straps - why 4, not 2?

I am a former rower turned kayaker, as is my husband. In the rowing world only two straps are used to tie down a single (very similar in length to the kayak) whether on a trailer or cartop. We have noticed that most kayakers use four straps. The rowing shells are only strapped down near the cockpit, nothing on the bow and stern.


in case the rack fails

– Last Updated: Apr-04-07 10:00 AM EST –

bow and stern tie downs are an insurance policy. Racks on cartops fail.

Here you go:

rowing shell rack has wider supports, flexing of shell and car body would put too much strain on rowing shell , people with kayak roof racks cover a wider range of users with more incompetantly maintained/installed, kayaks weigh more with closer spacing exacerbate poor installation. More often kayak racks on cars are closer spaced.

I had a van and Isuzu trooper with widely spaced racks and often drove with only two straps.

The greater weight of the kayaks raise the possibility of a poorly installed rack taking flight in a stressful incident.

It can be two to four depending on the car/kayak combo.

Wind lift
Kayak hulls carried dry side up develop wind lift at high speeds. The bow tie is to stop the bow from lifting and thereby prevent rack failure. The bow tie should be snug but not tight or it will stress the hull. Stern tie is added safety and required in some states. I only use two straps doubled back to the rack. I have carried kayaks this way for close to 20 years and canoes before that. I never use ratcheting straps as they will damage a boat. I do use a bow tie.

I only use 2
I have driven from Key West to New Hampshire and everywhere in between at internet speeds up to 80 mph. all I use are foam blocks on the factory racks and 2 webbing straps per kayak. Maybe I am playing with fire, but in 10 years I haven’t been burned.

certain states require it…
some states say that they require extra tiedown lines for ANYTHING that sticks over the windshield…on any vehicle…

500$ fine in i think Marlyand(not certain)…a co-worker has gotten hit twice by that (one thinks he would have learned)…he goes to College in a state down that way…


Bow and stern lines
prevent the boat from moving side to side on the rack.

It is a real HOLY S*** monent when you go around a curve, and watch your boat try to keep going straight.

A couple of reasons
(By the way, sometimes our four straps include a bow line, and sometimes it is two straps per rack horizontal, pretty much on top of each other).

If you have a bow that you can’t see well while driving, the only way you can tell if things are getting loose and starting to move around up there is with a line to the front of the vehicle, or otherwise visible from the driver’s seat. Sightlines are an issue with shorter boats or with a lot of trucks.

Kayaks come a lot closer to maxing out the weight capacity of a lot of rack systems than rowing shells, at least the single and tandem ones. Especially if there is stuff in the kayaks as well.

Attitude towards risk - this is personal. When we picked up our first full expedition glass boats, the guy from whom bought them asked why only two straps. This was a new thought to us, but this was someone who has traveled a lot of kayaks over long distances for many years. His comment on why we should go to four was that the cost of a strap or rack failure at 65 miles an hour, if your boat or assembly hit another car, was awfully expensive.

I suspect that a rowing shell subjected to the same kind of rack failure as most kayaks would as easily break into little pieces as do major damage. And their stiffness could make bow or stern lines very dicey to adjust. But I don’t see why it should be an urgent concern that kayakers (and canoeists) often go with more than two straps.

Simple answer?
Rowing shells seldom have bow & stern loops or toggles.


Rack faiure

– Last Updated: Apr-04-07 11:22 AM EST –

I have seen a rack failure, not mine, and it was not pretty. The rack with 2 kayaks was ripped off of the vehicle. It was a rain gutter mount and did a lot of damage to the station wagon. No bow or stern ties. Luckily?? it sailed off to the right and missed traffic. It looked like the left front mount came loose first and the others tore off. Unless you have the kayaks cross tied the bow or stern ties wont stop sideways movement. Straps tied to a rack are not going to prevent rack failure. They just go with the rack. You would have to tie the second set of straps to the car like through the windows to gain any effect.

Very good
I think that was on the MENSA exam

Please send license plate number
and car description. I want to make sure I’m not driving behind you.

Gets mighty windy
where I live and have always used four straps. One in front of the cockpit, one behind the cockpit, one for the bow and one for the stern. I have the bow and stern lines looped through the toggles and tied to two places. Kinda looks like an upsidedown V. It minimizes the side to side movement from wind, turns and oncoming big ass trucks. I can’t imagine not ever using all four, but hey, that’s just me.

foam blocks-bow/stern lines
basic rule is to use bow and stern lines when using foam blocks. The boat can move too much when on the foam blocks. Give the bow a push to the side and you will see.

Personally I feel the best reason for using a bow line at minimum would be so that you know what the boat is doing on your roof. I drive the 95 corridor between Boston and Maine and three different times I have pulled strangers over because their boat was askew.

Two other times were people I knew that I was following - one on way back from Georgia - we had walkie talkies to chat and I saw one of the boats suddenly move two feet askew as the cam buckle gave way. Another time was a friend whose Thule saddle slipped and the boat moved. Neither had any clue and if they had a bow line they would have noticed quickly as the line would move.

For the time it takes to potentially save the life of the motorist behind you or your boat, throw a bow line on, it takes only a minute.


With any boat
redundancy is good. You could go one hundred years and never have a failure, or one mile and have a strap break and lose your boat. Just what those people need that drive behind you, because you were too lazy to secure another couple of ropes or straps, is a boat coming through their windshild causing them to lose control…

Plus Water and age deteriorate and weaken any rope or webbing so.

Catastrophic Failures…
They do happen. I won’t drive with a boat on my car again unless bow and stern lines are used. I found out the hard way that factory racks sometimes fail.

Here’s the full chilling story:


Appears to be
a matter of opinion. Everybody has one. I carry kayaks in Montana (where it gets windy,[has blown empty rail road cars off the tracks]) and on Maui where it gets windy too. I only use two straps and have never had a problem. Then again, I have Yakima racks and they are are firmly installed.

Even with a rack and J-cradles, a taut bow line in my field of vision let’s me know everything is cool up top.

Always use 4 !!
I was on my way back home from Valdez with 2 kayaks on top of my Rav4. Saw the wind pull one of the bows as far as the bowline would let it go. I was SOOOOO thankful that I had good Thule racks, good straps mid-kayak, good sternlines, and I immediately stopped and made sure that my bowlines were more firmly in place. It would have been a disaster if I hadn’t had ALL FOUR in place. Redundancy with kayaking is ALWAYS a good thing. In my opinion, what’s it cost to make sure everything is ready for possible problems? A few minutes of my time to protect my investments in fun is a no-brainer.


Read the warranty
For both Thule and Yakima racks (and others, I am sure), whatever warranty you have on the rack system is voided unless whatever you were carrying has also been tied or strapped to at least the front of the vehicle.