High winds and roof mounted kayaks

I had the scare of my life yesterday. I secured a 45 pound kayak on my explorer (railgrab systems with bowdown carriers). I was out in the open plains with gust of wind at about 20 to 25 mph. I heard a lout bang above me then a red flash of a kayak just missing oncoming traffic by about a foot. This isn’t my first trip by any stretch but it was the windiest day I’ve been out. Any similar stories?

Bow/Stern lines?
Did they help?

I actually left them in my brother’s trunk at take out. I didn’t think they would matter so much. I should have just called him back to get them.

What failed on your system?
When I typed “bow down kayak rack” I came up with pictures of J cradles. Is that what you were using?

When I first started kayaking maybe five years ago or so, I used Yakima J cradles. At the time I was driving a 3800 lb awd station wagon with roof rails. Several times I encountered crosswinds that caused me to slow way down or switch to back roads.

My J cradles have a single clamp for each cradle and that clamp is made of plastic. The combination of lateral wind forces and plastic clamps left me feeling a little unnerved.

Later I switched to a Mazda 3 sedan (2800 lb) and tried out a Thule 887xt Slipstream. This rack positions the kayak hull down and has four attachment points. Even on a car that weights nearly 1/2 ton less, cross winds have yet to be an issue. This profile arrangement is mucho better for dealing with lateral winds (so far).

Glad that no animals were hurt:)

Yeah, it’s a J carrier that is on a hinge so it can fold down when not in use. Lots of plastic parts. It’s probably a solid model…yakima has been around for some time. Thanks for sharing, I’m happy to hear that other people have similar concerns.

"It’s probably a solid model…"
Yeah, it might be but when you think of all the force being transferred to that plastic hinge… maybe it isn’t so solid.

I’d take that J cradle out to the back 40 and use it for target practice. Or I would if I had a back 40, or had a gun… perhaps a hammer will suffice:)

expensive target. I’ll just use them around town on short trips…cradles for the long hauls.

Roof Carry
I do a bowdown roof carry using padded Yakima racks. I have had no problems. The important part may be to include a 4 point tie down. Make sure the tie down is not tight like a banjo string or the chine can suffer permenant damage. Tie downs are used simpley to hold in place.

You had what? “railgrab systems with bowdown carriers”

what are those? link to manufacture so I can see what kind of rack setup it was. Plus you didnt bother with bow and stern tie downs?? If thats right I guess you wont be that careless next time. Or am I misunderstanding what you said?

boats in J rack but strapped to crossbar

– Last Updated: Jun-06-13 2:01 PM EST –

That has been my recent approach. I used to attach straps to either end of the J rack itself (Thule's are closed at both ends), putting a lot of stress on the rack's attachment point to the cross bar. It was extremely convenient! -- used "loop straps." Now, to be safer, I just "rest" the boat in the j rack, as a boat holder, but run my straps around the cross bar. (I have also taken to leaving an older cross bar across the middle and adding an extra strap there -- perhaps overkill!)

So, what did you learn? This isn’t story
land. Losing a boat on the road is serious, and if it hits someone’s car, you could lose your house in the subsequent lawsuit.

If you just want to talk about it, we have a Discussion Forum.

Fifty years of cartopping boats, never lost one.

It’s serious alright.
I’ve played this over and over in my head. Retracing my steps. I didn’t attach the bow and stern lines due to mismanagement of my gear. Carless for sure. I just didn’t think that the carrier would have snapped like that. The bow line would have kept the kayak on or probably around my car with the damage isolated to me and my car. I reread all the instructions for loading the boats, watched videos, etc. Thanks God now one was hurt.

Bow/Stern lines
Would have taken a lot of stress off the rack as well as kept the yaks near your car if the rack failed. If you have the bow lines and the wind gets under it it will help prevent the yak from lifting. That will take a lot of wind aided stress off of the rack.

thank you for the advice
I’m strapping them down to endure a class 5 hurricane from now on.

What part f the rack failed?
I’m curious - what component failed? Did the bowdown break, did the factory rack become unfastened, or something else? I’ve heard of both happening, but I believe the older J cradles (Hullraisers) are less prone to failure than the hinged bowdowns.


Don’t overdo tension on either the
cross straps over the hull, or on the end ropes. It’s a matter of feel or judgement, but if you lean too hard on the straps or ropes, you may get boat dent on hot days, and you may use up the reserve capacity in those straps or ropes. And super high tension on end ropes puts strain on the rack structure.

Extra triangulation on end ropes can make the boat sit firm in side-to-side and in fore-and-aft forces, as well as up and down.

Triangulation…never seen that
but it makes sense. I will give that a try.

I think the plastic hinge broke that
connects the carrier to the crossbar. I beleive that the other portions that broke could have been caused by hitting the street or being run over. A different post mentioned that his hullraiser was bent flat in highwinds while in North Carolina.

Thanks again for all the tips and tricks
everyone! I really appreciate the help and kick in the pants from fellow paddlers.

the mistake, if you ask me
was not tying down your bow and stern.