Transporting a sea kayak long distances?


I have been using kayaks locally and found that for the most part foam blocks will suffice for local transport, however I’ve finally decided to get my own boat (17’ poly) and thought that I need to protect my rather large investment. I recently got a yakima rack to help with this.

What kink of holder should I get for my car. I will be traveling on the interstate for a couple hundred miles and was looking at Thule j cradles. Are these pretty secure even on a Yakima rack? Any other suggestions are very welcome!

multiple 1000+ mile trips with j-cradles, so far so good.

Two styles
Two styles with excellent results.

  1. Yakama J-hooks - I carry a CD Kestrel SOT in it

  2. Yakama Saddles - I carry a Impex Diamante in it

    Each is an excellent system with it’s advantages. I can recommend that each system is very solid on the car top and we have logged about 2,500 miles around the states of FL, GA and SC with not a problem.

    Are they expensive? Yes. To my way of thinking they are stupid money for what you are buying but the peace of mind is priceless.

Thousands and thousands of miles
padded bars…boat(s) upside down on deck…plastic or composite…NO ISSUES EVER! Your boat got to your dealer this way in a semi trailer. Save the cash and buy a great paddle. Most of these contraptions are not necessary…just designed to take your $$$. Exception would be a race boat or surf ski. I’d cradle that. Stacker bars are good for side multiple carries.

I prefer hull up on foam
Many systems work just fine, including all the expensive Yakima and Thule gadgets.

I have always preferred to carry kayaks, decked canoes and outrigger canoes hull up on my van. I think this affords the best protection against the elements and is the most aerodynamic.

To do that, I use foam cradle blocks over my Thule bars with the decked boats strapped upside down.

I stopped using bow and stern tie downs about 10 years ago when I switched from ropes to straps, and I have driven all over North America this way, including the past 5 years with a 22 foot outrigger on my roof.

The devices that hold the boat on it’s side are ok if you have multiple boats to be carried (more than two) or for whitewater boats that are fairly light and short. For a longer boat I carry them on their bottoms, strongest part. Any of the saddles work fine thought the Yakima ones are designed to work on a round bar. For any trips other than around town I use bow and stern straps, all it takes is for one of the cross straps to abrade thru and your kayak then is a sail without bow and stern lines.

Bill H.

Ditto . . .
We have at least five thousand miles carrying two sea kayaks on Thule Hull-a-Port “J” racks, with no significant problems.

I do periodically check for tightness of the knobs on the mounting assembly and faithfully use both front and back safety ropes, attached to the kayak bow and stern eyes. Even though we use the Thule straps to secure the boats to the racks, why tempt disaster by not having a back-up system? There’s a reason why every rack manufacturer includes the safety ropes along with strict instructions to use them.

Take the time to read some stories on the topic about what comes down when s— happens and you’ll have the wisdom to follow their admonitions!

If you already have the Yakama racks
Don’t get Thule J cradles- they suck and will rotate on your round bars if you slide your boat on them.

Regardless of what Thule or anyone else says. (I know from experience).

Get either Yakama or Malones

I have both J cradles and saddles.

When I am carrying three boats I use the J cradles which allows extra space.

If I am just carrying one or two I use the saddles which allow the boats to nest nicely.

You are right on the money on your thinking though for long distance travel.

Make sure you use cam-lock buckle straps too



What Jackl said
And yes, do use bow and stern straps. Racks can fail. The guy who doesn’t use them on a 22 foot boat is a dumbass. It’s not just the value of the boat you need to be concerned about. It is the value of the life of the person in the car behind you.

Bow & stern lines
I personally know two people who have had rack systems come off their cars on the highway. One had bow & stern tiedowns, and the other watched 2 NDK Exporers take flight at 85 mph & crash onto the highway.

As a friend of mine once said, “Bow & stern lines are a social responsibility”.

Now if you have truck racks, or something with a huge bar spread, that does change the equation. But for cars, better safe than sued.

Whew. At least they were only NDKs


And keep the kayaks flat. Absolutely no reason even for poly bpats, of which I own 8, to use a J-cradle. Hardder to get them on Js, esp in rain, and works fine to have flat. Simply tie properly.

G’uck with plastic boat purchase. I too am in IL and selling a plastic boat (one of my 8 plastic boats–I love them), so email me if you are in the plastic boat market. I own Valleys and a couple Prijons.

Bye bye, trantula.

Went back to stackers
The old fashioned kind, upside down angled U’s. Haven’t tried the J’s, but the saddles seemed to take more fussing than the stackers. We went this way at first because it was the only way to handle a mix of boats, sea kayaks, composite and plastic as well as WW boats up at once. But they’ve worked the best of what we have used, quite secure and more flexible.

Yakima makes pads for the bars to pad the bottom of the boat, though they do age.

Bottoms not strongest. typically
Typically decks are due to their hatch / cockpit coamings, complex shapes, etc. Decks also flatter typically. In the water it’s all good.

Good move
We experimented with foam blocks on bars and they allow too much movement unless very tightly strapped (which can deform boats). OK for short or low-speed drives.

My husband still uses his foams for local paddles, but I prefer the Malone Autoloader J cradles. They allow the kayak to be carried on its side, which is strong. Since I use round bars and installed the cradles so that they do CRADLE the curved contour, the kayak stays put even on steep climbs and descents.

I had Thule J cradles before that, and their flat metal top bars chafed the hulls of two of my kayaks. Their clamps also never tightened enough to prevent the cradles from tilting if slightly bumped. They would probably be fine with oval slat bars (factory crossbars) or square crossbars. But then you would not be able to set the cradles to conform to the kayak’s curves.

If you’re considering other types of cradles, Spring Creek makes some good ones sold by Castle Craft. We carried two sea kayaks 5000 miles (to and from Prince Rupert, BC) on these cradles, which use a long sticky rubber piece that wraps partway up the sides. We also used them on our last drive to and from Lake Powell. (We keep these cradles mounted on the long bars for one vehicle’s rooftop, but normally transport our kayaks on a trailer with the setup described in the second paragraph.)

Either way, they’re more secure at Interstate speeds than foam blocks are.

Foam Blocks
On Suburban standard racks with individual straps and bow and stern tie downs have taken two kevlar kayaks to Maine and back from Wash DC many many times with out a problem.

If the racks came off
someone wasn’t paying attention. They either weren’t installed properly or they didn’t occasionally check that something had loosened. Quality racks don’t just “come off” BTW where do you live that you can drive 85 legally?

I have both yakima j racks and cradles
I prefer the J rack—it’s a lot easier to load the boat single handed and it feels more secure to me.

Racks come off.
I am meticulous. I drove a 20 foot canoe through a great plains thunderstorm which pitched the car around like a ship at sea. The racks were solid.

Same racks, new fit kit and new car, driving only 50mph (no other wind, gusts, passing vehicles) with a 4 by 8 plywood sheet and the whole thing landed in the ditch. I used the exact parts, the exact spread, and was careful to both tighten and lock the racks.

Fact is, they don’t fit all cars perfectly, and wind is a powerful force, and to not have a failsafe is reckless.

As for the cradles, I have too little experience with kayaks, but just put mine deck down on foam.

Depends on how the boat’s built, but the stresses are generally higher on the bottom of the boat (cept around the cockpit) therefore the bottoms are generally where the most material is. If you get a chance to see cores kayaks you’ll see the differences.

Bill H.