Upside down, upright, on sides?

About to buy a rack from the car. I have my trailer which I can haul several boats on. Car will be used for one ore two boats. Rarely might want a third but I can just use the trailer and my truck if I really need the space.

So I am debating how I want to carry the boats. Upside down? Right side up? On side in J-cradle. If I am going to make a long trip I would assume that upside down would be most aerodynamic and save some fuel but I expect there isn’t a dramatic difference. Any compelling reason to haul a boat in a particular orientation if space and fit are not issues? Since my boats are SOF weight is not an issue, so easier to load it not an issue.



any way that works
It depends on what type of boats you are carrying, but you can often get more boats onto a rack of given width by putting them up on their sides against a stacker.

J cradles are kind of convenient since they hold the boat in position while you are strapping it down, but they take up much more rack width.

Carrying boats open side up will of course result in them getting some water in them in a cloudburst, which can increase the load on your rack dramatically, and might well result in you getting wet when you take them off.

Royalex canoes and polyethylene kayaks and canoes can be deformed if they spend a lot of time on a rack in hot sun, especially if they are strapped down tightly. Generally, they pop back out when taken off. For a kayak, it is generally better to have any such deformation on the deck side, rather than the hull side, since a bit of a dent on the deck side won’t affect performance.

One for right-side-up
I prefer right side up:

If worried about rain, get a cockpit cover, which will also allow you to put some lightweight stuff inside the boat if you like. If the deck of your SOF is the right shape, it can go upside down directly on crossbars that have foam padding. I’ve seen a number of Greenland SOFs with flat aft decks being carried this way. I dislike J-carriers, as they are more exposed to high side-winds.

Side winds

Nice boat, looking at the photos I assume you attended one of Brians classe’s? I thought it was an F-1 but see I was wrong.

That is a good point I had not thought about. Side winds could shove you around a little and more probably more force on the boat(s). That is why I asked.

Still I am tempted to make some laminated wood J cradles for use locally. Shows off the boats better and since I sell them it serves as advertising. Should load about as fast as on the trailer.

I am leaning toward foam blocks and upside down/right side up for longer trips where I am putting in the miles on the highway. Foam is pretty universal and I never know which boat(s) I want to take. Plus there is always new ones coming out of the shop. But not made up my mind yet either.



Most SOFs…
… have the thickest wood on the gunwales. So an upside down or side position would probably be less stressful to the boat than deck-up position.

What I do
If I am just carrying our two kayaks I use saddles.

My reasoning being two fold. One that I can give them good support on the saddles pretty close to under the bulkheads, and the second being they are lower to the vehicle roof which means possible a little better gas mileage.

If I am carrying our two kayaks and our tandem canoe at the same time I use J cradles to make room for the canoe between them.

I am forever changing back and forth, but I wouldn’t carry them upside down. mainly because they wouldn’t get the proper support.

Saddles and J cradles are made to carry the boat with the hull against the supports.

jack L

what kocho said…
…consider the kind of boat you have and make the decision that way. I used to have a kayak where the coaming prevented carrying it upside down.

All things being equal I’d vote for the Thule kayak stacker. You can pad out the uprights and crossbars for as much contact as a hull-raiser. But when you’re not using it, it folds flat.

You’re right, I made the SC-1 with Brian - it’s the immediate precursor to the F-1. I had a strong side wind break a J-cradle that was holding a friends boat next to the SOF on my car. Not amusing, as it was on a highway bridge over Jamaica Bay in NYC when a thunderstorm blew up quickly. The EZ-Vee shown is rock solid, and because it has a small footprint, a 24" and 25" boat can fit together flat without J-cradles or stackers.

Side mounted boats will always generate lateral forces that want to twist the boats out of alignment, which is why bow and stern tie-downs are so important in that configuration. Cross winds make it worse, obviously.

Use a cockpit cover if J-cradles

– Last Updated: Sep-29-10 3:14 PM EST –

Kayaks on their sides do catch more wind, and it actually makes a difference even on a trailer. Especially with a SOF, use a cockpit cover if carrying on the side. You'll still take a mpg hit but at least the boat won't have air rammed through the opening at high speed.

I used to carry them upright and on highway drives the trailer and load made no difference to mpg. After I started using J cradles, the mpg took a hit.

My most recent J-cradle recently cracked (long story) and I am switching back to carrying the boat right side up. Upside down would work if it were not for the deck rigging and day hatch--this will depend on your spacing.

I wouldn't use J-cradles on a roof.

I know of Brian but never met him. I know of the F-1 and SC-1, they both have good reputations. I looked at building an F-1 but decided to go another way.

If I do go with J-cradles I will make them in the shop. Laminate them out of what ever wood I have around. So breakage shouldn’t be a problem. Sudden T-storms are not uncommon here in the heat of the summer. I can see how it could push a car around with them on the top. Of course my old Caddy is heavier than you Mini. :slight_smile: Probably wouldn’t be as dramatic as you experienced. But is something to keep in mind. They would add a lot of sail area to the car for sure!

Blue Heron

– Last Updated: Sep-29-10 5:55 PM EST –

I presume you've seen Ross Leidy's page on laminated J-cradles. Just in case you or others haven't, here it is. His work is just beautiful. Click on 'cradles' in the list page-left:

PS - it wasn't that the wind pushed the Mini around, it didn't. In my case, the wind pushed the boat over, breaking the Thule screw attachments holding the J-cradles on the factory bars.

As narrow as your boats are
you can probably do two upside down and not ever have to worry about rain and such. Simple bars, simple straps, and maybe bow/stern lines for longer trips.

If you want to get fancy, pad the bars with a pool noodle or some pipe insulation.

If you’re taking them out for show, you might build some nice cradles as boats do look good up on their sides.

jim $0.02

Ok, seems Brent’s getting overly pickey.
So I’ll re-submit my post with a slightly censored version:

Oh "Christ"mas… Read the manual. Or search the archives. This has all been covered many times over.

Paddle easy,


backwards … upside down …
= bad juju

That was thanks to me on the "alert"
button, and I am proud of myself, and I thank Brent sincerely for acting accordingly.

Jack L

No problem… I don’t take offense to…
it, but some people are thinner skinned to simple irrelevant things as such. If you were offended by such then you have every right to be.

Just remember, as many here (and possibly you in the past)have said “opinions and words on the internet are just that. And should be taken with a grain of salt”.

My opinion of saying “Christ” isn’t a bad thing. In your opinion it is… Everyone is entitled to their own. It just boils down to “how big of a deal is it, really”?

Paddle easy,


i olny know of one guy who carries his c 1 sideways klie a kayak; seems to work for him. my 30 plus years i have always carried upside down

Deck down, hull up
I car top 24/7, 365 days a year. I’m retired, sold the house, and travel full time in a motorhome, towing the car with kayaks on it.

I tried several ways, and settled on padded cross bars, deck down, hull up. They are more stable this way, and less “lift” on the front of the kayaks. The hull design “upside down” puts wind pressure more downward, for less stress on the roof rack.

You can fit 2 kayaks deck down hull up it they are 26" or narrower.


Ask the maker
They know what is best. Span is the key. I drilled holes up thru bottom of doorframe and went with screws to keep rack solid at 70 on rt81

He did …
He’s the maker -:wink: