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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat


Home Port—Our Readers Rack Their Brains
And Come Up With More Ways to Rack Your Boats
Shed-side Canoe Rack

By Tamia Nelson

July 28, 2009

Even the smallest canoe, kayak, or sit-on-top takes up a lot of space. Unless it's an inflatable or skin-on-frame folder that can be stored in a bag, a boat needs a safe and secure berth when it's out of the water. The small photo on the right shows one way to store a boat—in this case, our veteran trekking canoe, an Old Town Tripper. It rests on a simple rack made of dimension lumber nailed to the side of a shed, with tie-downs to keep it from being blown away by the Old Woman. The shed roof and the trees shade the boat from direct sun, yet the canoe is always accessible and ready to go for a quick departure.

There are as many ways to store boats as there are paddlers, of course, and in the months since I showcased Dave Birren's "better boathouse," I've gotten letters from other In the Same Boat readers who've come up with alternative storage solutions. These were simply too good for me to keep to myself, so I asked permission to pass them on. Here goes!


Let's start with a sling suspension system that's sure to win the heart of any former sailor or mountaineer-turned-paddler. It's James Norma's answer to a common problem: lots of kayaks, but only one garage.

Just Hanging Around

Lovely boats, aren't they? (I don't think I've ever seen a really ugly kayak. But these beauties are certainly contenders for the top of the class.) Here's what James had to say about his strategy for winning the space race in his garage:

I read with enjoyment the article entitled "A Better Boathouse." I just had to send in our solution to our problem. We took a couple of lengths of heavy nylon rope and strung them from the rafters in the "wings" of our garage, between the wall and the garage door. The ropes hang about 12-14 feet from each other. We then took lengths of slightly smaller diameter rope (deck-line size) and made loops large enough to fit around the boats. Take the loops and attach them to the vertical hanging ropes using prusik knots. Then simply hang your boats in the loops of the smaller rope. This is very efficient and allows you to adjust the elevation by sliding the prusik knots on the larger diameter rope. We'll use the exact same system in the basement of our new house.

Hopefully our solution can help others with storage problems. We have to give credit to Bob Cherico of Sweetwater Kayaks in St. Petersburg, Florida, for inspiring us.

Now that's a solution I couldn't help but like! As a sometime mountaineer, I'll cast my vote for any scheme that makes use of rope and prusik knots. I suppose you could put my reaction down to what the late Colin Fletcher cheerfully labeled "soppy sentimentality." But there are practical considerations, too. Prusik loops are easy to make and simple to use, and—if properly tied—the knots don't slip under load. In short, they pass the simple-and-good test. You can see a closer view of James' suspension system below. The loop slings are yellow; the heavier support ropes, blue. Note that the boats alternate: the gray kayak is suspended in front of the support rope, while the Paradigm is tucked behind.

In the Slings

If you look carefully, you'll see a prusik knot near the top of the shot, and if you scroll back up to the first picture, you'll notice that the bottommost boat isn't hanging in a sling. It rests on foam pads on the garage floor, instead. The result? Optimal space utilization at minimum cost. James' kayaks are sheltered, but get-at-able. And he can still find room for a car in his garage. If that's not a win-win scenario, I don't know what is.


Then again, not all boats need inside storage, and not every boater has a garage. ABS canoes and "tin tanks" can shrug off most of the assaults that the weather throws their way. Even wood-and-canvas boats can cope with outside storage in milder climes, if properly protected—as the following note from Stan Scolnick of Foster City, California, makes clear. Stan has quite a fleet of little ships. Yet he doesn't have a garage. That's not a problem, though. Here's how he copes:

No canoe freak can have just ONE canoe. My first was a 13-foot Grumman, and then I graduated to a 16-foot Old Town Yankee. … Canoe acquisition was all uphill from there. Being an apartment dweller, for the sake of my boats I had to move to a waterfront domicile where I could store them and have easy access for usage. I store my eight boats [outside] on homemade racks made of PVC pipes, and cover the boats with tarps. Works well for me. People say, "How can you have eight canoes?" I tell them it's like having eight good friends. I have a personal attachment to each craft, and it breaks my heart to sell one. I am a born New Englander, and I suppose it's in my blood. Of course, I also have about 40 paddles. Each is a work of art. NO laminates for me. Beavertail ash is the way to go.

Well, time to go for my morning cruise around the lagoon. Which boat should I take, which paddles should I use (I always take two)…? Oh, all these decisions!

As Stan has discovered, PVC pipe is a natural for homemade boat racks. It's easy to find in any DIY center or hardware store, relatively inexpensive, and you won't need any special tools to cut it to length. It's also termite-proof, an important consideration in many places. That said, wood has a boatload of virtues as well, both aesthetic and practical. It, too, is easily worked to size. Moreover, it's a renewable resource, something that can't be said of PVC. Earlier this year, when trudging down a portage around a long drop on The River, I came across this trailside rack:

A Welcome Rest

It's a classic example of a long-established type, one that can be seen at countless summer camps throughout Canoe Country. Furthermore, it would be easy for any reasonably handy paddler to replicate. The frame is constructed of pressure-treated lumber, with each support set deep in the sandy soil. The rack is both stable and sturdy, while the sign leaves no doubt as to its intended purpose. (The shotgun-pellet scars were a post-construction embellishment, as was the empty water bottle.) Although the existing rack won't accommodate more than two tandem canoes, it would be simple to add more crossmembers if you were building your own. Foam padding or suitable cutouts would then make the rack kayak-friendly.


Next, let's look at a couple of ingenious variations on this time-honored theme, courtesy of Dan, whose skill with CAD software is evident in the following images. The first shows a T-rack for outdoor storage; the second, a "half-T" adapted for indoor use. This is how Dan describes them:

My T-post design [first diagram –Editor] is set into a concrete base in the ground and can hold six canoes. It's a skeleton frame, and boats could be covered with a tarp or sailcloth—just secure the cover to the posts.

T for Six

The rack that looks something like a chair [see below –Editor] is very lightweight but very strong, and can have casters added to the feet for those who need to roll their boats in and out of a garage. It could also have one more pair of carriage arms near the top to hold a total of three boats.

A Mobile T

Both designs have the added convenience of side-loading, eliminating any need to slide boats in from an end. On the T-post rack, the measurements are 18" to the top of the lowest cross T, then 24" to the next arm, and another 24" to the top arm, which makes the top boat no more than five to six feet high. Both racks have an eight-foot spread, but all measurements can be changed to suit specific needs.

These are elegant designs, aren't they? Yet they're well within the capabilities of paddlers with only modest carpentry skills. Simple and good. It's an unbeatable combination, both in the workshop and on the water.


Battered But Unbowed


We paddlers depend on our boats, and they have a special place in our hearts. That's why we do our best to keep them safe and secure between trips. Of course, not every home boasts a waterfront boathouse. But this needn't be a problem. It can even be an opportunity—a chance to rise to a challenge and exercise our native ingenuity. And that's just what the readers whose work we've showcased this week have done. The proof is on your screen. And what about you? How do you berth the boats in your Home Port? Let us know. We're always racking our brains for good ideas!

Copyright © 2009 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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