Racks and Transporting Boats
Half the Fun is Getting There
By Jerry White
The more I look around, the more kayaks I see out on the water. I have often wondered when the market would become saturated with paddle craft, the manufacturers would run out of ideas, and the whole sport would start to level out. But I see no slow-down in sight. This sport is still growing and there is always something "new and improved" around the corner.
The water is littered with paddle craft, but so are the roadways. Unless you're fortunate enough to live on the water (or not so fortunate during hurricane season), you'll need a way to get your boat to the shore. If life truly is a journey, then the journey to and from the water should be a happy one. The easier, the better. There are a number of products on the market to turn just about any vehicle into a paddle-craft hauler.
There are a few things to consider first though. Will you be paddling and travelling solo, or in a group? Do you have any physical limitations that should be factored in? Trust me, this is no time to play macho-man. What's it worth financially to make loading and unloading easier?
Let's review a few options:
CAR TOPPERS - Soft Blocks:
This is the most basic means to transport your boat. No holes to drill, no damage to your daily driver. If you're an occasional paddler, this is a good choice, since you will be using your car for more functional things, and less for fun things. Not a bad thing - we all probably started this way. Luckily, when you grow with the sport you'll probably be able to sell this to someone else that's just beginning their journey.
CAR TOPPERS - Roof Racks: If you find yourself spending more and more valuable time assembling the device used to carry your boat, then maybe you need a more permanent solution. If you have an SUV then you're half of the way there already. Those factory racks are begging for you to attach an aftermarket bar to them. The choices before you are paralyzing in depth. Factor in your vehicle, your needs, and your budget to narrow the search. But even then, it will be tough. And, if you have a sedan, fear not. You can purchase crossbars for about every make/model of car, and you simply build from there. Just do a search on "kayak roof rack" and plunder.
My recon led me to this gem. It combines the typical roof rack system with a whiz-bang loader.Here's a link to check out a video of Roof Rack with Sliding Bar to see how it works.
In one of my past articles ("Loaded, Lashed, and Locked"), I covered the many benefits of using a bed extender for a pickup truck. All you need is a Class III receiver and you're set. The lifting is very minimal, since you're only lifting half of the boat's weight at any one time. And, most importantly, you're not lifting it over your head. I take it a step further and use a kayak dolly. For unloading, I will put most of my gear on the boat, then attach the dolly. Slide it over the back of the T-bar and rest the stern on the ground. Since I sometimes use a Hobie Revolution, this is a good time to put the Mirage drive in. Once done, I them lift the bow up and over to the side. At this point, I simply pull the loaded (and READY) kayak to the water. I unhook the dolly, lift the back of the boat off of it, and I'm ready to go fish.
When I got mine it was around $50, I got it on sale for $30. I see that Harbor Freight has taken advantage of the supply/demand thing, and they're $80 now. But, after using one for quite a while now, it's still a bargain. My neck/and back are nodding in agreement.
TRUCK RACK SYSTEMS:
This is another huge area to explore. Again, budget and imagination are the limiting factors. You can combine a roof rack with something that will fit into that receiver, and you have this pretty slick.
If you're ready for a more rigid application, you move on to rack systems like the one below. They range from basic and functional to chrome and adjustable.More info HERE