Thule Hullavator Pro: After being placed in the cradles, kayak wants to tumble out

Background: REI installed my new roof rack & Hullavator Pro, BUT when I tried to put the kayak on in the cradles, after extending cradle sets, it wanted to flip out of cradles.

Given that kayak must be tied down w. the straps, BEFORE pushing it onto the roof. But shouldn’t the kayak stay put, sitting on its side in the cradles without straps?

This smells of a stupid user issue, who is overlooking something.

OT: To those who convinced to get this, because the cradles can be removed to allow the car to fit in the garage, you were right! Each cradle set is heavy, and the pin be exactly in the right position, but it definitely works.

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You brace the kayak in position with your body. If the kayak wants to tumble out it’s a sign that the chines are resting on the angled pads of the cradle arms and not setting hull down on the hard plastic connectors. Set the straps in place before setting the kayak in the cradles and fastest eh strap over the foredeck first.

Marshall is correct, check the placement. But of my two most used kayaks, one of the hulls has more of a desire to tilt out than the other.

So make sure the straps are mounted and ready to pull up BEFORE the boat goes into the cradles. Toss them to the side like a guy would with a tie while getting the boat in. Then body block the boat while you get one of the straps secured - foredeck is usually higher in a boat so his suggestion to start there makes sense.

Once that one strap is basically on, you can step back and mess with things like tweaking the boat’s position and getting on the tight cockpit cover from hell.

Thanks Marshall & Celia,

Been agonizing over this: Average sea kayak + tried & tested Hullavator Pro ==> Must be user error.

Next time that I have the Hullavator Pro installed, will try again. But I’ll apply your suggestions about threading the straps through the top cradles, before putting the boat in the Hullavator.

Marshall, the hull definitely wasn’t in contact w. the plastic bases of the small cradles … I remember that.

Personally I don’t thread the straps through the top cradles beforehand. I find it simpler to toss the straps in the cockpit, lift the kayak into the cradles, body brace the kayak, then grab the readily available straps and strap the kayak in.

The kayak may stay nicely in the cradles before strapping, but I don’t trust it. I always body brace. That’s why we body brace the kayak and have the straps handy rather than run off and get them.

I’ve always threaded the straps through the bottom of the cradles before I load. Once the boat is placed in the cradles, I keep it in place with my body as I strap it in.

I tried threading the straps through the top cradles but I get better tension pulling down than up.

The straps are rather in the way when threaded through the top cradles beforehand; the bottom cradles should work better.

For this older puny lad, the hullavators have been great. But I do have a complaint … Once the kayaks are in place on top of the car, the kayak rests on the two lumps that comprise the under hull support. Are these designed to oil can a rotomolded kayak?

Might be a problem if you used rachet straps and kept the boat in the cradles for hours, but Thule supplies very nice cam straps. As to those hard plastic lumps, I covered them with 1/4-inch-thick nylon backed neoprene. No more black marks on my hull.

Yes, I have my own solution to the lump problem - but the lumps are a significant design flaw.

I’m glad you realised that we weren’t fibbing about how easy it is to remove and reinstall the cradle assemblies. :smiley:

The kayak will also tend to want to ‘tumble out’ if the vehicle isn’t level, otherwise a bit more adjustment of the cradle arms is needed.

I too always threaded the straps through the bottom cradles before I load, which makes it easy to then thread through the top cradle while I am positioned at the cockpit, holding the boat in place in the cradles if necessary (I always place a hand on the kayak while installing the straps, not trusting it to stay put).

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If I toss them to the side they are not in the way. And makes them easier to grab since once the boat is in the cradles I am leaning against it.

It sounds like we have 3 good methods:

  • straps through lower cradle
  • straps through upper cradle and shoved aside
  • straps in the cockpit
    All requiring you support the kayak while you secure the first strap.
    But what is chancy is putting the kayak in the cradles and hoping it stays there while you go looking for the straps.

I don’t own a Hullavator, but if I did and felt it awkward to lean into the boat and do the cam straps at the same time I think I would get one or two bungee cords that would hook over the bars to hold the boat temporally as I fiddled with the cam straps. I would never rely on the bungee to hold it going down the road but you could leave them on along with the cam straps if you wanted. I would likely just toss them in the car after I was done.

A bungee hanging off the lower bar would take only a second to latch onto the top unlike cam straps where I like to look at them and make sure they are going the correct direction to pull and are not twisted.

I often use some kind of trick for when I need a third hand.


GREAT IDEA bud16415 … why didn’t I think that? Measured 23" from the bottom of a cradle to the top. The bars where the bungee hooks onto is about 1" diameter. 2 of these would easily secure the kayak long enough to attach the straps.

Searching Amazon now. If you know of other retailers that carry bungees, I’m all ears. (Home Depot was a bust.)

When the kayak wouldn’t stay put in the cradles yesterday, I was very disheartened … all of this time & $$$, and I’m no better off than where I was, when I got the brainstorm to bring the sea kayak out of hibernation.

That’s why I like bud16415’s idea the best. When I saw the 1st Hullavator, over 10 years ago, was wondering how a kayak would stay put, while on its side. And even if it did stay put, agree with your 1st response to this thread: Would I trust it to stay put?

Rookie, I agree that pulling the straps down is much easier. Always did it that way, when using saddles & HullyRollers.

Jury is still out on the Hullavator, mowog73, since I haven’t car topped the kayak yet, much less got it to & from a paddling destination. But I’m getting closer. :slight_smile:

Good point. There is retention basin on the driver side of my property (over a house width away), and there might be enough incline to create trouble loading onto the cradles. If it is the exclusive culprit,

  1. bud16415’s bungee suggestion should solve it.
  2. Other Hullavator users must have experienced this at some point.

And thanks for reaffirming what others have been saying, ‘Even if the kayak is staying put, while on its side, do NOT trust it to do so.’

Thanks to everyone who contributed. Even if the kayak did stay on the cradles by itself, the virtue of securing it before walking away is a good one.

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There are a million bungee options you should find one that’s perfect. I had a bungee kit once where you got a roll of the material and a bunch of hooks and you could cut and make any length you needed.

The more I thought about it I think I would leave them attached. I have taken a pair of pliers and bent the S hook on the bungee to make it captive. If you could do that on the bottom side then they would always be there ready to go. Plus then you will have people telling you it isn’t safe to count on a bungee to hold your boat on and then you get to explain the idea.

Glad I could help. Post a picture when you get it figured out for others to find.

I bought a mixed length set at Harbor Freight several years ago,

I remain confused about why you can’t just lean against the boat in the cradles and slap a strap to completion. You are already standing in front of it to load it, so you are already there.

But if it seems simpler to throw in temporary stuff like a bungie cord… I guess.


As I get older I like to tell myself I’m working smarter not harder. In reality I have to work smarter.

Everyone is at a different place with different abilities.

Do whatever it takes and get that boat back in the water and out of the garage.

Or, only park sideways on really steep hills! :grinning:

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Ordered, Biggest issue is the inside diameter of the hook. Most places don’t say anything about the hook size (e.g. Harbor Freight), and out of the remaining ones, most have tiny hooks. (Just meant fewer to choose from.)

Celia, the bungee idea might seem overkill. But it’s peace-of-mind. Need both hands to thread each strap, while the bungee only needs a single hand. And less time that I’m pinning the boat with my body, means less chance of something going wrong.

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