Positioning kayak on rooftop carrier

Where do most of you recommend positioning a kayak on a rooftop carrier? I went with Malone Seawings (cradle system) for my small hatchback. I have a 14’ kayak and the guy at the outfitter recommended placing it so that the boat is equally balanced weight-wise when you lift and push down on the stern. (Does that make sense?) The thing is, the boat is not centered on the car; about a foot sticks out at the back while the bow could easily move forward, but then that balancing technique is off. I want to do the right thing for the protection of the boat and for safety, but I’m a wee bit uncomfortable with it hanging off the back in traffic.

Center it on the racks
When I am carrying long boats I hang a red flag on the back.

jack L

Same as Jack
And both of my boats stick out further than a foot. Hang something red off the back for two purposes. One is to take care of any legalities, in most states at a certain point of overhang you have to have a colored flag showing. The other is so you can back the car up and not smash the boat into a fence or other solid object, the flag will tell you where the boat ends. I actually use a red 8 ft strap, though I do have to daisy chain part of it so it isn’t too long. That way I have a decent length so I can be sure I can see it when backing up.

My boat hangs over 4-5 feet
I center the boat on the racks of my truck cap. This leaves a good four or five feet hanging out behind the bumper.

Flag it, and as Ceila says, make the flag long enough so that you can see it behind you. I often try to back into parking spaces so that the boat isn’t sticking out in the traffic lane. I have to watch out for trees, poles, fences, buildings, etc, behind me, and the flag helps.


Makes sense
…to center it on the racks–not on the vehicle.

I’ll keep the red flag suggestions in mind as well. Much appreciated.

Centering? Fore-aft or left-right?
Centering in the left-right axis makes sense aerodynamically but is often impractical in terms of reaching and tying. On my tall van I always carry a sigle boat on the passenger side of my bars.

Centering in the fore-aft direction is also frequently advised, but I’ve always preferred slightly more bar overhang in the stern than the bow. I just feel this will slightly reduce bow yaw caused by wind buffeting.

A one foot stern overhang on the vehicle is nothing. Many of us with long boats have much more stern overhang than that. Tying a Ming Dynasty red silk scarf to the stern, as others have suggested, may not be legally necessary, but is a good courtesy to other drivers and also allows you to judge stern position of your boat when you are parking or backing up.

Except there is no real aerodynamic benefit of it being centered left-right. It’s much better to have the load near the towers not at the center of the crossbars where they would cause max deflection. Also much easier and safer to tie down a boat that’s close to one side of the car so you can reach it. Ditto others re flag - always park with the stern away from traffic and pedestrians.

Tie down the bow and stern
also, to the front and back bumpers or equivalent, with brightly colored straps or rope.

You can also add reflective tape to the kayak itself, above the waterline, the kind used on commercial trucking bumpers that REALLY shows up when it is hit by other’s headlights. You can be creative with the shapes applied.

People will usually tailgate me less often at dusk, because they are not quite sure what they are following, but it glows.

If they hit the kayak it will be sad, but that means they also hit the serious bumper and the hitch, and chances are, destroyed the front end of their weenie car. Sometimes at stop lights I have seen tiny cars trying to slooowly creep up under there… under the flag… sort of a game.

No, kids, Pokey Man or what ever is not there.

coaming alignment
The Thule racks on my stupidly short “aerodynamic” 2015 Mazda CX5 are so close together that the coamings on all of my kayaks fit just about exactly between them so that is how I align them (have to when I haul them hull up and choose to when they are hull down.) This is because I want the tie-down straps to be snugly against the coaming lip for extra security against the boat shifting forward or back from inertia in a panic stop or accident situation. Even when I was hauling atop more widely spaced racks on nice long 1990’s Volvo wagons, I would align the bow end of the coaming with the front rack so that my front strap was snugged against it and it was more immediately restrained from shifting forward in a panic stop or collision. This just seems intuitive to me though maybe I am deluding myself.

use 1/8th cord - Wal Black carrier - loop cord around hull at coming bow n stern…loop then carry loose end thru loop with a hitch. Tie the bitter end to rack at other side coaming.

Yawl have short roofs these days. The farther back to rear vehicle goes the frontside hull end the better…but not compromising hull thwarts/bulkheads/between seat and rear coaming/foot position …check the hull on an open ID hull for extra bottom material,push down check for strength resistance with the remaining hull sections…make a judgment as what’s stronger beyond the seat area.

use a red flag at rear.

doahn drive at night in traffic.

anyone know of a hull tail ended ?

moving hull back takes a whale of pressure off getting the bow out of the main airstream

Centered on the car
Based on an old Mohawk Canoe video I always center the boat on the car. It might work better with canoes rather than kayaks, but I have never had any trouble.


Good advice
I noticed my cross bars are not the of the heaviest duty.