How do I get my gear to and from the water without damaging it, my car, or myself? It’s a question most new paddlers ask.
ROOF RACKS: Make sure they are rated to carry the weight of your watercraft. Some of the more sporty racks look cool but they may not be quite up to the job. Also, if you plan on carrying more than one boat at any stage, it is better to get the type of racks that are wider than the roof, but not wider than the car, as that would be illegal. If you aren’t too precious about your vehicle, this type of rack can also help with loading. Simply put a towel on the side of the car and one end of your boat in the slot created by the junction of the car’s roof and the rack, then slide the boat up. It is also possible to get roof rack extenders that retract within the width of the rack when not in use.
CRADLES AND PILLARS: There are a variety of roof rack attachments that can be used to help transport your watercraft. If you have a SUP or one sit-on-top kayak, you probably won’t need cradles as they rest nicely on racks alone. Otherwise, there are a number of options available. For a single kayak, it’s hard to go past adjustable cradles. These do the job perfectly and don’t have to be removed every time you drive into somewhere with low clearance. For more than one kayak, there are systems with upright pillars against which one or more boats can be stacked on their sides across the car, and secured using tie down attachment points at the end of each one. When not in use, they can be folded down out of the way.
TIE DOWNS: These are webbing straps with cam fasteners that can be used to secure your watercraft onto your roof racks. They are secured using cam fasteners, saving you from having to learn tricky knots. Go for quality. After all, your tie downs are the only thing preventing your boat from flying off the car at high speed. Ocky straps are not recommended because the stretch in them means they are unable to hold a heavy load securely. Lockable tie downs are really handy. They give you the extra comfort of knowing that your boat isn’t being nicked while you aren’t looking.
TROLLEY: If you aren’t able to park right next to a launch site, a trolley will save you the pain of a long carry. The size of the wheels is important. Wide wheels are better on sand, and tall wheels let you position the trolley closer to the centre of the boat (lengthwise) when in use, thereby reducing the weight you have to support.
BIG PLASTIC TUB: These are great for putting all your wet gear in after a paddle, not to mention storing it between trips. Many people have learned the hard way that throwing your salt water soaked gear straight in the boot leads to a rusty floor very quickly.
TWO LITRES OF FRESH WATER: There’s a really good reason for this. Salt water and cars do not go well together, so it is preferable that none drips off your boat while in transit. It gets into the rubber seals around the windows and doors and is impossible to get out. This water will let you wash the boat before you put it on the roof racks.