Bow & Stern lines, to V or not to V?

-- Last Updated: Oct-01-08 2:09 PM EST --

I finally broke down a purchased a Thule rack and Hull-a-port. First a comment- in the past, I questioned the need and benefit to a rack versus strapping it right onto the car... wow, no more argument from me! This was SOOOO much easier with the rack.

Anyway, the Thule instructions seemed to indicate that the bow & stern lines only need 1 line from the bow/stern to the car. From what I've read and seen in practice has bow and stern lines to either side of the car (in an upside down V shape).

Is it better to do the V thing? Or, is just 1 line down OK too?

--- EDIT, more info ---
It currently is 1 kayak - 14' long on a 14' long Toyota Corolla. For tie downs, I bought the Top Ties and installed them on both sides of the hood and trunk. Usually short drives, though next weekend will be a 120 mile, 1-way trip on a variety of roads.


“V” thang - in me oopinoon

– Last Updated: Oct-01-08 12:55 PM EST –

'specially in de front.


To “V” or not to “V”
To “V” or not to “V” that is the question?

Actually my question is one boat or two? One boat I agree with FE if the boat is centered port to starboard on the rack. If the boat is off set on the rack, or there are two or more boats etc. I use a single line, anything else gets too confusing for me.

Cross Winds ----
If you expect to encounter strong crosswinds and you have a long boat the two point tie down keeps the boat from moving side to side a large amount, which can be violent at high speed in high winds. For long kayaks I do this on long Freeway trips or when I am traveling in Mountainous regions where you can encounter sudden gusts in canyons. A lot of cars don’t really have anything to tie down to anymore. There may be a tow ring or something in front so at best you may get one position to tie to.

With short boats I don’t do the front and rear tiedown, but do make sure my boats are not going to move if I hit winds or slam on the brakes.

V is needed
If you are driving straight and there is no wind and the boat is straight on the rack, there is nothing to pull it sideways.

If the rack is strong laterally and can withstand a sideways force then there is no need to prevent sideways pull on the front of the boat. A single tie down might work fine.

If, on the other hand, it is windy, you are driving sideways, your rack is too weak to withstand a sideways pull, etc…, use the V to keep the front of the boat from pulling on the rack side to side. The force will get passed

in the end, you are tying the bow to prevent the boat and/or rack from getting ripped off of the car. The air passing around the bow applies pressure that can be increased, through leverage, to the rack and the car. You will need to decide what the rack and car can handle and what the boat is doing up on top when you are going 80 down the highway.

I doubt that a bow tie is needed on a truck with a construction rack with the bow sitting 8 inches past the front of the rack but a smart car with an 18 foot boat on it in a cross wind might end up in a ditch :slight_smile:


Your V line set ups …
… should not only pull tight from side to side , but also should pull forward (front) and backward (back) .

This requires that the lines attach to the canoe/yak well behind the front vehical tie off , and well ahead of the back vehical tie off points .

This way not only prevents side to side movement , but also front to back movement .

If you are interested in an excellent , easy and tight roping method , drop a line and I’ll send you sketch of what I believe is unbeatable in the “it will never move” and “couldn’t get any easier” method … it’s good for anything you want hold tight , in almost any situation that requires a torqued line .

not I, not V, but W
I use one line to hold it on, tied to the front bumper, then two additional lines left and right, tied to eyelets I have installed on my hood hinges. My reasons are to cut down on the side-to-side travel and to give me time to stop if for any reason the main line gives way on the highway.

IMO, all of us owe it society at large to consider the consequences of our car-topped boats coming loose. No matter how strong the materials or the system, human error can negate your primary tie-down, so you should always have a back-up that at least gives you time to stop. I have witnessed the carnage caused by the front line giving way on the highway on a boat tied only front and rear. Destroyed the canoe, $1000 damage to the car. All due to a bad knot. And it could have been worse - had the rear line separated too under the stress, a flying canoe in traffic on the interstate could kill somebody.

I leave my lines attached to the boat at all times, and as mentioned I have installed eyelets on the hood hinges to make tiedown easy, so this extra step adds only about 30 seconds to my put-in or take-out time.

suspenders and belt
Gunwale brackets for canoes, and cradles for kayaks help gobs with for to aft and side to side movement. Whichever fits your craft should be purchased and used.

That said, bow V’s are way better than a single bow line because the two tie-offs, if independent, limit sideways movement. One rope from one front point, around the hull grab loop then back to a second point is no better than a single bow line. A single, Vee’d bow line needs to have an overhand or clove hitch around that grab loop/bar to limit yaw. This is an important consideration, as we tend to roll down the road at 70 mph.

we’ve found web loops that are tied around the radiator top frame and are long enough to project past the hood edges are fine attachment points for bow lines. [pics are up on the Pb website,]

Similarly, the need for stern lines is lessened, as we usually don’t back up at speeds over a few mph, hence stern yaw is diminished. If you don’t use cradles or rail bracket, you’ll need V’d stern lines too.

Don’t use bow or stern lines
What I do for any highway driving trip, I use lasoo locks that are also looped around my roof racks, This would prevent the boat from flying forward in case BOTH straps break, and prevents it from going off the rear of my vehicle.

My surf ski has no attachment points for bow or stern lines, so the lasso lock method works fine. Although, becuase of it’s length, I plan on installing the "V Rack that has a wider spread than my roof racks do.


because whenthe cross wind hits on the freeway, the V prevents the bow from moving around.

I never v the back as whenthe bow sets itself in the wind, the single stern rope lets the back adjust to the best airfouil direction.

What if your rack fails?
It can happen…


“V” it, IMO

– Last Updated: Oct-03-08 10:16 AM EST –

I drive an older Prius and it has about 28" spread on the rack.

With my plastic 14.5' long boat I sometimes did not use bow/stern lines for short slow drives. But did for long fast drives.

Now I have an almost 19' boat and the lines feel pretty much mandatory. I only put a couple of pounds of pressure on them but that is enough to minimize the dive of the bow or stern when I go over bumps or if I stop fast.

The bow/stern lines are not really intended to hold the boat in place in my case. My rack does that along with the two straps that hold the boat to the rack (Yakima Mako saddles front and back). It just so happens that my cockpit is about 30", so the front and the back ties fit under the cockpit coaming so that the boat can't slide back and forth at all.

I like the V even though mine is slanted one way as my boat is over the driver half of the car. By placing a simple loop around the bow and stern tie points, it really does not matter if the boat is off to the side - the V still minimizes sideway twist. And sideway twist can be very strong in the air turbulence at 75 mph around 18 wheelers -;). Or at 50 mph with 30 mph gust of wind = 80 mph -;)

I use simple soft rope from Home Depot that is cheap, does not stretch much when wet and has just enough elasticity to be gentle on the boat yet still hold it in place securely.

Lastly, the Yakima Mako saddles do a great job IMO. They are plastic and they offer considerable flex in all directions - this way bumps and potholes get absorbed as do wind gust induced twisting. So rather than the hull taking a direct hit from a rigid mount it gets a gentle fluid push to bring it back where it should be.

if the bars are far enough apart on “L” brackets like Malones or equivalent then the kayak is held quite solidly and I’ll only put on one tie down on the bow and sometimes on the stern. If the rack is overloaded with multiple boats I’ll X cross bow/stern lines with extra straps going through the doors.

I’m guessing for your one 14’ kayak it matters more that the kayak is secured well on the rack than whether you have one bow line or two in a “v”.

cew has the idea
check out his web site. i travel hundreds of miles at a time with a 18.5 foot, 22 pound C1 on top of a Corolla. Long, skinny, light, the boat likes to dance around, especially on the Corolla. Not a lot of distance between the front and back rack due to the small size of the car.

I tied a couple of loops of rope around the front frame of the car. Then I run straps from each side to make a solid V.

When not in use, I just tuck the ropes under the hood and close it.

I don’t use a stern line with this boat because I don’t want to crank on it too hard and break the boat in half.

The bow and stern lines are simple safety lines.

they keep the car and boat together if everything else fails and that happens.

They should not be used to stop lateral movement of the boat because that movement should not be happening and if it is you have wear going on.

The bow line may stop some flexing at speed as your car and kayak force air between them lifting the boat but that is not what it is for.

the stern line is a break line; that keeps the boat with you in a serious brake or a front end collision. The bow line / s hold things in place if you are struck from behind or your roof rack and car part company (This has happened to two different friends and myself, three instances)

If you tighten these lines you risk damaging your boat. If you hit a bump any flex the boat has will work in its disfavor breaking the boat in the middle.

If the boat / s are moving side to side a A , V, W, X, Y, I string will not help anything but a symptom.

Loop a nice rope around a tow point and tighten with a truckers hitch and you can crack a glass kayak in half, oil can any poly boat and pull the back of your rack off the car.

Bow and stern lines are SAFETY lines.

I normally have 3 sea kayaks on the roof of a VW Golf and sometimes a ww boat inside.

The Golf has J saddles and the Jetta Cradles.

I like the foam blocks too, I have them on my trailer.


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nuthin like an old pe Sea Lion/Eclipse
sitting on a set of cradles to drive home the point that the rack is where the kayak is secured to the car and the lines are backup. But with an extra tug you can go from 3" hog back to 12" in the hot sun!

I love seeing that boat on closely spaced racks.

I don’t use themat all
I have driven thousands of miles at Interstate speeds in all kinds of winds and have never had a problem.

Of course some people wear a belt and suspenders too:)

Holy Crap !
shame, shame, shame on you!

You mean there is someone else in this world like me who has faith in their rack system and their tie down straps ?

I have traveled zillions of miles with two yaks on J cradles and a canoe between them at interstate speeds with no front or rear tie downs, and consider them just a waste of time.

But then again it probably keeps sopme of the “purists” from tail gaiting me, and that is good!



I didn’t either
when driving a VWvan or full sized Dodge van with four cross bars spaced 8’ across the entire roof line.

Then a friend relayed the story about getting rear-ended at a stop and his entire roof rack popped off, the only thing that prevented his 18’ plywood kayak from going into the back window/driver of the truck in front of him was the bow line.

Or the kayak store I worked at where a customer installed rack went airborne with a pile of kayaks with it going down Altamont Pass.

Or the time I drove across the Bay bridge in high winds and the kayak shifted from one side of the rack to the other in milliseconds (only tied down on rack pads).

It’s the stuff that happens in accidents that concerns me, not so much that the rack or kayak will become airborne in normal use. Having 100-200lbs (rack+boats) mounted on the roof is something that can become dislodged in high speed accidents that WILL affect other people,just as not wearing a seatbelt WILL affect your survival chances as they decrese substantially if you get flung out of your car. A medium weight person can get flung out a window in a high speed accident. A rack of kayaks can get ripped off in an accident. Loose things traveling at 60mph on the highway can kill OTHER people whereas if they’re attached to your car they only impact other people if your car does. It’s bad enough having one 4000lb vehicle spinning out of control, it’s another if there’s multiple objects flying on the highway for others to impact.

I saw a spare wheel come off a vehicle at high speed, bounce 30’ in the air and land right on the drivers side roof killing the driver. All happened in a few seconds. Imagine all the accidents you’ve seen on the highway where cars get bumped and spun setting off airbags when they hit the divider. Now imagine the roof rack and kayaks getting shot off into the lanes in one of those rapid decellerations.

I’m assuming you have a lumber/truck/utility type rack and not the ubiquitous clip on type for sedans/passenger cars.

Who needs them?
I also didn’t use tie downs until that one fateful day…