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Cartopping SOF kayaks long distance

Hal Hammond

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I’ve been wondering what the best approach is to cartopping skin on frame kayaks.


We’re headed back from the UP of Michigan to Colorado with two Ravenswood kayaks on the roof of our minivan. They traveled ok from Denver to Michigan sitting in 9 ft long racks with V saddles  mounted to Thule square bars.


Initially I had 1/2 rope running through pool noodles to span the V saddles but the noodles left impressions on the decks when the kayaks were cinched down tightly so I switched yo 1 1/2” nylon webbing. Ok so far.


For long distance travel on the interstate, add a binge around the bow to help dampen vibrations and buffeting. I also shrink wrap the cockpits to keep wind and debris out.


What’s you solution—any advice or tips? I feel like I might be overdoing it but I was concerned about shaking the lashed joints and/or having the wind blow up the skin like a large ballon.









Sorry—images loaded upside down. I’ll take some more pics…

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Nice setup!


Fitted cradles—I did something similar for one of my rowing shells Denver to Michigan.  I also used fore and aft tie downs. 25ft long.  

In this case, I wanted to support the kayaks for more than the 30” between Thule bars, hence the v cradles mounted to a long support beam. Rowing shells use a similar design for cartopping. See https://burnhamboatslings.com/1x-single-boats/


My kayak version uses a 9 ft 2x4 for the main beam and the cradles are made from bent steel 1/4”x1.5” flat bar stock. The blocks raise the cradles to allow clearance for the  coaming. The 2x4s have some flex which smoothes the road vibrations quite a bit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's how my Ravenswood travels: Thule roof rack with "Stacker" and surf pads. Two straps, one at front of the coaming and one at the rear. Bow line attaches to a strap that is held by a bolt under the hood. Stern line attaches to the hook ring on the trailer hitch. 






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Looks good—do you travel far? I was worried about wind buffeting on a longer trip.


Since taking the photos, I’ve upgraded a bit. I now use Seals cockpit covers. The 1.7 seems ok. The deck isn’t drum tight but they stay put, even on the Ravenswood laminated coaming without the lip. I haven’t gone on the highway yet though.

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1 hour ago, Hal Hammond said:

Looks good—do you travel far? I was worried about wind buffeting on a longer trip.


This week, we drove from north Jersey to Lake Placid, almost 300 miles and mostly at 65 to 70 mph. All arrived intact. There were some gusty sections and the boat moves around a bit, but remember that SOF boats aren't made to be too rigid. Picture shows me giving the grandson a ride. 




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