Busted Racks, J Cardles & Heavy Wind
Posted by: elkhermes on May-31-13 8:57 PM (EST) Category: unassigned
When I'm not transporting my kayaks on my truck I use a set of J cradles on top of my car to transport them. The kayaks are a 13 foot sit in and the other is a cobra explorer SOT.
Two weeks ago I was driving home from an endurance paddle along the Colorado River near Blythe, CA. Just as I was getting into Indio there was a strong gust of wind that blew in from the side and turned the cobra into a sail. One of the cross bars on the stock cargo rack on my Chevy Equinox severely bent where one of the J cradles was connected. We almost lost the cobra. I ended up having to stash it in a desert wash off the freeway and running home to get my truck to pick it up.
Fast forward exactly a week later. A friend of mine and I were heading out to northern CA for a big kayak race. We loaded our kayaks, both 13 foot sit ins, on the stock cargo rack of her Kia Sorrento using a set of J cradles. 20 miles into the trip a STRONG gust of wind blew in from the side and completely busted one of the cross bars on her cargo rack. We had to stash both kayaks behind some bushes and race back to get my truck to retrieve the boats. We ended up blowing a ton of money on gas in my truck driving to northern CA and we just barely made it on time to check in for the race.
Has anyone had similar experiences using J cradles to transport their kayaks? Is it usually better to transport kayaks with the hull down with a set of good quality saddles so that they aren't acting as sails in a cross wind?
I'm thinking the stock cargo racks on both vehicles were just pieces of crap? Are Thule or Yakima racks much better quality?
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- Busted Racks, J Cardles & Heavy Wind - elkhermes - May-31-13 8:57 PM
Posted by: carldelo on May-31-13 9:06 PM (EST)
I had a strong side gust disconnect 2 J-cradles from my aero-style crossbars. The boat was a Feathercraft, the J-cradles were Thule, I think. In my case the aero bars were far too strong to bend - it was the thumbscrew connectors of the J-cradles that all failed. The boat got blown flat, but the straps and bow line kept everything on top of the car. The gust was a burst from an approaching thunderstorm, I would guess about 60 mph. I will never use J-cradles due to this incident - I've never had any issues with my V-bar carriers, with boats carried flat and upright. Strong crossbars are worth the money.
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Thank you so much.....|
Posted by: Basstar on May-31-13 9:07 PM (EST)
..........for allowing me to learn from your experience. I liked the idea of the low profile of a saddle but thought the J carrier would be better to allow me to carry multiple boats.
I want to read the responses here but have decided on saddles.
BTW, I am sorry though for your misfortune but thank you for sharing the experience.
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If you |
Posted by: rpg51 on May-31-13 9:16 PM (EST)
tie down solidly, including bow and stern lines, it is hard to imagine that the boats would blow off. Did you have bow and stern tie offs?
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The boats were tied down securely...|
Posted by: elkhermes on May-31-13 9:34 PM (EST)
in the cradles with the bow and stern safety lines attached. That's why they didn't blow off the cars. The broken crossbars forced the boats and cradles into slightly off angles and slightly rotated on the roof, but still secured in the J cradles.
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I"ve seen many people use J cradles...|
Posted by: elkhermes on May-31-13 9:27 PM (EST)
but I think that they are smart enough to pull over in a strong wind.
I'm thinking that I'll just have to pay the money for an oversized thule or yakima rack so I can still transport 2 kayaks on top of the car.
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Your cross bars are weak|
Posted by: Guideboatguy on May-31-13 9:28 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-31-13 9:31 PM EST --
On my own car, I wouldn't dream of mounting J-hooks to the factory cross bars, and those cross bars are tougher than the ones I've seen on many other cars. I'm really not surprised to hear your stories of cross-bar failure. Think about it. Most factory bars will deflect a noticeable amount if you press down on the center with 30 pounds or so. Just think how strong the bending force is when applied via a two-foot-tall lever that's attached to a mere six-inch spread on that same bar? On the other hand, I have personally STOOD on the center of one of my Yakima cross bars and, as far as I could tell, it didn't bend (the roof deflected a bit under each support point though).
Here's an experiment/demonstration for you. Grab one the top of one of those J-hooks with your hand, pull it sideways, and observe how much deflection there is within the factory cross bar, that is, see how much the J-hook "leans" on account of cross-bar flexing. Then do the same to a J-hook on one of your friend's cars who has Yakima or Thule cross bars. Unless it's an unusually beefy J-hook, my guess is that what yields will be "the other way around", that is, the J-hook itself will bend but not the cross bar.
Mounting your boats flat is probably a good idea if you can do it that way and have room for all of them, but factory cross bars already have limited space compared to the bars of a "real" roof rack, so I wonder about that. However, NOT using such cheap hardware (factory cross bars) in the first place is the most-sensible option in my view.
Edit: Oh, I just saw your additional post, and it appears I don't really need to convince you about better cross bars.
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Posted by: elkhermes on May-31-13 9:55 PM (EST)
I'm definitely picking up a pair of V cradles. I don't exactly want to shell several hundred dollars for a thule or yakima rack system if I don't have to.
Hopefully there isn't a process of elimination where I eventually end up shelling out the money for a high end rack system.
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Posted by: carldelo on May-31-13 9:58 PM (EST)
The V-cradles definitely aren't cheap. Good Boy kayaks makes a home-made style carrier that's about half the price of Kayakpro. But for what you get, I think they're a better value than cradles or J-bars. Good cross bars are a must, obviously, as you already know.
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Well if your paddling passion|
Posted by: kayamedic on May-31-13 10:08 PM (EST)
lasts more than a few years, an "expensive rack system" is a cheap investment.
My Yakima system dates from 1991. I don't swap out cars very often, so I have had to buy some three sets of door clips over 22 years.
And never lost a boat.
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Correct: Racks are cheap|
Posted by: Guideboatguy on May-31-13 10:15 PM (EST)
If I think about how many road trips I've made ONLY to go boating, and think about what I've spent on gas for those trips over the years, the cost of a Yakima or Thule rack isn't very much in comparison. And I've been hooked on this hobby for less than ten years. Your cross bars will last many times that long.
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Posted by: Jackl on Jun-02-13 6:00 AM (EST)
Get rid of the factory racks and get Yakama, Thule, or Malone.
Then have them attached directly to your vehicle, and not the vehicle factory rack
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V saddles work best on V shaped boats.|
Posted by: Yanoer on May-31-13 10:11 PM (EST)
Most people don't have anywhere near that distance between saddles that you have. V racks only work well if they're in the V section of the boat.
The Malone Sea Wings that I had for my Eddyline Nighthawk 16 didn't work too well on my QCC 400X with only 38" between saddles.
Your custom rig seems to work quite well for you.
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Posted by: carldelo on May-31-13 10:44 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: May-31-13 11:10 PM EST --
The distance between the Vees isn't custom, that's how the carriers are built. There are 2 Vees at either end of the central bar, which is 7, 8 or 9 feet long depending on the model (I have 8 and 9). The central bar is mounted to crossbars that are about 33" apart, same as everyone else has.
The only custom part of my setup is the adapter to the aero cross bars. The carriers come with adapters for your choice of Thule or Yakima. I made my own for aero bars.
Re: the V-shape, I'm sure you recognize that the blue boat in the linked photos is a Q400S - it fits quite well. The Vees can be moved along the central bar to sit at a bulkhead as well. The carriers have worked with a wide range of hulls, especially with foam pipe insulation on the Vees. Some boats fit better tipped at a slight angle.
I agree about the Malone Sea Wings - I got rid of a set which didn't fit any of my boats, the V is too shallow to be useful.
Per Greg's comments above, and the advice given by Gray at Kayakpro, fatter kayaks like mine just need the supports farther apart to put them at a narrow enough point on the hull (my boats are 22, 23, 24, 25.5 wide). The Q400 is on a 9' bar due to its full ends. All my other boats (and quite a few loaners and demos) have fit on the 8' bar. The Kayakpro seems to work better on fatter boats - I had a Goodboy rig, but it held the boats too high for my taste and I sold it.
This set of photos was taken to show someone how the system goes together and the adapters. It also shows an important point made by Greg. The long bar acts as a shock absorber, allowing the boat to bounce up and down as a unit, considerably reducing shock to the hull while transporting, the boat in these photos is 14'1" by 25.5":
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I've always wondered about the strength|
Posted by: Yanoer on May-31-13 10:13 PM (EST)
of J-cradles when confronted with strong side winds. Until your story, I'd never heard of any problems.
I'm glad that you completed your journey's without further mishaps.
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Factory Cross Bars|
Posted by: plaidpaddler on May-31-13 10:45 PM (EST)
Factory racks and cross bars are meant to corral items placed on the roof, not support loads. Aftermarket Yakima and Thule racks are systems meant to support and carry bikes, boats, lumber, skis, etc. Best cars are those with no factory side rails or cross bars. Then you can mount a good secure Yakima or Thule system to the roof. The money spent on a good rack system is less than the car companies get for the poor OEM racks. Most are cosmetic, like the big OD, but thin tubular rack bars on the Nissan Xterra. People complain about the rack cost, but spent much more on carbon-fiber Kayaks and paddles. A good rack system is good security for your toys.
As Kim mentioned, a good Yakima system doesn't need to be replaced, only updated for different car roofs. The accessories from 30 years ago still fits new bars, and new accessories still fit 30 year old bars.
I haul a 23foot canoe thousands of miles a year upside down on a Saturn VUE. No problem in cross winds and a Minnesota IV has a lot more surface to catch the wind than a short Kayak. The boats sit on Yakima load stops on bars mounted on towers attached to tracks mounted to the roof.
Its not your J-cradles that is the problem. People haul lots of kayaks in all kinds of weather on J-cradles. Its what you mounted the cradles to that's the weak link.
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OK. Point beat into my thick head.|
Posted by: elkhermes on May-31-13 10:37 PM (EST)
I'll take a serious look at a high end rack system.
It will be my next investment in this money pit called kayaking. I've been kayaking for only 18 months and, just like a previous comment, its crazy the road trips I'm taking just to go boating.
There a lot of places in this world that someday I would love to go visit. My damn boat is frequently making me visit places I've never heard of.
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Welcome to the club !|
Posted by: Jackl on Jun-02-13 9:54 AM (EST)
My wife and I are driving 700 miles tomorrow to pick up a two year old boat that we are buying.
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Third party crossbars and stackers |
Posted by: Celia on May-31-13 11:26 PM (EST)
We use stackers, which set up a boat similarly to the angle of J-bars, and thrid party cross bars. And we use neoprene cockpit covers for long trips, wind can't pocket inside the Sinks.
Have been in decent winds but nothing budged. I bet if you calculated the combined effect of the load and the pressure from the wind, you would find that you were well over the capacity of the factory cross bars.
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Posted by: bowler1 on Jun-01-13 8:00 AM (EST)
I have a good rack system and recently used j cradles on an eight hour drive so I could get three kayaks on my truck. I have to admit it was a little unsettling when a good wind came up or a semi passed by. The boats catch a LOT more wind with a j cradle which made me question bow much I would want to use them on long trips in the future. It really stresses the lateral strength of your rack.
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Hardly the end of the story. |
Posted by: Guideboatguy on Jun-01-13 8:57 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jun-01-13 9:25 AM EST --
I often carry a friend's kayak on a set of J-racks. On either Yakima cross bars OR my home-built cross bars, I have no concern at all. Why? Because the stress caused by cross winds in that situation is never even remotely close to that which occurs when carrying my guide-boat, and I've been doing that for years with no trouble. Yeah, the guide-boat doesn't put a localized bending force on the cross bars the way J-hooks do, but do the test I mentioned above with J-hooks on good cross bars and you will not worry about that aspect. The bottom line is that we are talking about flimsy, factory-rack cross bars here, and THAT is the issue. A guy tells us that a cross bar made of flimsy, tubular plastic has failed, and this becomes a reason not to use J-hooks? Ha!
Sideways force on the rack as a whole? I have no worries because with a kayak on J-hooks that force is miniscule in cross winds compared to what happens with my guide-boat. Those gusts probably feel powerful to a person who's never carried any other kind of boat, but it's not very much when compared to what some bigger, bulkier boats will do.
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I didn't mean to lead to that one|
Posted by: Celia on Jun-01-13 9:16 AM (EST)
We had saddles and went back to stackers after finding they managed multiple boats easier and were a lot less fuss over a long drive - less constant adjustment.
For the record, nothing I said was to indicate that saddles were better than J-bars or stackers etc. I DID mean to say that third party cross bars are a better idea than factory cross bars.
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For wide SOT j cradles have limitations|
Posted by: LeeG on Jun-02-13 8:35 AM (EST)
Especially on thin factory aero racks. For narrow kayaks they're versatile and secure on Thule and Yakima
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Thule all the way|
Posted by: willowleaf on Jun-01-13 10:11 AM (EST)
I've hauled multiple kayaks and canoes up to 18' long and some over 90 lbs (not to mention heavy extension ladders and bundles of steel conduit) on Volvo and Subaru wagons, a Hyundai Santa Fe and a Ranger Pickup using Thule bars either attached to the rain gutters (older models) or sistered or transversely mounted with Thule adapters to the factory bars, depending on orientation. On many of the longest trips I have used Thule J racks. I would NEVER rely on factory racks to support any load on a vehicle.
Considering Yakima vs. Thule, I know there are fans of Yakima racks out there but I think the round bars are inappropriate for boat carriage because of the problems of rotation and the fact that the load is concentrated on one narrow point of the circumference. And I can tell you, having worked for many years as a construction electrician, it is easier than you think to bend a round pipe (in fact I used to do it hundreds of times a day). But try bending a square one.
If you are going to haul boats, your safest bet is to invest in Thule. I few hundred bucks is miniscule compared to the cost of your kayaks and canoes and not even worth fretting about compared to the possibility of hurting somebody in traffic with a failed carrying system.
I wish carmakers would just dispense with their stupid flimsy racks and either give us firmly seated hardware points on the car roofs or go back to sturdy continuous integral rain gutters. I distrust the factory bars so much that for long trips I run a pair of extra long heavy duty Thule straps around the Thule rack and through the car doors across the headliner to secure the entire bag of worms to the car as safety backup. I've hit wind gusts that nearly blew my car off the road while carrying a 70 lb kayak and a 90 lb canoe on the Subaru with such a setup and nothing budged.
By the way, if your budget can't support a Thule purchase (though I've found most of my components on Ebay for half price or less) you can haul more safely than using the factory racks by proper utilization of the $40 foam block kits. I hauled my first kayak 1000's of interstate miles using one of those. Properly strapped through the car doors the blocks won't move and if the kayak is also strapped through the car roof and securely guyed to the front and rear bumpers it is not going any where.
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Posted by: plaidpaddler on Jun-01-13 11:58 AM (EST)
The round Yakima bars are far thicker than the EMT or even the rigid conduit you are used to bending. And of a better steel. Somewhere between schedule 40 and schedule 80 wall thickness. Rotation has never been an issue, the gunwale brackets want to stay flat under the gunwale. With the load tied down you could take the clamp bolt out of the gunwale bracket and it won't go anywhere. Being able to rotate an accessory mount to lay flat against a load is a plus. With todays car roofs being so arched a set of flat bars held perpendicular to the towers are never aimed at each other. makes it really tough to attach bike racks. With round bars the accessory mounts can align with each other and clamp at any angle to the towers.
Thule makes a very strong system, best on a vehicle with rain gutters or a flat roof.
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Yakima for bike racks, I agree|
Posted by: willowleaf on Jun-02-13 1:10 AM (EST)
I agree that Yakima seems to be better for bike racks. With bikes you aren't loading something with broad flat areas of contact. But I can see having Yakima if you haul both bikes and boats. Since I always drive wagons my bikes go inside the car.
No question Yakima bars are thicker than EMT conduit. That's not what I was comparing them to. I've bent tons of 3/4" schedule 40 rigid galvanized conduit, which is the same OD as Yakima tube but has a 25% thicker wall (0.107" vs 0.085"). That was with a hand or hickey bender, not a hydraulic or mechanical assist frame bender. In fact, if we just needed a little kick in a piece in the field we'd stick one end in a hole in a concrete floor and throw a little body english on it.
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round is stronger...|
Posted by: gstamer on Jun-02-13 10:32 AM (EST)
I'm not following your argument about not having a broad area of contact with round bars. You don't place your kayak directly on the bars, and the accessories, such as cradles, attach via multiple "snaparounds" that effectively distribute the force around the entire bar.
I see many more bent Thule bars than I do Yakima bars, and have hauled lumber and other supplies well above the rated limit of my Yakima bars, with no ill-effect.
That said, God knows we have been through enough Yakima versus Thule pissing matches on this (and other) boards. Both work extremely well. It comes down to specific car fit and personal preference, IMO.
Forget round versus square, my next rack will probably be one of the new aero racks, with a Good-Boy "Vee" bar system on-top.
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Posted by: Guideboatguy on Jun-02-13 11:10 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jun-02-13 11:23 AM EST --
For several years, I was convinced that Thule cross bars were a lot weaker than Yakima bars, because all of the bent bars I've seen that were "name brand" models, and I've seen several, were Thule. Well, finally I saw a Thule bar close-up without end caps, and sure enough, the walls are pretty thick and it looked like it ought to be quite strong. I have to wonder if the smaller overall dimensions of the Thule bar compared to Yakima might make it more prone to bending.
But like Greg just said, I'm not saying one is better than the other or even that one must be stronger. Surely, either one is more than strong enough. I do like the ability to tilt kayak carriers to match the profile of the hull though, and that's easy with a round bar. Oh, I might add, round bars are more versatile if one uses gunwale brackets too. Some canoes have a lot of "swoop" from end to end, and a gunwale bracket that's restricted to being level (as is the case when mounted on a rectangular bar) will only contact the gunwale at one edge instead of across the whole flat part of the contact patch. That factor won't come into play with closely spaced bars so it won't matter on most modern cars, but it sure can if there's a lot of bar spread, like say, on a longer truck-type rack.
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Posted by: carldelo on Jun-02-13 11:42 AM (EST)
OK then, Greg, I guess we'll just have to start our own more-focused argument about the merits of Good Boy vs. Kayakpro V-bars. You guys with skinny kayaks have all the options, and I'm sick of it, see...
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Round vs, Square or Yakima vs. Thule|
Posted by: tvcrider on Jun-02-13 6:31 PM (EST)
I really cannot comment on which is stronger. I have used both over the last 20+ years for carrying 150-200 pound loads on my roof rails and neither has bent or failed.
I will make this observation: for whatever reason the Thule bars are much more resistant to corrosion over our Upstate, New York winters (e.g. heavy salting of roadways). I have had to replace 3 sets of Yakima bars due to corrosion, particularly in the area near the end caps. The Yakimas will eventually corrode and expand such that one can no longer adjust or slide the crossbar at the point where it passes through the towers. I have yet to replace the Thule bars I purchased roughly 10 years ago. Of course YMMV.
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If you just heft a Yakima crossbar, |
Posted by: ezwater on Jun-01-13 2:00 PM (EST)
you'll see it greatly exceeds the strength of nearly all factory crossbars. Not that Yakima bars are bulletproof. I did bend one a little when I forgot I had a bike in a carrier on the rack, and drove into the carport.
I've experienced some really sudden, strong gusts out west, carrying boats or on a loaded motorcycle.
On the J cradle issue, I haven't used them. They must be better than stacking whitewater kayaks on edge. I've used old Yakima cradles where the boat sits right side up or inverted, and side winds tend to blow above and below the boat without problems.
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Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Jun-01-13 3:11 PM (EST)
I believe carrying canoes or kayaks hull up is the most streamlined method, both for air flow coming from the front or side.
I never liked J cradles for the very reason of their poor frontal and lateral air streamlining.
Over the past 40 years I have had round Yakimas and rectangular Thules. I prefer Thule.
Rack towers should be fixed directly onto or into the roof for maximum strength. Rain gutters used to provide this type of affixation. You can still get mini rain gutters from Thule, which you can screw through the roof of your Lamborghini. Suck it up and be strong and safe.
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Agree on hull up for aerodynamics.|
Posted by: ezwater on Jun-02-13 12:09 AM (EST)
Hull up usually brings a bit lower center of gravity also.
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Posted by: remeny on Jun-02-13 12:51 AM (EST)
I started off being nervous using Yakima Q towers and Thule J cradles. At this point I sometimes just hose off my boat after a paddle while still on top of my car and leave it there for days while commuting to work. It's a bad practice as far as fuel economy goes but it shows the Q-tower system is strong. I'm sure Thule's system is just as good.
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J racks only for some boats|
Posted by: willowleaf on Jun-02-13 1:25 AM (EST)
I won't use my J-racks for any kayak over 46 lbs. And mostly I use them for our Feathercraft and Pakboat folders when I haul them set up, because it is easier on their frames to be cradled that way resting against their chine bars.
I agree that hull up is the way to go, at least for the boat models we haul (mainly Greenland profile touring SINKS and a narrow poly canoe). A snug (and tethered) cockpit cover reduces turbulence and windlift beneath the upturned kayak. Though having the cover on means you don't get that free car wash the first time you come to a hard stop on the way home from the takeout.
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Had Yakima J racks fail.|
Posted by: kybishop on Jun-03-13 8:59 PM (EST)
I had a Yakima J rack fail on the interstate through the North Caroline mountains. There is a section with a posted sign warning of bad cross winds possible. This day it was raining and a bit of wind. I saw the trucks and trailers hit this section and getting blown off into the shoulder and back on. I slowed down and it hit.
This was several years ago and was a small kayak, a Ocean Kayak Yak Board that I take to the beach to ride in the surf. When it hit from the right it completely bent the front J rack mount. The kayak came out of the cradle but luckily I had the bow tied down to the front of the car. It just hung out the left side a bit and was fine and we came to a stop in the emergency lane.
Never will use one again. I now just put them all deck down on the Thule bars. Or I have an old school Thule stacker I use which works great.
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Same problem yesterday|
Posted by: nocoast1 on Jun-04-13 4:15 PM (EST)
I just posted an almost identical message a few minutes ago. I had my kayak blow clean off of my car yesterday. It was firmly secured. Strong winds and the occassional semi truck blowing by me must have caused too much tension. The sadles look like a much better design than the J carriers. I'll be looking at the wind just as much as a hydrograph form now on. You live you learn I guess.
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