Proper Bow-Stearn tie down?

With all this talk about car topping and driving speed, I was wondering what is the best way to do a bow and stern tie down? What should I use, rope or straps? Do I do anything different with two boats instead of one?



5mm rope works fine
bow only is fine,single line or triangle,either with truckers hitch. No need to overtighten bow/stern lines as the straps on the bars are what’s holding it onto the rack, the bow/stern lines are insurance although some long overhangs benfit with two point connections from car to kayaks to reduce movement but too much tension in lines can put a LOT of leverage on the hull. A lot of SeaLions out there with 4" dents in the hull from being transported with upright hulls and too tight bow lines.

Make VERY, VERY sure the bow/stern lines CANNOT come undone,if a loose line hits the tires there goes everything from your kayak to the roof of the car as the rope is pulled to it’s breaking point. I’d say as many kayaks,racks and roofs get damaged by loose bow lines getting caught under the tires in the parking lot as kayaks launched at freeway speeds.

I use the side tie-downs to hold the boats to the roof and the stern ropes in case the side ropes loosen up and I have to stop suddenly.

My bow ropes are mainly to keep them from sliding back in a 75mph headwind.

But the bow ropes have an extra advantage in that if the boats shift position, the bow rope tells me immediatly by moving to the right or left. I can see the bow rope move but not the side ropes.

1" cotton or nylon webbing is best for all tiedowns as it distributes pressure over a greater surface area and with thinner boats, that’s important.

BUT, webbing humms in the wind so when you use it, give it a twist or two to eliminate that vibration and humming.

First make sure you have something to
hook onto. Usually there are tow hooks welded to the vehicle front and back. Once you know you have a place to tie on, go to Home Depot. For $7.00 each you can buy the same ratcheting bow and stern lines that Yakima sells for $30.00 bucks a pair. These are made with black 1/4 inch poly line, not the heavy duty jobs made from nylon webbing. If the line runs over the bumper or touches the hood or trunk, buy some clear flexable tubing and you can make the EXACT same thing Yakima or Thule sells for 1/2 the cost. These things only take a second to put on and take off.

$ well spent.

5mm rope or even 4 and almost
no or no tension at all.bow and stern lines are a a backup system. Best is inverted v independent for each hull. I cannot do this easily with my stern line so I do not. but if I could I would. I would insist on it for my bow line.

Really strong ropes or straps which come undone on one side and go under a tire can indded pull a boat in half damageing your car and roof. It has happened before.

Your belly straps do most of the work. Keep it that way.

low-stretch line

– Last Updated: Jul-19-04 4:56 PM EST –

I use 1/4" low-stretch line for sailboats. If you're familiar with sailing, this kind of line would be used for a halyard or a vang, etc. It can be expensive but you only need a few feet of it. Nylon wouldn't be a good choice because it stretches a lot, and polypro doesn't hold knots well (or handle UV either).

Keep the lines as short as possible so there's less line to stretch. On my VW, I use the tow loops in front and back for hauling one kayak - haven't figured out what to do about a second boat yet. I tie a bolin to the towing loop, and use a trucker's hitch to tie down the other end. No problems after several hours of driving.

I would duplicate this with a second boat, but haven't figured out where else to tie into the car (towing loops on passenger side only).

WallyWorld-four packet rachet straps…
They have hooks on each end, they are made nylon webbing and have a rachet on one end. A Walmart four pack is usually cheaper than a single one at a paddle shop. (Yeah-I know…feeding the beest and starving a yak shop…)

cams are good rachets are bad
the cam buckle strap systems work the best.(ie. easy use, no worries aboput knots slipping) The model I use has hooks on the end to attach to the boat and to the car. Cinch it through the cam buckle and thats about it. Also, BE CAREFUL with the racket types they put a lot of undo pressure on your boat and you really can tell how much pressure you are using when you go for that last click. has a nice set around $30 or i’m sure your local boat shop has some.

Ratchet Ropes
What PaulP said. These tie-downs are identical to Yakimas and Thules. I drilled out the original rivets and tossed the “S” hooks - I cannot believe they are going to be secure - and installed small, load rated snaphooks with ss bolts. The 1/4 size Ratchet Ropes are rated at 125#.

Do not confuse lever ratchets with ratchet ropes - the former can develop way too much tension on teh ends of your boat.


I use nylon
I like cheap nylon utility rope because it stretches. You can snug it up without putting too much pressure on the hull. And when a crosswind catches the bow it has some flex but not so much to come loose.

My old Subaru Legacy has nice tow hooks front and back. I leave 2 loops in the bow line and hitch it through the attachment for the toggle. Then a quick loop through the tow hooks and a truckers hitch with the previously tied loops. Takes about a minute so there’s no reason not to use one.

My advice: Never stop in the middle of tying your boat to the vehicle. Get the job done and secure all the straps and lines properly – then chat or whatever. And never distract anyone else either. Serious work with serious dangers.

tie down points
I tied 2 loops of rope (webbing may work for some vehicles) under the hood thru some bolt holes to come out between the fender and hood for bow tie down points. Worked pretty good on vacation this weekend and nothing touches my paint job. There are high dollar gadgets if you want to spend the money but good old rope does just fine.


Get the web tie down loops.
As some have posted, they mount under the hood on each side. Much nicer than crawling under your vehicle and keeps the ropes off the paint job. There are loops for the back that you close in the back window or hatch. With loops on both sides, we can crisscross the ropes to keep boats from shifting.

sorry for yelling but I’ve heard of hooks coming undone with a bouncy rig over bumps or wind gusts,the very last thing you want is a line that can run under the tires that’s attached to the car,kayak,or rack.

simple system
Since end ties are the backup for me, I use a pretty simple system. I use a cord with a loop on both ends tied with a double figure eight. A caribiner attaches the one end to the car. the other end slips tightly over the handle at the end of the boat. It takes seconds to attach and take off. This doesn’t work if you are using different boats.

Mutt-what’s the diff btwn cam & rachet?

the difference is
the cam buckles, you thread the nylon strap through the buckle and it is cinched down by you pulling it and the cam locks it in place. The rachet system is like most of the straps you see in automotive stores, that one you thread the starp through the rachet and then use a level to rachet it down to tighten it up. The problem with that is you have a tendence to over tighten the strap and could easily damage your boat.

Does that make sense?

With the exception of.
Ratchet Ropes. They offer only a 1:1 mechanical advantage, and therefore should limit the tension on bows & sterns.