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An Uplifting Experience — 
A Kayak Attic You Can Build

By Tamia Nelson
On the Map tamia@paddling.net

February 23, 2010

There's no doubt that In the Same Boat readers are a mighty talented bunch. When, nearly six years ago, I wrote an article on storing boats at home, I imagined I'd exhausted the topic, but reader David Birren quickly proved me wrong. By sharing his ideas for inside and outside storage, he prompted me to write a second article. And then… I'll bet you can see where this is going, can't you? Other readers wrote in with their suggestions, and a third article soon followed. In fact, every time I published a column on boat storage, I thought that it would surely be the last. Yet each column elicited a wealth of new ideas from readers, every one of them as imaginative as it was novel. It goes without saying that I'd hate to pick the best. In fact, I doubt that there's any such thing. Each reader's solution to the storage problem reflects his unique circumstances. That means it's the best — for him. Consider the example of Stephen Parker of Burnet, Texas. At first glance, his strategy for storing boats may seem a bit Rube Goldberg (UK paddlers read "Heath Robinson"). Don't be fooled, though. It's eminently practical as well as wonderfully ingenious. But why don't I just let Stephen tell the story in his own words? (I've edited his letters a bit; I hope he won't mind.)

The whole thing started with my wife saying, "Why don't you stick that thing up in the attic or something to get it out of the way?"

A eureka moment, obviously. And the result? The kayak attic was born. Stephen takes up the tale again:

Here is my solution for storing my kayak. I call it my "Kayak Attic." My house is all steel frame so I decided to make use of some wasted space in the garage. I used a lot of scrap pieces for bracing my kayak attic, so it looks sort of thrown together, but it was a good way to recycle the odd offcuts from other projects and avoid throwing them in the scrap pile. Sorry that the pictures look a little cluttered. That's just the way my garage is! At least I can still get my truck inside.

I use a simple 2:1 pulley system for hoisting the boats, and I have a large cleat screwed into the wall for a tie‑off. I painted the inside of the kayak attic sky blue to keep wasps and spiders from building nests. (An old wive's tale, perhaps, but it is working so far.) One picture is of the project in its early stages. Another is of one of my boats in the open uncompleted frame, then there's one of a boat partway lifted into place, and then there's a photo of the boat all the way up so you can see that it barely shows below ceiling level. The last photo is an end view looking up into the kayak attic which also shows a nifty way to store fishing poles where they are safe but still handy. It works great for paddles, too.

It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention. If that's true — and I think it is — then ingenuity is arguably the father, and the handiwork of both parents is evident in Stephen's clever solution to his boat storage problem. So let's take a closer look at…

How to Build a Kayak Attic

As he noted in his letter, Stephen's garage is framed with steel beams, and the joists were too low to allow him to suspend a kayak in slings above his truck. (The overhead door hardware would also get in the way.) That being the case, the only way out of his storage difficulties was up. And that's just where Stephen went. To begin with, here's a view of the garage at the start of work:

The Kayak Attic Takes Shape

You'll notice that Stephen has already welded the cage that will become the kayak attic. Next, we have a top‑down shot of one of his kayaks in the new berth, before the plywood sheathing was put in place:

Land Trial

In this blow‑up you can get a better look at the kayak attic's steel box‑frames, along with one of the lifting tackles:

Parker Kayak Attic

Here's how Stephen describes his method for hoisting boats up into the attic:

My kayak is supported by two slings. I also use two separate hauling lines. I thought about using a single line, but it always seemed to pull the boat up really crooked to start with, and I didn't like that. One line is anchored directly above each sling, then led down through a pulley attached to the sling — yielding a two‑to‑one mechanical advantage — and back up through a redirect (or turning block) and over to the wall. From there the line goes through another redirect to send it downward to the cleat. It gets a little busy with two separate lines, but it is simple enough to grab both lines at once for raising and lowering, and I think it makes the load a little easier to manage. Another plus is that I can hang the boat without worrying about draining it completely. I can get the water to collect where I want it, just by adjusting the hanging angle a little with the lines, thereby making it easier to dry it out later before covering the cockpit and raising the boat into the attic.

Once Stephen's kayak attic was closed‑in and painted, it was ready for duty. This shot captures a kayak hoisted partway:

Up, Up, and Away!

If you look closely at the photo, you'll see the hauling lines (aka "lifts") running down the wall on the right. The yellow arrowhead in the enlargement below identifies them. Now shift your gaze to the left in the photo above. You'll catch a glimpse of the fishing‑rod rack, suspended from the ceiling, just beyond the kayak's stern deck. We'll come back to this in a minute. First, though, here's the blow‑up showing the paired lifts:

Lined Up

Next we see the kayak after it's completely tucked away. Actually, though, there really isn't very much boat to see, is there? It's almost invisible. And that's just how it should be. (FYI: The ceiling hatch alongside the kayak attic gives access to the crawl space when needed.)

Now You See It...

Now here's another perspective, giving us a better look at both the kayak attic and the rod rack:

End View

Protected, yet accessible — Stephen's kayak has the best of both worlds. By the way, old wive's tale or not, the attic's sky blue paint really does seem to be keeping the wasps and spiders at bay. Finally, before we leave Stephen's garage, let's take one last glance at his rod rack, in a blow‑up made from an earlier shot:

Rod Rack

Stephen describes the rack this way:

The rod hangers are made from old broomsticks (better than spending money on dowels). They are a little bigger than the eyebolts at each end, so I threaded screws with large washers into the broomstick ends to secure them in place. Don't see any reason why a dowel the right size to fit the eyebolt wouldn't work, too — if you cut it slightly long or secured it with a screw.

So the broomstick rod hangers are suspended from the garage ceiling by eyebolts, leaving just enough room to hold Stephen's collection of fishing rods. And as he noted in the letter that I quoted earlier, the rack can also hold paddles. Of course, this might require…

Some Customization…

To make it work with your paddles. The same is true of the kayak attic. Everyone's needs are different. Although Stephen has several kayaks, he only built one attic. You could call it a proof‑of‑concept prototype. But it surpassed his expectations, and now he's wishing he'd built a second. Maybe he will. What about you? Are you pressed for space? Then consider making a kayak or canoe attic of your own. And don't worry. You won't have to borrow a welding rig. A wood frame should work as well as one made from steel. You don't even have to sheath the box. The bill of materials shouldn't break the budget, either. All you'll need — besides a suitable attic crawl space — are some short lengths of dimension lumber (with some scrap plywood for gussets, maybe), a handful of fasteners, a few yards of line and webbing, a cleat or two, and six light‑duty pulleys. That's not too great a price to pay to shelter your pride and joy, high up out of harm's way, is it? I didn't think so!

Adapt, improvise, overcome. Those are the watchwords for canoeists and kayakers who don't already have a good place to store their boats. Luckily, practical paddlers see opportunities where others only see problems. Take Stephen Parker. His wife provided the inspiration. Then he brought his ingenuity to bear. And what was the result of this happy partnership? The kayak attic was born. It keeps one of Stephen's boats handy, yet out of the way. Could something similar be the answer to your storage problems? Well, whether or not it works for you, I'm sure you'll agree that Stephen's kayak attic was an uplifting experience for all concerned.

How about it? Do you have an innovative or unusual way to berth your boats? Then let us know. We're always racking our brains for good ideas!

Copyright © 2010 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.









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