Bow Tie Downs... Single or Double?

-- Last Updated: Sep-02-07 11:14 AM EST --

For those that use bow tie downs, do you use singles or doubles?

By this, I mean, do you use the single rope style like Thule/Yakima (1 rope to the 1 point on the bumper), or a "double" configuration resembling a "Y"?

Here's the Thule I am refering to:

What are you using to protect your bumper from paint damage where the rope passes over it?

I wouldn’t use one of those ratchets

– Last Updated: Sep-02-07 11:42 AM EST –

single or y-configuration it totally dependant on how secure the rack holds the boat to begin with.
Malone type L brackets are VERY secure, the hull conforming racks vary in how secure they hold the kayak.

The primary purpose of the bow tie down is to secure the boat if the main rack set-up gets wobbly or fails. Sure on some loads you may need some lateral resistance which a y configuration which may help with but I wouldn't rely on too much down force at the ends to accomplish it. I think the last thing you'd want as a back up for the roof rack is an s-hook that can release if the line gets loose as would occur with the rack/boat shifting forward. It's gotta be the worst application for an s-hook and ratchet.

From the product description:
Super-tough ratchet does all the work so you don't have to.
(you shouldn't be cranking it down that hard)

No knots to tie. No wrestling with bungee cords.
(lame excuse, bungee cords should NEVER be used to secure kayaks/canoes)

Steel hooks attach easily to boat and vehicle.
(and steel hook releases easily if there's a failure)

Simply pull on the end of the rope to get the safe and secure tightness you need.
(and use the knots you supposedly don't know how to tie in order to prevent the loose end from flapping in the wind)

Get a 1/4" rope that holds a knot and learn to tie it neatly. There must be a lot of glass boats with tight bow lines on poorly fitting Yakima Hully Rollers that cracked the hull.

If there's any kind of noticable wear from the occasional use of a bow line there's probably a LOT more wear from the roof rack or salt corrosion encroaching along points of the roof over the years if you paddle in salt water.

I don't mean to sound negative, every time I see someone with one of those Thule ratchets on the front of the car I see potential problems, the ratchet sound invites overtightening, the s-hook totally negates the purpose of end lines as fail-safe backups. I know lots of folks who use them and apparently aren't concerned. I could see their application tying down tall loads with long sections exposed to the wind like bicycles or motorcycles and having the line be less susceptible to humming in the wind compared to cam-straps.

The “S” hook is pretty stupid…
I agree that the “S” hook is the worst design possible… any shift in load/tension, and the hook falls off, onto your windshield. A carabiner would have been much smarter.

(I got the Thule tiedown for free, from a friend)

I’ve got “Top Ties” installed, but am looking at ways to use them that don’t suffer from “flapping” at highway speed.

I was thinking that a single line from bumper to bow might be better, and looking for a way too utilize my new “free” line.

I’m one of the mostly unconcerned

I just drove over 2000 miles on a trip to see my brother using the Thule rack.

I can’t argue that a more positive retention system would be nice, but the pulleys are hardly problematic.

I attach to the toggles on my boat- since they are retained elastically, it’s easy to visually check if the tension in the line is too high.

I put a bit of foam between the lines and the bumpers (Subaru Impreza/Saab 92x).

Eventually, I plan to attach the rear line to something coming out of the rear trailer receiver to clear the bumper entirely.

I like the straps posted in that link. Some of those with some helicopter tape on the leading edge of the hood, and I’d have no worries up front.

My way…

– Last Updated: Sep-02-07 1:46 PM EST –

Yakima rack with gunwale brackets, mounted on top of my Ford Ranger extended cab pickup.

Quick & easy towers attached to 2"x4" (cut down to 2"x 3"), which are mounted on fake rain gutters that are permanently attached to camper shell.

I use NRS straps (2 on each canoe)to attach canoe to my rack system.
Painters (climbing utility cord) are attached to the bow & stern of all canoes. I use the painters as bow & stern tie downs. They are attached to the trailer hitch in the rear, and the extraction points in the front bumper.To stop any possible paint loss on the hood, the front tie downs are passed through a piece of pipe insulation. I never use caribiners, bungee cords, S hooks, pulleys, or rachet style straps; I don't need em because I know how to tie knots. Have been using this same system for many, many years. Many trips with 2 canoes on board, traveling in excess of 700 miles at speeds up to 75 mph. Have never had a problem; no damage to paint, boats, truck, racks, tie down straps, or painters. Everytime I stop, I check it out to be sure all is secure.

My wife use the same exact system on her Ford Ranger extended cab pickup.Same results; no problems whatsoever.

4 sets of gunwale brackets were bought at half price on ebay. Pipe insulation was free; picked up off the side of the road. I also use pipe insulation on wood gunwales of canoes where they come into contact with the the 2" x 3" I use for a rear rack.


painters, good point
talk about a no-brainer. You’re basically forced to put end lines on the car as they’re dangling down.

They’re actually useful on sea kayaks if the boat is rigged for them. I had one on my Express which had two recessed cleats on the foredeck. It was daisy-chained and looped to the front ss Ubolt. Every time the kayak went onto my rack or anyones rack I had a bow line.

“S” Hooks
Indeed. I augmented my Thule system with carabiners. The hook on the ratchet can’t be removed non-destructively, so I hammered it closed into a loop to get a carabiner in there. I think I read that on this board or else I hallucinated it. Either way, it works.

anyone know of problems with…
rachets? I was advised to use them basically as supplemental to Thule Glide and Set System. My car happens to have these great hooks underneith the front and back of the car, so I attach one line with a rachet and S hook to both ends of the boat. Seems to work fine for me (so far), but I don’t crank them for all their worth either.

I haven’t noticed any problems with the paint on the car yet. The rope is very soft. Hard to imagine that it would rub on the paint to that degree, but I am new at this stuff.

I was just wondering if anyone actually knows first hand of someone having a problem with the use of rachets. I see so many vehicles with boats which are tied down in every way imaginable and for the most part seem to be cruising right along with no issues.

Great to read other perspectives on this stuff.

as stated before

– Last Updated: Sep-02-07 6:52 PM EST –

I could imagine on some loads that are cantileved far over the hull support you have to decide between not putting too much tension on the line as it levers the hull down onto the rack and putting enough to ensure that a bouncing bow doesn't unhook the hook or some failur on the rack loosening enough to pop the hook off. At least the boats are held down better than the mattress on the roof of the average car going down the road.

when I use one
I use single: a line in front, a line in back

added carabiner–like that idea–because the only points of contact under my car are sharp

no rachets or extra gizmos needed

just a bowline tied under the car (the 1/4" or whatever it is that came with the saddles); line up and through the toggle on either end; then a trucker’s hitch tied off with a series of half hitches

that way, if the lower end of the rope should somehow come off, it will be too short to reach under the wheels

I use . . .
double for the bow tie-downs.

Regarding protecting the paint, I slip some vinyl tubing over the tie-downs and position the tubing so that it protects the area where the rope rubs against the car. The vinyl tubing is available at hardware stores and is sold by the foot.

Great tips…
regarding the carabiners and plastic tubing…


Godd application for a ratchet
is for the stern tie-down on a vehicle with a hatch. That is where I use one of the ratchets that came with my Thule Hullavator - makes accessing the hatch quick and painless.

As for the bow, I do use a ratchet for my touring kayak with a single tie-down. It is quite aerodynamic, and seems to be quite secure with just one.

With my Bell Magic I use two, in an inverted V, just simple 3/16 polyester low-stretch ropes tied to hood loops. The thin laminate makes for a boat that twists and wiggles when caught behind a semi, and the two ropes make it much more stable. No truckers hitches with CF/Kevlar hulls - just a firm pull and a couple of half hitches.


Do two half hitches make a whole hitch?

paint protection
As others have added comments to the lines, I’ve used old socks to protect the paint, I also have an invisible clear film that I got free from one of those 3M invisible bra dealers who gave me a bunch of the leftover film. I cut them to match and used it to protect the lip area of my hood on my subaru.