Fiberglass boat tie down method

Okay everyone, I looked in the archives and didn’t find what I needed. I need recommendations on methods for tying down a fiberglass boat. The reason I’m asking is that I’ve now seen two glass boats with hairline to discernable cracks in the hulls that appear to have been caused by too much tightening of the straps for transport.

Questions: What is the best method for tying these boats onto your saddles and/or J holders and how tight should the straps be in order to prevent damage to the hull?

I have a glass boat that had previously been damaged (I hit a hard, clay shelf on the Pine River in Michigan), had it professionally repaired (they did a nice job) and then at a later date was placed onto my vehicle, tied down and I noticed more cracks on both sides of the bow. My cousin, who also has a glass boat had a friend tie her boat down this summer onto a kayak trailer and this weekend I noticed she had cracks on either side of her bow also. Her thoughts were that perhaps this friend also may have pulled the straps too tight. Mine may have been caused by hubby who is used to tying down heavy equipment and believes that if is some tightening is good then more is better.

Your thoughts and suggestions on this are very much appreciated.



– Last Updated: Sep-10-06 9:34 PM EST –

in order to prevent over tightening of the straps I first "do not use straps with rachets". Instead, I use cam buckle straps (see links below) and I always have the buckle on the bottom (i.e., near the roof rack). I "do not" throw the the cam buckle end of the strap over the kayak and then loop it back around).

What I do is throw the free end of the strap over the kayak and then loop it back over and through the cam buckle. In order to tighten the strap, I have to hold the cam buckle in one hand and pull the free end of the strap upward with the other hand. It is pretty much impossible to over tighten cam buckle straps when used this way and when used with "thick foam roof rack pads" which can compress if you over tighten (see link below). Do not know about J-bars, since they have a lot less foam to compress.

The last thing is you need to make sure you also use cam bow/stern tie down straps "the same way as above to prevent over tightening" (i.e., have too pull the strap upwards to tighten). Too much tension on the bow/stern could bend the kayak (see last link for everything you will need to prevent hubby from over tightening the straps).
Hope this was helpful and good luck!

Rack pads:
Cam straps:
Rack pads, cam straps, cam tie down straps:

Cracks and Straps
Are you talking about hairline cracks in the gelcoat or in the glass? Also are you talking staps at the cradle or at the bow and stern?

I agree with the previous poster and have had zero issues using cam lock type straps and would not advise the use of rachet type straps. I throw the bitter end of the strap over the boat feed it under the cross bar, then back up and over the boat, connecting the strap below the level of the boat and above the bar. I tighten down the strap very snugg and tie off the end.

I have done this for every trip the boat has made. Maybe an average of two plus trips per week year round for two years. I have not seen any indication of cracks or other damage caused by the tie down.

Happy Paddling,


What make boat?
Wondering if it has to do with the hull shape. I use cam buckle straps also. Sinch them down pretty tight on pool noodles, so the boat won’t slip. A little less tight on saddles. My tempest 180 is a shallow V.

Paul S.

Crack happens…er…

– Last Updated: Sep-12-06 9:28 AM EST –

...I mean cracks happen. ;-)

Seriously, it's just the nature of fiberglass boats. Gelcoat cracks are caused by the fact that gelcoat is not as flexible as the underlying glass and it can crack when the boat is flexed (typically due to impacts). They're purely cosmetic and will not hurt the boat.

I have yet to see any cracks in a boat that could be traced to strapping it to a rack. I agree that one should not use ratcheting straps, but I've had no problems with using cam buckle straps and pulling them tight. Frankly, I wouldn't want to paddle any boat that would be structurally damaged by tight straps.

I just use a piece of 1/4" low-stretch line and a trucker’s hitch to tie it together. Nylon line has a lot of stretch to it - get line used for sailboat rigging instead. I take the slack out of the line, and a little more of a tug on it and it works very well.

My forward rack bar is all the way back to the front edge of the cockpit coaming, so with the lift on the boat at highway speeds that means that I have more pressure on the front tiedown line than setups. No problems and driven well over 1000 miles like this. It’s a glass boat, but an NDK which has a reputation of being a little overbuilt.

Always always
Have your saddles and straps positioned on the bulkheads of the boat.

My thoughts are
that you should only tighten down the straps at the points where the boat contacts the carrier/rack. If other areas are tied, they are probably only a safety in case something happens the main straps and to keep the boat from sliding back and/or forth. These can be just tight enough to have a tension on the rope/strap.

Only my practice.

Not always always possible.
I drive a sedan and my load bars are only 41 inches apart - one in front of the cockpit and one behind the cockpit. Only the rear load bar is near a bulkhead. The front load bar is about three feet from a bulkhead.

You have to develop some judgement
about materials and what you can get away with. The cracks you refer to are probably gelcoat cracks. I have NEVER been able to crack a composite boat by tying it down hard, not with ropes and not with straps. However, does it really take all that much force to hold the boat in place?? Maybe you need to look at other aspects of the problem?

ditto that
I torque my boat down pretty tight and I’ve never heard a peep (or crack), and I use the thule saddles which don’t really give much…but my boat has a pretty stout layup. If a strap with the load distributed fairly evenly causes a crack, a bump against a boulder or log might also do so.

Was the crack in the area of the repair? Or is it possible you encountered an obstacle paddling? Or is it a lightweight boat?

not too tight! when you cannot shove the
boat forward and back it’s tight enough. Are you using saddles?

Not necessary, either
While it certainly is worthwhile to position the saddles under the bulkheads if possible, it’s not going to be on most cars, as the roofs are simply too short. I’ve yet to put my boat on a vehicle that’s set up that way and I’ve never had a problem due to it. Keep in mind that the distance between bulkheads varies substantially between various models of boats, so a rack set up under the bulkheads for one may not fit another that way. Space the cradles as far apart as the roof allows and don’t worry about it.