"What would you do?"

I’ve decided to never again get in a vehicle with a kayak or canoe that is unsecured by bow and stern lines. This has led to recent friction with two friends. I know this has been discussed ad nauseum here, but I just want to say that for me the biggest issue is responsibility toward other innocent people on the road. That’s a deal breaker for me.

Amen ta dat, Waterboyd

I won’t. Long ago
my gf was decapitated by a canoe unsecured in just that way. She was a passenger in front seat. According to the police, the canoe carrying vehicle was doing the speed limit, 45 mph on a two lane.

I wasn’t in the car w. her. I was in the car behind. I made myself look in the front seat of her car. Just once.

The driver of her car was out of the car, vomiting and crying. Her blood and tissue and hair were on him, with bits of glass cutting his face and neck.

He did nothing wrong.

Since then, I have not driven nor will I ride in any vehicle with paddlecraft atop it which does not use bow and stern tie downs.

I’m speechless
What a horrific tragedy, a lifelong trauma for everyone. After reading your story there should not be any more doubt in anyone’s mind about this issue.

I have been feeling guilty over the conflict with these two friends. In their mind I’m being too rigid. I mentioned in another thread an incident involving an employee of a well-known outdoor retailer who tied a kayak to an unsuspecting older woman’s car with ropes and no bow and stern lines. I spoke up and told him this rigging was unsafe, especially as the customer was about to get on the interstate. That too made me feel guilty for not minding my own business. But I couldn’t get the image of innocent people on the highway out of my mind. So maybe you just have to “make a fool of yourself” and speak up.

I came to my decision after researching what can happen without bow and stern lines. There are so many stories about actual incidents. It is very sobering to realize that many factory roof racks, such as the one on my friend’s car, are made of flimsy plastic.

I also feel disinclined to drive behind an unsecured boat belonging to someone in my own party, not just for my own safety but because to do so means you are condoning the behavior. The dilemma is when to speak up and what to say. You can’t control other people’s behavior. You can only control your own. But someone needs to speak up for the potential victims.

There are parallels here with drunk driving—stopping it when you see it, not being a part of it.

I feel that bow and stern lines should be mandated by law and that law enforcement needs to have an education program in cooperation with canoe and kayak retailers.

A main point is that
it is cheap and easy to do. Given the potential benefit and the small cost I don’t see why anyone would not use bow and stern lines. Laziness??

its over simplifying
The issue by making blanket statements.

Ryan L.

We don’t need a law
Any legislation could not address all possible combinations of boats and vehicles.


– Last Updated: Jul-26-13 12:40 AM EST –

A stern line will do little or nothing to keep a boat from coming off the car to the rear. Bow lines, yes, always use them. If something happens to cause the boat to come off over the front of the car I probably have a much bigger issue than the boat to deal with.

I do all I can to ensure safety
I use J hooks and bow, and stern lines. I takes me probably six minutes to do my hull straps and maybe three minutes to do my bow and stern lines. For less then ten minutes time I have done all I can to ensure me and those driving around me a safe trip. I also check all the rigging at every stop I make. We do all we can to stay safe on the water, lets take the same precautions while travelling to it.

I guess you wouldn’t be in a car with…
with me, and with an attitude like yours, I wouldn’t want you in it.

Jack L

Aah! But iffin’ de rack fails…
stoyn lines kin keep de boat fro’ fish-tailin’, flailin’ around an’ possibly comin’ off de sides.


I hate to admit it…

– Last Updated: Jul-26-13 9:02 AM EST –

but I don’t always use them. It depends how far apart the racks are, how long the boat is, and how far/fast I‘ll be traveling.

Ties lines will help to keep the boat from lifting up off the car (or the rack) when you are moving at high speed. Just as important, they can also help to keep the boat from moving side-to-side which can eventually loosen the straps on the rack. I think both of these movements are more likely to happen with a long boat on a narrow rack.

The rack on my Taurus sedan in only 32” wide. At that width the boat moves around a lot, and I always use bow and stern lines. The rack on my mini van is 62” wide. At that width the boat is pretty stable, and I don’t usually use tie lines.

One of the problems with bow and stern lines is that there often aren’t good attachment points. I’ve thought of using “S” hooks, but the bumpers on my cars are plastic, and there aren’t any easy attachment points below on the frame. On the Taurus I’ve attached rope loops to the frame under the hood and in the trunk. It works fine, but over time the ropes begin to wear, so they need to be replaced - straps would last longer. On the van, I could put a loop under the hood, but because the boat sticks out so far over the back, stern lines are more problematic.

Ropes are another concern – are they actually going to stand up under the force of a catastrophic failure of the rack? I use the painters as tie down lines, and I assume they would hold up, but…

All things being equal, I agree that it is better to use bow and stern lines than not to, but there are a lot of issues to consider. I’d actually be more concerned that the guy in front of me has a good rack and sturdy straps – although I wouldn’t complain if he used bow and stern lines too.

Sounds like a good policy

– Last Updated: Jul-26-13 2:18 PM EST –

Stick to it. Buy some decent kernmantle line. Apply lines if the other guy doesn't.

depends on the type of boat,
yes we all need to think more about others safety to avoid tragic outcomes to innocent bystanders and fellow paddlers but many short boats can be secured adequately without bow and stern lines. I’ve had the most problems when securing multiple canoes and longer kayaks “that catch the wind” even when they are secured with additional bow and sterns lines. Shorter ww kayaks can be secured snugly with two straps over the hull. When multiple boats get stacked on one vehicle, frequently they get tied to each other in addition to straps over the hull. On the highway I always like to add bow and stern lines, with short boats its hard to detect movement without them since you can’t see the boat. The down side to bow and stern lines is obvious- they can be hard to attach because you have reach out over the vehicle, it takes longer to unload/untie and finding good attachment points can be difficult. However, we need to plan for the unexpected. Strong winds, rack failure, sliding boats, ice and cold, they all have happened to me and I’m glad I had bow and stern lines when they did. The most dangerous thing is unsecured gear and boats in the back of pick up trucks. I’ve learned a few lessons after having folks tell me things were “good enough”. Fortunately, paddles and boats were retrieved and no one was hurt. Lesson learned.

Mostly, I carry my boats in my van. the trick is to wedge them between the seats so they don’t go a flyin’ through the windshield. That could be bad as well.

Read RavenWing’s post
Your personal feelings about me are 100% irrelevant to this discussion. What is underneath YOUR attititude? Maybe it goes like this:

“I don’t like being told what to do. I do what I please. I’m smart enough to know how to attach my canoe to my vehicle. Been doing it for years and never had an accident. It’s MY canoe and MY vehicle. There’s no way my canoe is coming off my vehicle, and I don’t care about scary stories about what has happened to OTHER people—it’s not going to happen to ME because I don’t make the idiotic errors that those people made. Besides, those stories, even if they are true (which I doubt) are extremely rare. I’ve never seen this happen in my 50 years of transporting a canoe. Bottom line, this is MY decision.”

You know what’s missing in that attitude? An awareness of other people on the highway and passengers in your own vehicle. It’s not all about you, Jack. Every time you get behind the wheel of your vehicle you’re committing to not endangering other people on the highway. Driving a vehicle responsibly means that you are educated about all the risks and you are willing to do what it takes to minimize those risks, especially the risks toward others.

There is an indisputable risk with not using bow and stern tiedowns. Notice that in RavenWing’s story the vehicle was going only 45 mph. I believe that equates to a 90 mph crash when the canoe hit the car behind. Highway speed would equate to a 120 mph crash against a brick wall.

When you say, “I’m not willing to spend an extra 5 minutes securing bow and stern lines” you’re shifting the burden of the risk onto other people. There is no defense for that. Why should others bear the risk of your irresponsibility?

Try to visualize this
The rack or center straps fail and your boat is now attached only by a bow line.

Thanks Jack
Once again, you’ve really added something to the conversation. Maybe sometime you should check your own attitude.

I agree
I tie the lines if I am just moving a hundred meters across a parking lot. Yes I am somewhat obsessive.

Other alternatives
I never use bow and stern lines on my pickup. The angles formed don’t really provide added safety. Tying to thwarts and bed tiedowns is a much better option.

recent convert

– Last Updated: Jul-26-13 11:12 AM EST –

Never used to use them and my SOT's never budged.

Recently bought a used plastic SINK.
strapped it on top just like i do mt SOT's.

Drove a block stopped to check. (like i always do)

Holy slippery kayak
holy potential missle!

attached bow and stern lines and off i went.

Never transporting again with out them.

BTW, i also always tell someone where I m going and
I even wear my PFD on days when it doesn't seem absolutely necessary.

-just sayin