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  Posted by: scupperfrank on Apr-03-13 12:08 PM (EST)

Getting there sometimes is half the fun -but without a decent boat transportation setup it won't ever even come close.

You can always s get a couple of "temporary" hard foam boat support and strap systems to hold each of your boats, but they don't last as long as other, more permanent solutions, take a bit more work to attach and detach when you take the boats out, and aren't anywhere nearly a strong or sturdy as hardier roof rack systems. A caveat is that they may or may not be able to work side-by-side to simultaneously carry both boats on your vehicle. They ARE a lot less expensive, but I wouldn't expect them to last the ten years we've had one of our conventional roof racks, and at least in our minds, don't provide transportation security and confidence over the long haul…

But the best way to 'tote your boat' is probably a roof rack system designed to fit your vehicle(s). They're not cheap, but are strong, sturdy, and will last if not a lifetime then at the very least as long as you have your boats. Major players Yakima, Thule, Malone, and several other suppliers supply a wide variety of products to fit almost all vehicles.

If your car already has a roof rack with crossbars, that's a start, but it probably won't be wide enough to carry both your boats both easily AND safely side-by-side. You'll need to determine whether any of the roof rack suppliers have saddles -the actual parts of a roof rack system that snugly and safely hold the kayak -to fit the crossbars on your vehicle. If so -AND if you can fit them on side-by-side and carry both boats, you're set.

Another possibly more attractive option for narrow-width crossbars is to use Js ("jays") to carry the boats. A J looks just like its namesake: a J-shaped piece of metal bars or heavy-duty plastic that cradles the boat in a near-vertical position. Because the boats are vertically transported, they don't take up as much side-to-side room on the roof. You attach the Js to the crossbars, strap the boats to the Js, and you're good to go.

Or, you can possibly go with a stacker setup. A stacker is basically a tallish vertical support -a 2-3' tall u-shaped support that attaches to the middle of the crossbar -one for each crossbar -to which you can strap 2 boats, on their sides, 'back-to-back', to the supports. The advantage over Js is that the profile of the 2 boats is even narrower. It's a typical way WW kayaks are transported, but now, several flatwater paddlers have transported their boats in this fashion, and it appears to work fine if the boats are securely secured.

If it's not Js or stackers, then you'll need to get crossbars that will accommodate your boats side-by-side in their saddles/cradles. How to get them attached to your vehicle follows...

If your cars(s) have roof rails -the kind that already have rails that sort of look like tub handrails for the disabled attached vertically to the roof of your car, the major roof rack makers have devices to clamp their crossbars on your rails.

If your car has a 'track' for the car's own roof rack system -which you haven't purchased with the car, the major rack companies also have 'feet' that will fit into the factory track, and provide a basis to attach the 'towers- -the hardware that hold the crossbars up off the roof.

If you have a bare, plain roof, then you'll need to purchase feet that conform to your car's roofline profile, to which to attach the towers, to which you attach the crossbars, to which you attach the stackers or saddles or Js.

There's an ongoing debate here on P-Net on how to complete the system when transporting your boats using roof rack systems. Some folks say use for and aft tie-downs -lines that run from the bows and sterns of boats to fixed attaching points -bumpers, etc. -as a finishing touch, while others say the roof racks and straps are good enough. We usually use tie-downs, but sometimes skip them. Your call…

You could also consider a paddlecraft trailer. But I'm not all that familiar with them, it brings in a whole new an different set of parameters and considerations, and I'll let it go.

The final piece in the puzzle is attaching a flag to the back of the boat to alert people that there's this (usually longer than the back end of the car) extension at the back of your vehicle. We usually have one attached just in case. It also acts as an additional alert when the car is parked for other drivers and passers-by -and us! -to not hit the extension as we walk around the back of the car…

A good, durable, and sturdy kayak transport system will make it a LOT easier to get out to, and back from, wherever it is -across town, or across the country -you go to


-Frank in Miami

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