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Roof racks, 4 boats one car?

BigandSmall

Paddler
Joined
Mar 2, 2012
Messages
432
Location
Northern BC
Is there a safe set up for getting 4 sea kayaks on a mid sized vehicle? Would this be a possibility with aftermarket crossbars mounted to factory roof rails? Tied down front and rear of course. I do have a utility trailer to haul them all but it would be nicer to leave it home for longer drives.
 
I've done three high volume kayaks on an 80 inch custom Yakima bar, on a long haul, boats upright, not on edge. I think there are width restrictions for over the highway passenger vehicles so maybe 96 inches might be the limit. Semis might have different restrictions.

In a heavy side wind, you might have trouble. Unless the rack is supported well at its towers, you might have issues there, also.

My bar was 1 inch water pipe, fattened with at least two wraps of duct tape. I think there might be a steel conduit that is the right size for Yakima hardware, if you run one wrap of duct tape over it. The water pipe was about twice as heavy as Yakimas bar would have been.

When we did this, we hit our heads on the bar ends a lot. Rubber crutch tips prevented cuts, but we got bruised. We truly hated the setup and only used those bars a couple times, one run being from here to Rupert/QCI and back (3000 miles?). We were nuts .... :roll: :doh:
 
Depends on the strength of the factory roof rails, but not really. Let me explain. (cause the strength of the bar is never an issue, I have seen driftwood used for years on one guys van)
I tend to use the experts ideas as a starting point or see your car manual to find out what the rails are rated to.
You could look up your vehicle on http://fitlookup.yakima.com/fitlookup.aspx or pick your fav rack company (Thule etc) to find a good estimate of strength.
From memory I don't remember ever seeing a rack rated for more than 165 for rail mounted bars. (or for any style mounted bars for that matter). Do your 4 boats weigh less that 165lbs? unlikely if you are sea kayaker.
This brings us to how do you feel about the strength of your rack, the weight of your 4 boats, and the risks you are willing to take on. How far are you going? How likely are you to encounter side winds of 60km/hr.
I have seen quite a few people lose 2-4 boats off the roof when the rack failed. The amount of windage on 4 boats at 100km/hr, with a bit of a side wind, on that 150lb rated rack is HUGE!
Don't get me wrong, people that are very good at tie down jobs and don't mind taking risks get away with overloading their roofracks for years. The reason why the tie down job matters is that experts are able to minimize the amount the boats are able to swing and veer off of straight while travelling fast. Second, they are able tie down the boats so well that if the rack does fail, the boats still stay on the roof so you can get to the side of the road.
Imagine losing 4 boats off the roof onto a highway at 100k, with traffic.
I would be interested to hear others thoughts and suggestions.
 
Reef's caveats are valid, although I have run more than 165 lbs on my racks for years, and I am for sure no expert! Could be one reason I have never lost a rack with boats is most of the time my vehicles have had honest rain gutters ... remember those? ?... and the rack hardware was solidly attached to those gutters. (I agree the rooftop rails one sees on many vehicles often are poorly fastened to the sheet metal of the roof.)

Modern vehicles dont have rain gutters any more, so the security of the rack roof connection depends on a really good fit of the rack foot into the door roof gap. Yakima makes a huge variety of clips which are sold as tailored for each vehicle model. I have run that hardware with three boats up top, but things shifted more and I never felt as secure as I did with the old fashioned rain gutters. Those babies were solid.

Ferrying lumber on short runs from the home improvementt center, I know I have carried at least 200 lbs up top. But I would not want to do that on a long trip where I might encounter heavy side winds.
 
Yep. I used rain gutter mounts for many years, and yep they are tougher than Q towers from Yakima and the footpacks from Thule. But I think the question is about 4 boats on a
possibility with aftermarket crossbars mounted to factory roof rails?
another style.
Having sold racks for years, and repaired boats for years, and done insurance replacements of boats for years, every single time I saw a failure it was somebody that said something like "but it has never happened before".
Carrying at least 200 lbs on a rack designed for less is a risk for the rest of us on the road too. Maybe not a huge risk, but def a risk.
Every experienced paddler is going to have a story of "I once carried X amount of boats on the roof and it was fine", I am not sure that makes it good practice. People are much quieter about when they collapsed a tower on their roofrack due to overloading and or lost the entire rack/boats due to no bow/stern lines.

but perhaps we should start a thread on "I have carried X amount of boats on my roof and it was fine" cause I bet we would hear some great stories. I would have a few to share myself.
 
Reef said:
.....but perhaps we should start a thread on "I have carried X amount of boats on my roof and it was fine" cause I bet we would hear some great stories. I would have a few to share myself.
You mean like this?...photo taken at my favorite shop in Seattle by a staff while shop owner was gone. (This pic is on Outdoorplay's FaceBoo page, so it is not mine.)
 

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That picture is great Sushiy... I had just seen so many cars with 4 WW boats that I had hoped there might be a new stacker out there for sea kayaks. Thank you for the advice guys, I'll just get another pair of Seawings and stick to the trailer to haul more than two. I miss the rain gutter design as well. My Thules on my old VW Golf were rock solid. The factory cross bars started failing on my minivan with only a few cedar 4x4's on them.
 
photo taken at my favorite shop in Seattle by a staff while shop owner was gone
That is terrific!
WW boaters are always willing to go to the extra effort to car pool.
 
Saw this load at Egmont a couple of years back. The rest of the boats were playing in the Skookumchuck. Yes, that's a North Carolina licence plate. I can just picture the ad: "Going up to BC, have room for a couple of boats. Want to share the gas?"
 

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BigandSmall said:
That picture is great Sushiy... I had just seen so many cars with 4 WW boats that I had hoped there might be a new stacker out there for sea kayaks. Thank you for the advice guys, I'll just get another pair of Seawings and stick to the trailer to haul more than two. I miss the rain gutter design as well. My Thules on my old VW Golf were rock solid. The factory cross bars started failing on my minivan with only a few cedar 4x4's on them.

Can you elaborate on the "new stacker" you're looking for, please?

The base of the Yakima Big Stack ( http://yakima.com/shop/water/roof/bigstack ) fits all common crossbar types I know of (we use it on a Thule Xsporter, which is as wide as, but a bit thicker than, the new aerodynamic crossbars, like the Aero or Whispbars) and can be used for sea kayaks on edge.

The problem I see is definitely the load capacity rating of your vehicle / basic rack set-up. (Since your fleet consists partly of fairly small / light boats you might want to do the math?) And as mentioned by others above, bow and stern lines are a must with that many boats.
Depending on the trailer layout you can also put a stacker on there.

All the best from the coast! :big_thumb
 
You will definitely exceed the rated weight allowance for any rack system, but carrying four boats is done all the time. Use a stacker (there are many options or you can make your own with $25 worth of hardware) and put the boats on their side. If you have composite boats make sure to pad between the boats (and the stacker). Plastic boats are no problem. I've carried five sea kayaks (and more WW boats) many times on a standard Thule rack attached to my camper shell. Using front and rear tie downs helps keep the boats/rack connected to the vehicle in case of failure.
 
Thank you for the product suggestion Red Kite. Yes some of the boats are quite small. I am just at the point of buying more roof racks as the fleet continues to grow. I thought if there was a easy way to haul 4 I'd get J racks instead of seawings to use with a stacker. Seems to me I read a while back that stacker use was suggested to have a max length of ten feet? I have no issue overloading things for short runs. I usually carry 2 Tsunami SP's tied together in one seawing. We often have to make long drives though for more interesting paddling locations and for that I' like a secure load. For now I'm content to trailer unless we upgrade vehicles. Thank you all for your suggestions.

Mike.
 
I Borrowed this pic from the delta kayaks Facebook page.

I think having things secure is the biggest factor. I have seen people lose small light loads that just weren't tied down well, and I have loaded some ridiculous things in the back of a truck strapped down tight and snug that did not move an inch after a day on the highway. When in doubt use more rope!
 

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newfie in Alberta said:
I think having things secure is the biggest factor.... When in doubt use more rope!

I cannot agree more. Also, a good knot tying knowledge is more than essential. :big_thumb :big_thumb :big_thumb
 

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Dan_Millsip said:
Four boats? One vehicle?

No problem.

Last weekend...

Was that Sunday? I think I saw you guys leaving the beach as we were arriving back...I guess I should have waved! :oops:
 
Yep, we were coming back about that time. That was our first paddle of the season, so we were only out for a couple of hours.

Perfect day for a paddle...with the light drizzle, we were pretty much the only people on the water!
 
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