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Loading/Unloading Your Boat

Safety Tip 021 - Loading/Unloading

From a safety standpoint, sustaining injury to loaders or damage to your boat/vehicle are major critical concerns regarding the loading/unloading of a kayak on a rooftop rack. While the average weight of a touring fiberglass kayak is around 50 pounds, boats can easily weigh upwards of 70 to well over 100 pounds, making them quite unwieldy to lift and properly nestle onto your carrying racks. Whatever the challenge/limitations you might have loading/unloading a kayak, there are several racks and lift assist methods from which to choose:

A basic rack system requires the load to be directly and manually lifted up above the roof, easing the hull down onto cradles or saddles. Depending upon one’s height and strength this can be accomplished alone, but more often with an assisted lift at bow/stern ends.

Rack cross bars are square, round or aerodynamic-shaped. Some round cross bars allow a bar to be inserted into the rack serving as an extender out beyond the sides of the vehicle. This creates a support bar upon which one end of the boat can be supported at roof height while the other end is lifted up and swung into rack position. A homemade assist can work, too, if the rod/pipe is inserted far enough (usually about 60%+ of its length) into the crossbar so as not put leverage pressure against the rack. Yakima also makes a unit specifically designed for this.

Assisted lift mechanisms enable the loader to support the kayak at about waist height and mechanically raise the entire structure and mounted kayak together, sliding the boat and rack into position once at roof level.

Roller units, fastened to the back of the vehicle, horizontally along the crossbar or incorporated into the cradles, provide a smooth, lift-and-roll method of loading/unloading.

Paddled saddles, quality straps/rope (never use bungee cords) create a secure foundation while the boat is in transit.

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