Long-distance travel w/yak - issues?

Hey all,

I’ll be on Cape Cod for 2 months this summer and want to bring my kayak up with me from NC. I’ve never traveled nearly this far with a yak on the roof.

Kayak: Necky Chatham 16

Car: 2-door Honda Civic

It’s a small car but it’s never been an issue before to carry the yak on top… but this trip has me a bit nervous. What do I need to consider?

I’m buying a good quality cockpit cover that’ll stay on at 75 mph, which I don’t currently own. I have Yakima J-style racks.

Obviously I’ll strap it down as tight as possible…any thoughts about safest way to secure the yak in front and back for such a long trip? How much should I expect my gas mileage to suffer?

Anything else that I’m not thinking of? thanks in advance!


Straps and Lines
Belly straps to the rack fore and aft, bow and stern lines - and you mentioned 75 mph - I’d slow down a tad. Check the straps and lines every time you stop. Been carrying canoes and kayaks like that for decades, haven’t lost one yet…

"…strap it down as tight as possible"
No, it isn’t how hard you strap it down, it’s where the straps and ropes are placed. If your Necky is plastic, like mine, hard strapping may cause hull denting. If you have cradles, the straps holding the boat in the cradles should be tightened firmly, but not super hard.

The same applies to end ropes. If your Civic is like our Accords, there will be two tow loops underneath in the front, and a single, central tow loop in the rear. In the front you might use two separate ropes (don’t flutter and moan like straps) going to the bow. Again, they should be tight enough to keep the bow from waggling much, side to side, but NOT so tight as to crush the kayak into the cradles. The rear can get by with a single tie.

If your Necky is plastic, then your tie points at the bow and stern may be merely screwed into the hull. That’s another reason not to overtighten the end ropes.

There are ways of putting tie loops onto existing bolts in the margins of the hood and the trunk lid. This gives more flexibility in tie arrangements.

On cockpit covers, I simply mount the kayak cockpit down. This is probably a bit better aerodynamically. And, the boat dries out with no cockpit cover to prevent it.

You might lose as much as 5 mpg, so ease off and get some of it back. On long trips, I find that the right lane is often plenty fast, and if I set my cruise a little slower than most of the traffic, I don’t have to pass much. I just cruise along while the hotshots in the left lane make all the decisions.

Slow down
Your Honda Civic can easily transport your kayak. Simply use 4 straps. Make sure the rack is secure to the car and the kayak is secure to the rack at 4 points. Use two different straps across the center, even if the strap is long enough to go around twice.

There are plenty of reasons to slow down: better gas mileage; less danger to other cars; car more stable; etc. I usually go 60 on the interstate with a kayak. Come to think of it, I go 60 without a kayak for better gas mileage.

Cable your kayak to your rack so you can stop for groceries etc. without worrying about theft.

If you carry your kayak rightside up, definitely use a cockpit cover in case of heavy rain.

Stop and check straps
After 1rst half hour and then every two hours when you take breaks, make sure the kayak is not moving around.

Crosswinds can be a big problem. Also I would not plan on going 75, slow down to 65 it reduces a lot of force on the boats, straps, car and gas mileage.

Don’t worry
I have been driving up there from NC every summer for the past gazillion years, with two eighteen footers on J cradles and a 17 foot ultralight Jensen canoe between them. If you have a good set of bars that are securely attached to your roof you won’t have any problem. For the past six or seven years I have had them on a little Ford Escape.

I don’t bother with front or rear tie downs unless I am taking the 18’-6" comp cruiser, and then I just use front ones to protect the long overhang from gettting torn off in high cross winds.

You’ll make the worry warts on here happy if you use them though.

Jack L

Just the normal precautions

– Last Updated: May-13-12 11:04 PM EST –

I drove between the Denver area and Tybee, GA, for a 3-month winter sojourn, 3400 miles round trip. Kayak rode on my truck topper, using Spring Creek kayak cradles on Yakima crossbars, Control Towers, and Landing Pads, with painter lines front and rear. My husband and I also made a 5000-mile round trip between CO and AK with 2 sea kayaks on his Tahoe's roof (Spring Creek cradles on Yakima crossbars with hardware to attach to the factory roof rack).

No problems on either trip. Whatever vehicle and setup you use, do the following:

1) Take test runs using the system near home BEFORE you do the big trip. This means driving on Interstate highways, since that is what you will need to do. If there are any tweaks that need to be made, make them and test again. While you're at it, you can record your actual mpg so that you know what to expect for gas consumption.

2) On the trip, whenever you stop for gas or pee breaks or lunch, check everything (straps, rack components, kayak position, painter lines, all contact points on the vehicle).

3) Pay attention to unusual noises or changes in sound as you drive. Something may have shifted, or it could simply be that the wind direction has changed. But it's worth stopping if you notice anything unusual. What is unusual? You will know based on your pre-trip test drives. (And related to this--don't crank up your stereo volume!)

4) Expect some reduction in mpg. We found that the amount of reduction varies hugely. Sometimes there was very little drop, but other times there was a noticeable drop. Crosswinds cause more of a drop than headwinds do, in my experience. With little wind, we've had little change, but obviously this is going to vary depending on your vehicle. Our % drop has usually been about 10% lower (because on a long trip there's always some adverse wind), about 20% on stretches with strong crosswinds. With a small car and 4-cyl engine, I would expect a bigger drop...but you're also starting from higher mpg in the first place.

5) If you're using J-cradles, the kayak sticks up higher than with saddle-type cradles. Because I have never used J-cradles on the roof, I can't give you comparisons. However, if it were me, I would use a tight-fitting neoprene cockpit cover to minimize the air-scooping effect. I've had a nylon cockpit cover flapping around more than once, and even if it's secured at one end, the rest of it will fly around like a big flag, not exactly conducive to good mpg and definitely useless for keeping water and bugs out of the kayak.

Sounds like a great vacation!