Long drive....long kayak/s

So…I’m looking to drive from North east Florida to Michigan, (Grand Rapids area), to pick up 2 pre-owned kayaks. An Étain (17.7) and a sirona (16.1), both rm. Shipping them is ridiculously priced and I can more easily afford the couple days I’d miss from work. I’m kinda waiting for weather to cooperate a bit, but not really wanting to quite wait for Spring. Don’t mind the cold, just wanna avoid ice and snow as best I can. I have a Toyota Corolla, a Yakima rack with only a 32” spread. (That’s the concerning part for me), Yakima Even keel for the smaller kayak and a Yakima Sweetroll for the longer boat. I plan on using Bow and stern lines and my other straps are in good shape and I have plenty of back-ups. I also have back-up foam pads just in case. I don’t have a trailer hitch so I’m not equipped to get one of those racks for the hitch one would use for a long boat, it I’m not against that idea if it would provide that much extra support for that many windblown miles. I’m expecting to check my straps every time I stop. I plan on using flags on the back end of the kayaks. I also have cockpit covers and plan on inserting the inflated beach balls in the cockpits to avoid rain puddling.
Any suggestions or advice for a trip like this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Your racks should be fine. My only advice would be not to use rinky-dink bow and stern tie downs. How do you know? Only use your bow and stern tie downs. Now try to jerk the kayak off of the car in every direction. Grab the bow, grab the stern, and see if you can wiggle it off or out of place. If it’s held secure, you’re good. Now when you strap the kayak to your rack, and then use those solid bow and stern tie downs, you know you’ve really got something. Good for 10 miles the same as it is for 1000.
Good luck and enjoy your new kayaks!

Well, it’s winter here and while you won’t avoid ice and snow in the Great Lakes states, the roads are generally clear unless there’s an ongoing snowstorm. All-weather tires on your car?

If you drive for the conditions, you should be okay. That means slowing down when conditions are dicey and always allowing plenty of space between vehicles (which you should do anyway). I live in the tip of the mitt of Michigan, a snowbelt area (four snow tires on my car), and it’s the folks who think they can drive the speed limit (or over) regardless of conditions who wind up running off the road. Or worse.

You will need to buy a gallon of Prestone winter windshield de-icer or any other brand which is rated for sub-zero temps. You’ll need that to keep your windshield clear on the highways. Once you get into cold country, beware of bridges as they always freeze first.

Michigan provides a good map showing road conditions and cameras at certain locations. https://mdotjboss.state.mi.us/MiDrive/map

Am guessing other states do as well. That would be handy to check during a pit stop.

You might contact your local National Weather Service office when you have decided on a departure date, explain your anticipated travel, and see if they can give you a heads-up about any potential weather issues.

Sounds like you’ve got a plan to secure your boats well. I carry a 17-foot boat on the top of my Honda Fit and have had no issues at 70 mph, which is my top speed on the interstate.

Happy, safe travels and enjoy those boats when you get them home!

One more thing: depending on when you travel, you should be aware of black ice: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/black-ice-formed

Hi Jimmy

I have done many long trips with a short car too (Acura RSX) and a long boat either Impex Currituck or Rockpool Isel. But you have answered your question check your straps every time you stop. And have backup straps just in case. Enjoy your boats

The Étain and Sirona are great boats !!!

I did a similar length trip (NYC to north tip of Cape Breton) in a short car with long boats, was fine. Your setup sounds good, just remember not to maneuver too quickly, go slower than usual. We found people taking pictures of the car often.

I suggest back-in parking with the stern of the boats protected - even with stern flags people may underestimate where your boats end. Watch out especially in rest stops, gas stations and diner parking lots, people with big SUVs and RVs often can’t maneuver well and may not notice the boats.

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Do yourself a favor in terms of peace of mind, use two straps at each of the normal points. Hence four straps for the two boats. So you don’t have to worry about one failing in some surprise event with difficult results. I always travel with double straps for the long run to and from Maine, or anything a few hours away. Got told to do that years ago from the folks at Maine Island Kayak, good idea.

You did not mention if you have carbineers to hook thru the loop for the cockpit cover and something on the deck. Do that, if the cover goes flapping you won’t lose it.

I also do long drives with a strap around the boat and thru the middle of the cockpit cover. Just one more thing you can do to reduce the stress.

I would go with all of the above for the trip you are contemplating. Not like you are going to be disassembling it until you are back home. And in terms of theft, with that much visual strapping in addition to something like a kayak lasso, anyone with malicious intent will look for boats with less to undo.

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If down the road you find the 32" base to be too short, you might want to get a surf ski type rack from goodboypaddlesports.com After driving home 10 hours with an NDK carbonfibre Exporer HV on a short 28" rack base, I realized this new kayak is so much lighter and sensitive to high speeds and winds that a longer rack base was needed. Cliff, the owner, set me up and now all my kayaks make trips in the 8 ft base cradles.

As others have written on here, check the straps at every stop and even double them up for longer or especially windy trips. And, use bow and stern tie downs too. However beware, I’ve seen too many paddlers either break or warp their kayaks by overtightening the bow and/or stern tie down.

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Carry the boats hull up and cockpit down. Avoids ice and water buildup and makes the load more aerodynamic – also places the coamings between the racks for extra protection against sliding forward or back from inertia in any kind of impact or panic stop. I have carried two kayaks up to 18’ long on my little Mazda CX5 (also close together racks) for thousands of highway miles thus inverted. Still use your cockpit covers (and strap or clip them to the decklines as Celia recommends) since they will block turbulence from getting inside the boats, but you won’t need the beach balls.

Driving to and through Michigan in winter can be really dangerous due to Lake Effect snow, wind, rain and ice, especially if you are not experienced in bad weather winter driving. Do you even have snow tires on your car? I used to live in Grand Rapids and still drive up there from Pittsburgh several times a year to visit kin and friends. But I’m very careful to watch the short and long range weather patterns before venturing that way, even in the Spring and Fall.

Long boats?

Andy, do you have any problems with that much rear overhang?

I transported sea kayaks on a trailer, but the new ski weighs less than 30 lbs so I plan to rooftop it.

My truck topper has rails that allow changing the crossbar span. They are presently set at the maximum, approx. 54”.

Rooftopping choices are these:

  • Reset the cradle “wingspans” on my Spring Creek kayak cradles; carry ski rightside up.
  • Wrap very thick foam padding onto the bare crossbars; carry ski upside down, with the crossbar span reduced so that they are within the bucket fore and aft edges. I’ve been told this is the strongest part of a ski. This way is probably easier to load and unload.

As in your photo, either way there would be a very long rear overhang, due to the way ski buckets are located.

No, never had a problem. I am very careful when I strap my boats in place and will often stop to xheck the straps.

My normal boats are 19 and 21 feet in length. When I have to drive on the super slab with them, I used two bow lines. One goes to each wheel well and keeps the wind shear of passing trucks at a minimum

Thanks for all the feedback folks! Especially in regards to weather. I’ll be watching the weather closely as February progresses into March I guess. There are several routes to choose from and I figured I’d pick the one with the best weather outlook. I’m really careful with tightening bow and stern lines and will be checking all the straps and cords a lot. Didn’t think about putting them hull down though. Seems like a good idea if the feet of my Yakima parts meet the deck ok. I also didn’t think about parking and sticking out all over the place. I’ll just be picky with the spots and maybe be prepared to use flags on both ends while parked. And I think I will double up the straps on route as it doesn’t harm anything to do so. My biggest concern was in regards to the spread of the bars, but seems like there are lots of longer boats with a similarly sized car. I’m going to keep my speed in check and though I don’t have the best tires for the worst weather, I’m a West Virginia boy and remember enough about driving for the conditions and when to decide to not drive at all. De-icer is a great idea!

Finding the spot where the overhang can be not into a roadway does not always have the car parked in the spot that is most visible to you in a restaurant or motel. I have been willing to be rude at times, leave the overhang facing towards a walkway if needed to make sure they were only at risk from an inattentive walker. I know someone who had the rear of their boat torn off by a driver in a parking lot, it was bad. Maybe make a really big flag so that people on a cell phone won’t miss it.

Good point Celia! Can’t be too careful.i also have a couple of cable locks for when I may take my eyes off.

I’ve taken up two lengthways spaces at the local grocery store. There were plenty of extra spots. I followed an extra shiny Porsche in and he parked in the way back so I parked next to, taking up two. I felt very smug. And yes, I was careful not to ding his doors. LOL!

Kayaks are 15’ and 18’ and this is how I hauled them on the Mazda 1,500 highway miles on the trip (RT Pittsburgh to northwest Michigan) that I was about to leave for when this photo was taken. You can see how close together my 50" Thule crossbars are. Stern lines are tied off to my light duty trailer hitch and the bow tie offs are connected to webbing loops fastened under the hood.

Hi Rookie,
I don’t want to sidetrack this thread, but you said you have a Honda Fit with four snow tires, and it handles Michigan winter okay. Is your Fit a Base or a Sport? Mine is a Base (which has smaller tires), and it sucks in the snow, but that’s without snow tires.
Thanks for tips and info…

Hi Spirit. I have the base model Fit LX manual six speed. With four snow tires it’s absolutely solid going through 12-14" of snow when I have to get out before the plow comes. If you’re in a snowy area, snow tires will make a world of difference.

Up here, the snow tires go in early November and don’t come off until April. My Fit is a 2016, the snow tires on are their third winter and will probably go another winter. Good investment.

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I don’t need snow tires here in western NC, but someday I might! Go Fit!

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