused me the most anxiety as well at first! I've gotten over it though after many road trips. What used to take me 30 minutes now takes me 15. I also have the Yakima Boat Loader bar. I can hoist my 49 lb boat into its saddles on my Nissan Pathfinder by myself as easy as pie. My 61 pound boat nearly does me in though on my own!