Cartopping Your Kayak

While it’s nice to have a friend to help carry boats as well as to paddle with, you can solo lift your boat and carry it on your shoulder. When you lift your boat to your shoulder, be careful to protect yourself from a back injury. Start by bending your knees slightly and sliding the boat up your leg by grabbing it with both hands inside the cockpit rim. Rest the boat on your thigh and roll it with the cockpit toward you until you can get your shoulder inside the cockpit. Now, shift the weight of the boat from your thigh to your shoulder and use your arms to steady the boat as you straighten your legs. As the boat rests on your shoulder, find its balance point to make the carry easier.


If you are operating solo or if your vehicle is as tall as or taller than your upstretched reach, you will have to get creative. Pack a small platform that can hold yours and the boats weight for a quick step up during loading. You will need to work on one end at a time. If loading from the side, place the bow of the boat in the forward cradle and then lift the rest of the boat and balance it in the cradles. It sure is handy to have an extension on the end of your roof rack bars that can hold one end up and away from your car. If you are loading from the rear of the vehicle, lift the bow and place it in the rear cradle and then lift and push your boat forward. The only way your boat will slide forward is if your cradles are lined with short-nap carpet instead of the rubber lining they may have come with, or hardware that serves as both cradles and rollers. Before you secure the boat, make sure the cradles hit it in appropriate spots. Never strap your boat across the coaming.


Most folks find that tie-down straps are the easiest way to secure their boats to their roof-rack systems. Cinch tie-down straps firmly, but be careful not to overtighten them. Always check your straps when traveling. A quick pull through your hands will help keep the straps clean of grit. In addition to securing your boat to cradles, you should use a bow and stern line to secure both ends to your vehicle.


If your car will be your boat’s primary storage during the season, you should consider a couple of things. You must make sure to provide it with UV protection. You must check it continually to make sure that your hull or deck isn’t being deformed. Make sure that the cockpit or hatches haven’t taken on water. Use a cockpit cover to keep water and ugly crawly things out, and let it air frequently.

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