Solo loading a Thule Hull-A-Port


I recently purchased a Thule Hull-A-Port (J type rack) and I am looking for advice for solo loading my Kayak (15 Foot WS Cape Horn) onto these things. I have a Toyota Sienna van with factory rack. With the help of my wife we were able to load the boat from beside the van but I don’t have enough heft to do this myself without pushing it up the side of the van, causing paint damage for sure. Any thoughts?


J cradles
work well when you can load from the side–Malones, which is what I use, are the easiest as they have a ramp. Since you can’t load J cradles from the rear (as you can with rollers/saddles), you’ll have to have help to load a boat with the cradles on your Sienna. If you want to load solo on a mini-van, you may want to switch to a rear roller and a front saddle.

crossbar extender
could be useful. That way, you put your kayak on the extender, lift kayak into one hook, transfer from the extender to the other hook.

step stools

– Last Updated: Aug-22-06 3:11 PM EST –

I made a step stool out of a plastic Pepsi bottle holder and some spare wood. This is so I can cartop my kayak on my Subaru Outback and the Thule hull a ports.

You can make 2 similar stepstools for you and your wife so you can hold the ends and then lift it over the hull-a-ports.

[edit] OOps, didn't realize he said solo...guess reading too fast. I'm lucky I can lift my fiberglass kayak over my head solo, so I use the one stepstool to solo load mine.


what he said–great idea

This is the method I am considering. Are there commercial extenders? I was thinking of using 1 (or 2?) pieces of 2x2 cut to a suitable length and clamped to the opposite side of the roof rack to where the J’s are installed, and sticking out over the side the J’s are installed on. Like you said I could then place one end of the Kayak onto the extender, and then the other end into the rack or the second extender, and then the first end into the other rack. Hmmmm…


not sure
if there any for factory racks.

I was thinking about 1inch pvc piping with one end modified to accept factory rail:





but a piece of wood would work out nicely.

Am I correct in assuming that you are using the cradles directly on the factory crossbars? If you were using Thule crossbars you could get a loading bar extender which would make it way easier to load. Before I invested in a Hullavator I used Malone Autoloader J cradles and a Yakima BoatLoader. Good setup.


I am attaching the Thule’s onto the factory racks so I will have to work on ideas for a home-made extender. Thanks…


new bars
if your are using the thule bars just go and buy a new crossbar. they sell them in different lengths at most places that carry the thule stuff

Small rug to protect the paint
I use a small rug over the end of my Suburban to protect the rear deck from straching. There is a bungee which I sewed into it, that I use to hook it onto the rack. Just folded the rug over the bungee and hand sewed the rug. Good enough to hold the rug together to the bungee.

If you can make a small craddle to put one end of the boat in, you can lift the other end up on to the roof rack. Then lift up the other end onto the rack. The craddle needs to weighed down, I use my wife, but some lead scuba weights might work also.


get a new car

Werner step platform
Aluminum, four feet long, about 1-1/2’ high, folds flat in about a second, $34 or so and can actually use it around the house in the event you get your priorities out of order.

Please note
this is a different Werner than the paddle maker!


blanket from the rear
I use a blanket on the back of our Lincoln Navigator. I put it up on the edge and then put the kayak (OT Cayuga) on it’s side and slide it up on to the hull-a-ports. works great actually.

I now drive a F150 4x4 that is tall…I just picked up the extender bar that stores inside one of the crossbars and put my NDK Greenlander up on my Malone Gullwing carriers. It was not easy the first time but it was workable, I am relieved to say. However, I also want a stepping platform for that moment once I have the kayak up on the extender bar so picked up a two step platform. Tried a regular small stepladder but the steps are too narrow to get good balance on. Now the loading and unloading are no problem until that first time I try it when ice forms…