bow and stern tie

I have a 10 ft rec kayak and a 2001 Corolla. Have the Yakima Land Shark Saddles. Do I need to tie the boat at the bow and stern too or are just the 2 middle straps adequate?

How far and fast?
On the interstate the cross draft from trucks

can be severe. I probobly would not use a stern tie down but I use the bowrope to see how bad the anoe is shifting. But also most of my canoes are 16-18 footers.

Racks can an’ do fail. Ah’s seen more than a few o’ dem an’ fixed more than a few flyin’ boats dat left de cars. Bow an’ stoyn tiedowns be a backup dat take anudder minute ta put on. Jus’ think o’ de life o’ folks dat yer boat might hit behind yer.

Ah’ never - ever carry me boats witout dem.


I use a bow line sometimes
If you are asking the question, then I am guessing that you are new to your rack system. In the first year they can loosen or be installed improperly, so tie downs are good. I found with two systems that they loosened in the first month and needed tightening every year.

I use a bow tie to show me if the boat is moving on long trips. For the 15 or 30 minute rides I often skip it.

I keep my boats deck down for less wind drag and have notice that their is a lot more drag with J cradles. I notice most with J cradles in our club use a bow and a stern tie.

Bow lines
Bow lines are nice on a short boat because they’ll tell you if things are getting loose - if the bow line is wobbling around it is time to pull over and check the boat. We use them on the WW boats that are too short to see the bow. We use them on the sea kayaks as well, but we can see the bows of those boats so the lines are just security, not canaries as well.

I am personally not a fan of stern lines in many cases, because I’ve seen too many of them flailing around near someone’s rear wheel well after they came loose and the driver was unable to tell it had happened. We followed a friend of ours for 10 miles on the highway once trying to signal him without getting a speeding ticket (couldn’t, he was speeding himself), and just missed having the same experience two blocks from home once ourselves on 30 mph roads. So if you are going to use stern lines, make sure they are secured via secure knots or clips that will stop the line from flying loose no matter what.

Absolutely correct
This is a black and white question. There are a lot of reasons to use a bow and stern tie down. There is NO reason not to.

Takes too much time? It could take a lot more time to sort out damage or injury caused by the failure of your rack or straps.

Can’t be bothered? The consequences of a kayak flying off your car are going to bother you a lot more.

SHOW CONSIDERATION FOR OTHER PEOPLE ON THE HIGHWAY. It’s not only about you. It’s about other people innocently driving down the road with their families.

Herr Elmo, schwer zu glauben, aber ich bin mit Ihnen in diesem Fall einverstanden.

My Thule J style failed last week
I was on the highway, fortunately with front and rear tie downs as well as the ones around my thule J bar cradles.

The Thule equipment was about three years old, not brand new. When the plastic portion holding the clamps on the Yakima bar broke, my kayak sprang loose.

My kayak didn’t fall off the car, it didn’t hit the car but it was swinging off the top and clearly needed attention.

Fortunately I had a newer set of Thule J brackets and other options in my trunk. A local trooper helped me get back on the road in less than ten minutes. He was very nice.

I used to carry my kayak on a Dodge Van with no tie downs but something about having a kayak on a new Jetta screamed at me to use the tie downs. VWs often have big eye bolts that screw in on the passenger side of the car - designed for tie downs and the begged to be used. Thank goodness.

In the future I’m thinking I’d be wise to retire my Thule equipment at the three year date, just to be on the safe side. It just cracked right in half!

I know…
I know of several people who have lost their kayaks off the roof because they were too lazy to attach bow and stern lines. If the rack fails you will have a better chance of not launching the boats off the roof. What’s a few extra minutes? :wink:

Note on equipment replacement
We have found that the replacement items are usually the towers. Those can work to a state where they are not able to tighten down well. The cross bars last forever. The life span of the rest varies - we went back to old fashioned U-shape stackers after messing with saddles and rollers for a while, and have found those to be quite robust.

Tie the Bow At Least
You’re doing it not just for you, but to protect those behind you. Racks and straps WILL and DO fail. I just had a “Big name” cam strap with no sign of stress break 2 weeks ago. Have had welds break on a vehicle where the rack attaches. Could have been ugly! Just takes a minute to secure. How would you feel if a minivan full of kids rolls over swerving to miss your flying boat? Make or buy some nylon tie downs like this and you’ll be in business.

One more option for security
We know an outfitter who always does this, if they only have time to do this or bow and stern lines they do this. Just put two straps where there would normally be one - so two straps up front and two in back. That way a single strap failure can’t be fatal, and the boat is still able to help keep the rack in one piece if something shifts there at the same time.

We find that double strapping takes slightly more time than all but the most complicated bow and stern arrangement, like when I am carrying the canoe and use absolutely everything. But it is effective.

thanks Celia I was wondering how
kooky it would be to use two straps around!

I’m going to purchase another set. Attaching a second strap wouldn’t take that much time - sure beats problems on the road.

You answered a question I wanted to ask but felt silly about. Thanks.

My rule of thumb…
Max speed of 40 mph or 10 miles total distance; whichever comes first: I use the bow and stern tie downs. As most of my travels are interstate or highway, I am using them most of the time. I have had rack failures, strap failures (including intentionally cut straps by would-be thieves) and the bow and stern tie downs have saved the day. Not just mine, but also those in the cars behind me.

Sometime in the past, I believe the link
was on this site, an article noted a canoe that had no bow line attached to the vehicle, the boat came loose from the rack, fell off the back of said vehicle (a pickup), and hit a motorcyclist behind them and the cyclist ended up in the hospital.

Anyone ever read an update on this specific situation?

ALWAYS use them
I never transport any boat any distance without bow and stern lines. It only takes seconds and is good insurance.

Invest in the ratcheting kind of lines with the hooks at each end (Thule makes nice ones but others work fine). Make an overhand knot loop about 18" from the plain hook end, then pull that hook through the carry handle or other aperture at the end of the boat and catch the tied loop with the hook. Then pull the end with the ratchet on it to snug it up, attach that lower hook under the car bumper, grab the loose end of the rope and pull it to tighten the ratchet. Then tie off the loose rope end to the taut rope with a few clove hitches so it doesn’t flop. Very quick operation that does not have to rely on knots for integrity.

Even with the bow and stern lines on there have been instances at highway speeds where I have realized a boat was straying off center on the racks and had to pull over and realign and tighten everything. Being able to see the lines give you an immediate check on this happening.

Remember, the wind speeds on your car on the highway can approach hurricane velocity. And even the staunchest strap or rack component can fail or loosen as boats shift. Plus you never know when you might be in an accident. A fender bender could be tragic if the boats are not well secured against pivoting or sliding in an abrupt impact.

Don’t tie to the J-cradles!
Don’t attach the straps to the J-cradles - attach them to the crossbars, which are designed to take the load. It’s absolutely crazy that Thule recommends tying to the cradles, especially when they switched from a 4-bolt design to the 2-bolt.

And don’t go around the kayak: feed the strap under the crossbar below the long side of the cradle (nearest the center of the vehicle), run both ends of the strap up & over the boat on either side of the cradle, run the free end under the crossbar below the short side of the cradle (nearest the side of the vehicle), feed it through the buckle hanging down on the other side of the cradle, and tighten.

This method secures the kayak and the cradles to the crossbars, so they will stay on even if the cradle knobs loosen. This way you need only tighten the cradle bolts enough to keep the cradle & boat from moving sideways on the crossbars, so the knobs will last longer.

If you also use lockwashers between the knob and the bracket, you won’t have to tighten them so much to keep them from working loose.

Ratchets are a pain
and unnecessary for tightness. They corrode and stick and can get very hard to loosen. Regular cam buckles with a hook on each end are much easier to use and provide more than enough tightening force.


– Last Updated: Jun-15-12 3:15 PM EST –

jus' rope wit a trucker's hitch.

(Dun't like dem nurse ratchet's either - more thangs ta go wrong or bust yer winder.)


Best for bow and stern lines is…

– Last Updated: Jun-15-12 5:28 PM EST –

...rope! Use a trucker's hitch and it's fully adjustable, it will never slip, and it can't possibly come loose no matter what goes wrong. Remember, Thule hooks won't likely stay attached in the event of rack failure, and insurance in the event of rack failure is half the reason for bow and stern tie-downs. If there's just a little shifting of the boat, there will be slack and therefore nothing to keep the hook engaged anymore (especially once that heavy ratchet pulley starts flopping around!).

One big gripe I have with straps is that they are so much more obtrusive in front of the windshield. With two or three boats on the roof, each with two front tie downs (I use two so that there's some improvement in lateral stability), there WILL be a line or two right across your field of view. If it's just a rope, you won't care, but make it an inch wide you'll be thinking "there's gotta be a better way".

In Highway Poker

Overkill beats road kill every time.

I made a living for 15 years hauling hives of bees under a net on an open flat bed. I used ropes and truckers hitches to tie down the rows of bee hives. There were 15 hives in each row weighting about 80 pounds each which is over a half a ton per row. When I hauled just supers of honey that came to a ton or better per row. I never lost a hive traveling, but did loss some to bears and thieves when they were sitting in my bee yards. I wouldn’t have trusted a cam buckle for my needs hauling bees. The heavy duty racket straps truckers use work well. But I have seen broken rackets, and they cost a good deal more than rope.

I always tie bow and stern lines on my kayaks and canoe. I also use ropes and truckers hitch on the rack. An Alpine Butterfly knot is a bit better than a Slipknot for the tensioning loop, but both will work if under tension. I will use cam buckles and straps as a back up across the rack. The weak link is the pivot pin in the cam buckle.