Long Road Trip w/kayaks...

I am planning on a trip from New England to Florida and would like to take my new P&H Capella173 and a Pungo120 for my wife. I am taking my F-150 with recently installed Thule adjustable racks. My question is this…what is the definitive (if it exists) wisdom for carrying these boats on a long highway trip? Right side up or upside down?

When I’ve put my plastic boats on the roof for local trips, they are always right side up. This is my first time traveling this distance and with a composite boat. When the boats are on the rack, the bow of the Capella sits just behind the vertical plane of the top of the windshield. The pungo bow sits well back and over the roof. I tie the Capella down at the bulkheads fore and aft, as indicated.

I have the availability of a 14’ Necky Zoar Sport in florida but really want to paddle my new boat, and if I’m taking one, two is just as easy.

Any thoughts on boat loading from veteran Road Dogs?



Right side up for me
or on the gunwhales in J cradles (I have one set of each on my roof).

Most composite kayaks are stronger in the hull than the deck, and usually easier to carry right side up. That said, I do know people that carry them upside down, and seem to have no problems.

I’d suggest that you carry them like you always do, and use cockpit covers. No difference between a long trip and a short trip, IMO.

bare racks?
It’s not clear to me from your post whether you’re using any sort of cradles. I carry composite boats on my bare rack (with pipe insulation) hull-down fairly often, but not for long road trips. You can only tighten a composite boat so far on a bare rack before it starts to bend the deck. It’s fine for a 30 minute car-pool to a local put-in, but not for a cross-country trip, IMO.

I’d get some foam kayak carrier blocks for your boat. Or spring for a J-cradle, if you can deal with the height. (It can be a stretch using a J-cradle on top of a big pickup.)

Add bow lines and you’re fine
That way you get an early warning on wiggles. The other thing you could do is use double straps, two at each normal point, so if one fails you are still OK. For a trip of this length the peace of mind is probably worth a few extra bucks for straps.

Hull down has gotten our composite boats all over the northeast, but do take Wayne’s suggestion and get a cockpit cover for he Capella (with a carbineer clipped to the bungies to make sure it doesn’t get lost).

Right side up…
did 2000 plus this year in summer with a Nordkapp LV and a Betsie Bay on my Tacoma, Thule rack with hullivators. No issue at all.

Right side up
We put our QCCs in cradles with deck up. Be sure to use a cockpit cover that is secured so they don’t blow away.

carry them in a way that is secure
and doesn’t deform them. Whether that’s upside down, right side up or on their sides. If it was me I’d put the Pungo upside down butted up against a j-rack holding the Capella.

Consider that rain probably wont rip off your cockpit cover but I go South twice each winter. Invariably there is a dump of wet snow somewhere… There is nothing like having a plow unload a mess of crap of snow and gravel in the air. When it comes down it comes down everywhere. I have lost many a windshield, usually with just a crack, but last year the entire thing shattered. The boats upside down were fine.

Sorry I didn’t mention that I’m using

– Last Updated: Dec-12-10 12:37 PM EST –

2 sets of foam blocks that I got from EMS that fit over the bare crossbar. I will be doubling the thule compression straps and installing the load stops on the bars.

I have a Thule folding J Rack in the garage but I feel more secure with the foam blocks for a long trip and it is a long way up to the rack!

Should mention…
Our point of view is from using stackers with the Yakima crossbars. Personally, we feel safer with the stackers than we would with just foam blocks, since that is two objects (rail plus stackers) that aren’t too movable.

I wouldn’t trust foam blocks as far as
you can throw one ! ( I used them years ago)

Use either J cradles or adjustable saddles.

I travel thousands of miles every year at interstate speeds with two long sea kayaks and a canoe on the roof of my F-150, and they ride beautifully on either of the two methods above.

Years ago, I came across the country using foam blocks and I had to readjust them at least once a day or more.

Jack L

jack L

My comfort level is as JackL’s
And I too do lots of miles. Last year it was some fifteen thousand between western Ontario to Newfoundland to Florida.

One of the things about foamies (even the ones that fit around the bars is that they tend to rotate in truck wash( or whatever thats called when you get behind an 18 wheeler). And there are tons of them going down South.

If you don’t pay close attention one may rotate off. Early on we did try this but after losing one on the interstate (and being lucky to find it) the next trip rule was foamies only near home at lower speed with no trucks.

You can cinch down but then risk mashing the hull. Kayaks arent as strong top to bottom as on their sides.

Another method

– Last Updated: Dec-12-10 3:09 PM EST –

This was my setup for 3000 miles round trip from NYC to Cape Breton this past summer:


The carriers are Kayakpro EZ-Vees on the factory rack. A similar product is the Keystone Kayaks Vee-bar (less $$$, not as finished looking). I'm a big believer in these - not many use them, not sure why. They are really quick to use and the boats are rock solid. No motion at all while on the roof at high speeds.

PS the boat has to be right side up on these carriers - I used cockpit covers with tethers and kept some gear inside.
PPS not sure the Pungo would work on one of these, but the Capella definitely would.

Thanks for the thoughtful responses…
Saddles are what I want but not in the budget right now…(trip, tuition bills, holidays, etc.)

So far with rides up to two hours using the Thule bars/molded foam blocks combo,with the kayaks loaded right side up, the bars actually sit slightly below the roofline which seems to be keeping the blocks from a lot of the buffeting. I also get little or no wind noise in the cabin. It’s true that there will be a lot buffeting from trucks heading south on I-95 which is why I’ll be sure to double strap.

I’ve noticed that when I load my canoe (+/- 17’) upside down on the Thule bars with pool noodles at the contact points, no appreciable wind gets under the canoe because the bow sits pretty much on the roof (on a small piece of memory foam).

In absence of proper saddles, I think I’ll load the boats upside down on the blocks, keeping them close to the roof and causing less wind resistance. Also keeps me from having to spring for the cockpit cover yet.

Thanks again and Happy Holidays.

Never seen those before.
Interesting. Kind of like a bike rack in design and function.

So, if the deck bends, what happens?
The nice thing about composite is that it doesn’t take a “set” from being pooched in, in hot weather.

I sometimes carved foam saddles to distribute pressure on the decks, but maybe I didn’t need to.

Not to change the subject, but
How far down in Florida are you going, and when ???

Jack L

And don’t forget sissy103
aka Joanne lives in FL too, and knows all the great places to paddle!

I think you’re right,
upside down is easier with boats with a large cockpit.

It’s often hard to keep the cockpit cover on those boats, the wind gets to buffetting them.

Just a tip for those right side up haulers with cockpit covers, stick in a cheap beach ball to keep the cover convex. No pooling water, no wet seat.

Have fun,


Hull up
We have been full time rving for 2 years now, with 2 kayaks on top of the tow car 24/7, 365 a year. First with 2 plastic SOT RTM Discos, now with 2 composites. We use Thule cross bars with pads, and haul deck down hull up. Less wind effect with the wind pressing the bow down instead of lifting it, good sturdy position.

Our travel blog: http://2toomanycats.blogspot.com/ . Currently in Key West FL. Dan