Kayak transport on a bare SUV roof

My 2005 Honda Pilot is an old reliable SUV that I do not mind if it gets scratched up a bit putting the kayak on the roof without rails or even pool noodles. I use a large towel during mounting it and sometimes I leave the towel fully under the boat.

I strap it down securely at the front, middle, and back. Picture does not show securely tied down because I’m in the middle of unloading it. Is there any down side transporting a single kayak on a bare roof like this? I have transported it this way on 3 trips already going up to speeds of 50mph but always under very slow accelerations. I have also filmed myself driving around the block and everything looks secured after the trips. Just wondering if this transport method has any major downside besides scratching up a car I don’t mind adding a few more scratches that most folks can’t even see.

If the kayak is used in salt water, the scratches will soon progress to rusting through the roof. With fresh water and rain it will take a little longer.

You would need to show it completely strapped down to get any more valid comments.

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Illegal in NYS probably other states also.

Illegal in NYS probably other states also.

Really? What aspect is illegal? I did some quick searches regarding laws about securing items to car roofs and there is usually vague language about “improperly securing” the items. NY specifically says it’s illegal if the items “may shift or roll so as to be likely to fall from such vehicle.” If it’s not shifting or moving I think the law may not care exactly how it is secured. People transport other items (Christmas trees come to mind) just tied to a bare roof all the time. (That being said, I would think the kayak would be more secure if foam blocks, etc were used.)

I don’t think its illegal in NYS. I have transported multiple mattresses to Christmas trees on my roof like this in the past even with police cars driving behind me. Never been pulled over. I wash it down with a garden hose after every trip. Good point about the rust that I did not think about. My next SUV will definitely have all the proper roof setup. I did not want to invest and spend money on unnecessary items if this does the job effectively (minus the scratches portion).

I did not see how having the foam blocks would make it more secured and thought it would just raise it up higher and make it more unbalance rather then just laying flat on the roof. This is the N65 Point XO13 touring and it does not have an aggressive V-shaped. Its pretty flat bottom that just sits evenly on the roof.

I am definitely not an expert at tying things to roofs. I just figured foam’s ability to deform to the kayak’s shape as you tighten the straps would make it more secure. Plus foam being a higher friction material than a car roof (but the towel achieves that too.)

Things carried on cars need to be on a rack designed to carry that item.

The biggest concern I would have is that there’s just the single strap in the middle that actually holds the kayak in place. I like to have my kayak well secured to the roof and use the bow and stern tie-downs only as extra safety lines. In your case, if the bow tie-down were to fail, the kayak will want to pivot on the roof due to the single strap. And you might say the bow and stern tie downs are strong rope and won’t fail, but the weak point is what they are secured to, especially on the kayak. You’re probably tying them to the carry handles and those are usually just some cheap 3/16" line, weakened by sun exposure, secured into a thin piece of plastic. If you get into an accident, those will probably tear out.

I can’t speak to the legality in NYS.

Sidewind (whether natural or caused by other traffic) can put a lot of pressure on your boat. This can cause ‘fish-tailing’ that over time can impact the security of your load.

Ideally, you want at least (2) straps near the center section or bulkheads of the boat. It’s best that these straps are as close to vertical on the sides as possible (the less vertical the straps, the more likely your boat is to squirm around as you drive). This isn’t possible using the bare roof. Additionally, the bow and stern lines are meant to be snug; if you’re tightening them enough to actually secure the boat in place, then it’s putting tremendous downward pressure on the bow and stern which could lead to long-term damage.

Just because we do something doesn’t make it legal. Search the topic here it’s brought up every few months. Then after state law you have federal DOT laws.

The forces you must need to exert on your straps to secure this to your flat roof cannot be good for the hull of your kayak. Look up “oil canning.” At the very least, you should use foam blocks. You should also use bow and stern lines.

I do not consider what you are doing to be safe. If I saw you on any road hauling a kayak that way, I’d immediately consider you a danger and get the hell away from you.

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Not sure how New York got included in this thread but this is worth reading if you do live in NYS: https://nytrafficticket.com/watch-motorists-not-secure-load/

We have a law or rule for just about everything and it’s usually buried within some other law or rule. For example, most hitch mounted bike racks are a no-no because they obstruct the rear license plate. But you won’t find a “bike hitch” rule specifically in the VTL. There are sections in the VTL that might also impact carrying a boat on your roof: over-hanging objects and operation of the doors (if you somehow tied them shut with your fastening system).

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I’ve read the entire section of the NY traffic laws regarding carrying loads. They basically say that any carried load must be secure. Nowhere do they stipulate that each and every specific load must be secured via a method specific to that load.

If a load comes loose, ipso facto, it was not secured properly and you are liable. Whether or not the load obscures license plates, violates overhang laws, or other laws is a separate issue.

Look at the problem simply in terms of geometry.

A cars roof is not flat it is slightly dome shaped and curved in all direction.

A boats hull is not flat it is curved in all directions also.

For something to rest stable it requires at least 3 points of contact. That’s why milk stools have 3 legs because barn floors are not flat.

The likelihood of a car roof and a boat hull to match in 3 spots is astronomical and the odds of repeating the match if it did happen is even higher.

When you put a mattress or a Christmas tree on a roof something has to conform and the mattress bends and the tree limbs bend and mold themselves to the roof.

In the case of a boat the roof must bend or the boat must bend and I don’t care for ether happening and the amount they must deform is not a known.

Now for the physics. Straps maintain tightness by stretching and storing energy. They only stay tight over the very tiny amount they stretch along with the small amount the boats hull deforms. When you put a foam block or pool noodle between the boat and the roof you first allow for more points of contact as you let the foam conform rather than the boat or the car and secondarily the foam becomes a spring and adds to the amount of energy being stored so if the strap loosens slightly the spring will maintain the force.

Things like towels are not to springy and will continue to compress and work against you. Pool noodles might not have a strong enough spring factor and will require you to flatten them more than you think correct. Finding the proper density foam for the job is what is required and I assume what the people that sell blocks to do this have done.

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I posted the law many times here. It says rack then look up the definition of rack.

Isn’t everything illegal in NY?

So you’ve said several times. If you can point to a part of Traffic Law Section 377 or 378 or any other official NY state wide traffic law that mentions kayaks, canoes, or racks in relation to transporting car top boats please share it again.

If I’ve missed it, my apologies.

I have too much love and respect for my boats (all of them) than to do that.

“It’ll be fine” doesn’t tell the story. You will deform your boat at the best of times, lose at worse times, or hurt someone at the worst of times, and the worst always shows up at some time.

Read the “Killed by airborne kayak” thread for some more insight. May have you thinking about more than your car roof, or deforming your kayak?


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All that said, get a rack.

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