Knot Education

I’m carrying my Kayak on a Mazda Pick em up and have it strapped down the way I picked it up from the store. A Yakima rack in the back and a foam block on the roof. I have straps on the back attached to the rack and one on the front looped through the cab. It’s held nicely so far. I only travel 3 or 4 miles to the river.

I’d like to add lines to the front and rear bumpers but I have a question. What kind of knot would be best for this? This is the sailor-geek part of my education. I always thought you couldn’t call yourself a real sailor/boater if you didn’t know a few good knots. Any suggestions?

Trucker’s Hitch
… is good for bow and stern tiedowns. Google it and I’m sure you will find examples on the web.


truckers hitch it is!
One of the best things I ever learned via this site was that knot.

Total control of tension is there for you. I ALWAYS use them front and rear to safety our boats.

The knot is easy and reliable.

Thanks Guys!
I knew I could count on you.

Keep Bow/Stern lines loose
The trucker’s hitch is a great knot but don’t leave a lot of tension on your bow and stern lines. They are there are back-up. Many people leave them loose and watch for changes in tension as an indicator of problems with the primaries (straps).

BTW the trucker’s knot is what I use for bow and stern lines as well. It really is a great, easy to tie and versatile knot.



Taut line hitch, or midshipman’s hitch
A little less complicated to tie and each can be adjusted to add tension to the line, but resist slipping.

I’ve used both
and actually prefer the taut line hitch (probably because of my scouting days) but the trucker’s hitch is more secure. I’ve had taut line hitches loosen.

The loop for a trucker’s hitch
What do people use to form the loop for the trucker’s hitch?

Myself I use either an Alpine Butterfly loop or a manharness loop.


– Last Updated: Aug-12-05 1:38 PM EST –

you just grab the standing line, twist your hand to form a loop and pull a bight from the load end through the loop. For me it ends up being a figure of eight slip knot,


nrs straps
i use the slipknot too, but this year i went to using straps. the simplest, and securest methods out there.

Tautline hitch warning
A tautline is a great knot, but needs to have a “WARNING” attached for this application.

Tautlines are most securely tied when the line is, er, taut.

Overly taut lines on bow and stern may deform a boat.

A tautiline tied on a less-that-taut line may not hold properly. Whaen called to duty, such as in the event of a belly strap failure, it may slide and allow the boat to move excessively.

For bow & stern tie-downs, I think a gently-tied trucker’s hitch is preferable.


my $0.02

Knot for a trucker’s hitch…
Try using an inline figure eight knot(creates a loop at mid-line to be pulled in the line with the rope).

Won’t slip or slide up/down the rope, and is easy to remove from the rope, even after some pressure has been applied to the rope/knot. May take a little research to find it(Check out: Whitewater Rescue Manual by Waldbridge/Sundmacher, page 172), and practice to learn to tie it correctly.


Trucker’s Knot
Try looking around in here:

While I’m at it
What kind of rope do you use? Nylon comes to mind but correct me if I’m off base.

type of rope
Since you dont want your lines too taut to prevent deforming your kayak, Nylon is a good bet, cos Nylon has some stretch to it.

Its quite UV resistant and cheaper than polyester!

I’m assuming your straps are ratchet straps? If so, I hate to be a knot killjoy, but most of this is “taut knot” talk is overkill.

You say the kayak is alrady strapped. With two straps, it could probably get 3-4 miles to your river without any other attachment, therefore the bow and stern lines are for safety, not security. If something catastrophic happens to two ratchet straps (bow and stern lines in place), you should be pulling over, anyway.

Let’s say the ratchet straps both failed due to a really big (!) bump in the road. You would actually want a miniscule amount of slack (part of which is the flexibility of nylon rope) so that the bow/stern lines don’t part in the original accident.

On my lines, I have used a rated carabiner on one end (fixes to the tow link on the car), pass the rope up through the kayak tie-off, double the other end of the rope through the other two link, and tie two half hitches. The free end (tag end) of the rope is then tied off on the close or far line depending only on how long it is (to keep it from fraying on the road). In over 50 trips with this setup, most much longer than 3-4 miles, I have never had a problem, even at 75 mph, 40 mph cross-winds, and bumpy two tracks (my kayak is 12’9", a longer kayak may not have the same results).

I also find the half-hitches easier to tie and untie, especially when I am in a hurry to paddle (prime fishing time) or tired after a long trip.

All of this said, I am pretty careful about my knots, and if anything looks or sounds loose, I would pull over. You don’t want a 30-70 pound battering ram flying off your car, so just be careful.

I used
straps for bow and stren tie down when I had to load the boats up top. They do tend to flutter on the highwy though. Lot quicker to tie down with and less likely to slip as opposed to a knot.

Rachet straps?
Do many others use rachet straps? I have never used racheting straps on my boats. I think there is too much potential to overtighten and damage the boats. I use cam buckle straps with bow and stern tiedowns. I have also seen overtightened bow and stern lines which appear to be stressing boats. The bow and stern lines are really nothing more than safety lines in case you have to stop suddenly or get a hugh uplifting wind gust(mostly affecting open boats). They should be secure enough to prevent the boat from coming off your roof either in front of or behind your vehicle. All you really need is light cord. I often use straps for this as well.


I should add…
…my boat is an Old Town, which has a very stiff and rigid hull, so ratchet straps (snug, not tight) work fine. If your kayak oil-cans or is subject to other stresses (fiberglass?), my techniques are probably not a good idea.