Loading a 14" on a minivan

Hi All

Just wondering. If I get a 14" boat, how hard it is to load on a Sienna by my 5"6’ self? It has a factory rack and I own j-type carrier. It is a struggle to load a 10 foot Pelican, but that one is short meaning I have to lift it up completely. With a longer boat, is there a way to put it at an angle at a side of the vanb, rest it on one of the carriers and gradually slide it in position? Or something that would not require a clean and jerk flollowed with a step up.
I can’t slide it from the back because the tailgate has a protruding spoiler.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. :slight_smile:

Lots of Youtubes if you do a search…


Yeah, except most vans do not have rear spoilers which leaves out the idea of sliding it from the back. The rack doesn’t go far enough forward to slide from the front. My height does not help either since I can’t reach the upper edge of a boat while standing on the ground. So it leaves me with some sort of weird side wiggling motion and a risk if injuriy and vehicle damage.

If you have Thule or Yakima cross bars, you can get an extender that fits inside one of the bars. Pull out that extender for loading. That way you can angle the boat up onto the extended bar, then lift the other end (which will weigh almost nothing if you slide the boat about 1/3 of the way onto the extended bar) and pivot that end over onto the other cross bar. Then slide the end that’s on the extended bar onto the main rack as well. From there, you can lift it one end at a time into cradles or J-hooks pretty easily. If rack space is crowded with no space on the cross bars next to your cradles or J-hooks for this first stage of loading, you could use two extenders to provide that extra, temporary space.

Good idea, thanks. I don’t have thule or yakima, but I can get Malone crossbars that come in all sorts of sizes including very wide ones.

I’m 5’ 5" (and a relatively wimpy 67 year old woman) and have solo loaded kayaks and canoes up to 80 pounds on all heights of vehicles. It is true that the longer the boat, the easier to load, even if longer boats are heavier. Method depends on weight of the boat – with most 14 footers being plus or minus 50 pounds there are a few options.

Having a spoiler does not necessarily mean you can’t load from the rear – my Mazda wagon has a spoiler and I just throw a rubber-backed bath rug over it so it doesn’t get scratched and shove the boat over it. If you don’t want to do that you can carry the boat with your shoulder in the cockpit to the car, stand beside it with the boat closest to the car door, facing the hood and angle the bow up into the front j-rack, then lift the boat slowly while walking yourself backwards towards the stern and lift it into the rear j-rack. There are also devices like the Roller Loader that put a set of wheels above the spoiler that you can rest the bow of the boat on and then shove it forward onto the racks. Depending on the height and placement of the spoiler, even one of the suction cup base shower grab bars can be placed on the vehicle to provide a sliding platform.

I also carry a small 2-step folding household step stool. This can be a help in getting the boat up to a comfortable pivot height and also for getting up to roof level to fastnen down the straps. Speaking of straps, put them over the racks BEFORE loading the boat. I use 9-foot and 12-foot 1" NRS and Thule buckle straps (never use ratchet straps on a kayak!). Loop one around the middle of each rack, the 12’ in the front and the 9’ in the rear, and drape the ends over the hood and tailgate so you can reach them once the boat is on the car. Once the boat is on the rack, it’s easy to grab the ends and toss them over the kayak towards the outside of the car. Then pull the free end until the buckle is at eye level about halfway up the side of the boat, wrap the free end around the near side of the rack (and also around the car factory rack if it has a lateral rack that the Thule bars are attached to), connect and snug up the buckle and tie off the ends with a few more loops around the bar so it won’t flap in the wind. Then ALWAYS tie off the bow and stern with rope or straps to the bumpers of the car. If you can’t find a tie off in the front, you can get loops of nylon strap attached to a short bit of rubber tube that you trap under the car hood to tie off to.

Honestly, one way I load, without j-racks, is to lean the kayak upside down against a wall or railing and get under it with my head inside the cockpit and carry it on my head, balanced and grasping the cockpit rim (coaming) with my hands. This puts it high enough that it is not that hard to lift the bow slightly to rest at an angle on the roof rack, then lift it enough to get my head out of the cockpit and walk my hands back to support and lift the stern end and slide that onto the rear rack. I realize this sounds whack, but it really is easier to carry heavy loads directly over your center of gravity, as you can see looking at people in third world countries carrying enormous burdens on their heads. The seat padding in most kayaks makes them not uncomfortable on your head.

Boats seem dauntingly heavy when you first try to handle them. but once you get the feel for the weight and learn how to use what strength you have and, more important, how to balance that weight, they become not that difficult to load.

@willowleaf, wonderful writeup, thanks a bunch!

Thanks, I had to go back and edit some bloopers, though.

One of these days I’m going to get a buddy to help me film several ways to load a kayak on a vehicle roof – a video is worth a thousand words.

@willowleaf that’d be super nice…

I can fit a 14" boat in my glove box!

@rnsparky said:
I can fit a 14" boat in my glove box!

Good one :smiley:

Reminds me of the Stonehenge stage prop in “Spinal Tap”…

All my cars have had spoilers in back., in fact the darned things seem to be getting bigger. My personal preference is the Amagansett roller loader to get by the problem, But a big beach towel or the above mentioned rail extension off the side works too. I an 3 inches shorter than you, not exactly packing on the pounds, and hit medicare primary age. l have made this work with 65 lb 17 ft sea kayaks.

So, loaded the Cape Horn on my van for the first time yesterday, It was bloody hard, I need to work on that.
Or perhaps take my Honda Prelude on solo trips. This car is about the lowest stock body save for legit sports cars like a Corvette.

Lack of any sort of handles on the boat made it harder, but I found these huge velcro carrying handles that came with a rolled up kid’s Ikea mattress, they seem to work on the kayak giving me a way to apply force.

The boat does have toggles… you will find out in your rescue class those are not optional if you do assisted rescues. If you decide that the line is on the weak side you can just run new line.

Slide the boat up via the perimeter lines, much easier, grab the cockpit coaming midships. You may need to replace some or all of the lines, check how old they look. Put a towel under the end on the ground if you are fussy about scratches. The perimeter line should be able to take the boat’s or your entire weight tugging hard against it, and replacing them and/or the bungies is an every 1 to 2 year rite for me depending on how much use the boats get in salt water. Hint, get the line with a foam core- anything without it is a major PITA to get thru the molded fittings.

Below is a link to the device I use over the back of the damn tall Toyota Rav4, but the bar extension from the side that Guideboatguy talks about also works really well too. A friend shorter than me got her 17 ft 7 inch plastic kayak on top of a smaller van for years using just this 16 inch bar extension. The advantage of the Roller Loader is that it will work even if all you have is foam blocks, which somewhat makes up for the price increase since we got ours. You will still want a stepladder to finish things off, but this should let you get it up there to start that process.

@Celia thanks for the pointers.
Up there I can manage without a ladder. I can step on on top of the rear tire and pull myself up which gives me a lot of reach for tying it down.
Just thinking more about it, using that other car I mentioned sounds like a good idea if not for the kayak but for the sake of the car itself. Its not getting enough road time and I am beginning to worry about deterioration that might be causing. I have been toying with the idea of selling it, but it’s a bit hard since I had put in a lot of labor into that thing. So this can be it’s new purpose in life.
Now, about that. I should be able to rig it up with some pool noodles and straps, right? Height-wise it has the roof sitting couple of inches below my collar bone.

PS Very fussy about scratches. It’s a problem really.

Get the proper shaped foam blocks for under the boat. They are cheap and a whole lot stickier. Pool noodles will not compress as well or stay put, more likely to roll around at highway speeds.
If you really hate scratches get the Roller Loader, reduces that. But I suggest you get over that as quickly as you can, the boat will be fine.

@Celia said:
Get the proper shaped foam blocks for under the boat. They are cheap and a whole lot stickier. Pool noodles will not compress as well or stay put, more likely to roll around at highway speeds.
If you really hate scratches get the Roller Loader, reduces that. But I suggest you get over that as quickly as you can, the boat will be fine.

Sure, thanks. I mean scratches on the car, don’t care about them on the boat :slight_smile:

Oh, that l get. Pain to monitor scratches on the roof. Basically, less likely the higher off the roof you can get the boat. So you may want to start looking for deals on Yakima or Thule racks on places like EBay.