Travel from Ohio to Florida with kayak on roof rack


Has anyone travelled long distances with their kayak on the roof rack? I am going to Florida for a while and am considering taking it with me. I have driven with it short distances…but not a long one. What experiences have you had? Any helpful hints or things to look out for? Is it even a good idea?
Thank you

Long distance travel with boat(s) on roof is done by many. General minimum - good straps (or ropes) and bow & stern lines. Now for a few questions:

  • What type of kayak: 10’ rec; 8’ Whitewater, 18’ sea kayak?

    *What type of racks system: J-cradles on factory cross bars; Stackers or horizontal cradles; after market cross bars such as Thule or Yakima?

  • What is the spacing between the cross bars

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Perception Pescador Pro 10 foot- recreation. Thule Rapid Podium Aero Bar Roof Rack. Thule Hullivator Pro Lift. Spacing is fixed. About 26 inches between the middle of each fixed point. I follow the bow and stern rules and use what was provided with the roof rack/pro lift.

Check the straps at each stop and initially after maybe 10 miles.

Otherwise, it isn’t really different than a short trip


When we are traveling long distances with a 16’ and 18’ kayak we double up on everything for each boat. Two bow and stern lines. Two straight down and two crossed. We also double up on the straps at the saddles. Go around both the crossbars and roof rails, if present, and not just strap the boat to the saddles or J-bars.

Carefully inspect the roof racks and saddles or J-bars for any loose or damaged components before setting out. Be sure that the straps or lines that you will be using are in good shape.

Whenever you stop check that all lines and/or straps are snug, not loose and not too tight.



If your system is solid, this is the answer.
If your system isn’t solid, make it so…


I have done 2.5 round trips up and down the East coast (RI/NH to FL and back) with no issues, plus a half a dozen shorter trips to the Keys (6-7 hours). I do pretty much exactly what @rstevens15 said, only thing I would add is to bring some extra straps in case, and have a way to lock the boat to the rack at night - can be a set of locking straps (which can double as your second set of straps) or a lock cable.

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I agree with mike93lx, but would add that you should check after maybe 10 miles of expressway speed (60-75mph?) driving. The wind and other forces at highway speeds can cause slight shifts and stretching of straps and lines. (If you’ve got a long ways to go before you get to the expressway, then this should be an additional stop.)

As for bow and stern lines, their main purpose is to keep the boats with the car if the rack tie-downs fail. If you over-tighten them you can bend the boat and possibly fold it. Just make sure the knots are tight, and the lines aren’t so loose that they’re flapping around. Bowlines and truckers hitches are all you should need for rope knots.

Long lengths of flat strap that aren’t touching the boat/car/rack can make for loud humming noise. Putting a few twists in the strap will prevent the humming.


Also, check straps or ropes if they get wet from rain or morning dew because they can stretch when wet. But after you snug them up when wet, check again as they dry out as they can get too tight and deform the boat.


Traveled from Delaware to Ontario, CA with two 16 foot kayaks in J-Cradles on a factory roof rack, and bow and stern lines. No problems, solid. Same as shorter trips other than my stopping and checking from time to time. Your plan sounds very doable, just use common sense.

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If your kayak deck design allows it, I suggest carrying the kayak upside down. There are a number of reasons to do so, one of them being to avoid it getting filled with water if you run into heavy rain. Also doesn’t risk deforming the hull of a plastic boat if you travel in hot weather (pressure of the rack on heat-softened plastic). On my car, the cockpit rim fits between the rack bars which adds a little more security from the boat shifting or sliding in a high inertia situation, but that may not work for you. The shot below is two of my boats (18’ and 15’) strapped on my car before a 3000 mile round trip from western PA to the far east of Quebec. No problems at all, even with some really heavy winds and storms along the way.

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I can’t add too much to what’s been posted already.
Just this, be certain you know how each component of your rack system attaches to the car and the other components. Keep the tools handy to tighten or adjust any part of it.
Some folks let a dealer install the rack and never take the time to learn it. I feel it’s very important to have the tools and the knowledge before the trip begins.


It is really the same as driving a half hour from your house, only longer. Account for higher speeds and large trucks coming the other way pushing a lot of air around. That means a decent rack, lines or straps on the rack, and lines fore and aft to the bumpers.

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Especially with a Hullavator system you’ll be just fine.

I drive between South Carolina and Nova Scotia with 13’ and 14’ kayaks on the roof of my Santa Fe with two Hullavators and I’ve never had a problem. Of course I use the Thule bow and stern tie-downs and I put cockpit covers on boats in case of rain. I also use red marker flags on the rear of the boats but with a short 10’ kayak you might not even need them.

I would recommend that you go over all the Thule hex nuts on the racks and towers with an Allen key before you leave to make sure they’re snug and I definitely recommend stopping somewhere after 10 minutes or so of setting off to check all the straps and lines. I also check the straps at each coffee/gas/bathroom break.

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Depends on the rack, as above use at least a bow line and I always double strap at each point for even shorter trips. Really any trip involving highways.

You haven’t said what you rack is unless I missed it above.

Going over all the rack with an Allen wrench should be part of your pre trip check on every boat transport but at least daily on a long trip
We are enroute to Cali from Maine for yet another long trip I think its our thirtieth with boats
Semi trucks passing put a lot of pressure on boats up there so thats why the daily check


At least for the Thule Hullavator equipment every bolt is also secured with a lock washer. Checking all those bolts “for every boat transport” simply isn’t necessary.

Most of my trips are 2-3 miles to my local put in so I check those bolts typically monthly; in almost 10 years of ownership they almost never need tightening and if so then just a tiny bit. I do check them over if we’re taking a long trip anywhere.

I was surprised to find that a couple of my bolts on the Hullivator had gotten loose after it was mentioned elsewhere. I did have to tighten two of them under where the boat sits. Honestly the weight of the boat and my habit of double strapping even there probably secures the boat OK. But getting spare parts from anyone, especially Thule, has been difficult to impossible over this last year due to factory shut downs.

It only takes a few seconds to check and tighten the bolts, but very time-consuming to replace them.

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Loctite Blue 242 medium strength threadlocker is also a good idea for those bolts. (Don’t use the Red 271 stuff if you ever want to easily disassemble things!)


A little side note: Getting spare bolts from Thule has always been difficult (but yes, more difficult lately). I lost a very specific bolt from a truck rack that supposedly wasn’t able to back out and was told that I would have to get a whole new assembly to the tune of nearly $100 since they didn’t sell the bolt separately and it isn’t one I could just get from the hardware store. Multiple phone calls gave no satisfaction. I ended up sending them a note on their Facebook page detailing the situation, and within a week I had 4 of the bolts in the mailbox, free of charge.

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