Just like Captain Ahab had his white whale, every kayaker has their own great challenge: tying down their kayak. But don’t fret! It doesn’t have to be a titanic struggle. Understanding the basics can make this task as breezy as a day out on the water.
You’ll need a sturdy J rack (aptly named for its shape) and a set of reliable straps. The type of straps will depend on your kayak and vehicle, but a set of ratchet straps or cam buckles will usually do the trick.
The first step? Park on a flat, even surface. Make sure your kayak is already loaded onto the J rack, sitting snugly within the curves of the ‘J’. The cockpit should face outwards, while the hull (the bottom of your kayak) nestles into the J rack’s embrace.
Step 01: J Rack Meets the Crossbars
Okay, let’s kick things off with the first step — attaching your J rack to the crossbars. We’re starting with the assumption that your car is already outfitted with crossbars. If that’s the case, we’re all set to get the ball rolling!
Getting your J cradle snugly fit onto the crossbar system is a breeze. These guys usually come with clamps that make mounting as easy as pie, straight onto the crossbars. You might be scratching your head, thinking about compatibility, considering crossbars are as diverse as round pizzas and square toasts. But here’s the good news – there’s no need to stress! Most J racks are like chameleons; they come with adapters that can adjust to fit all sorts of crossbar styles. So, whether your car’s got round crossbars or the square kind, your J rack’s got it covered.
Now, most J racks come with a built-in feature that’s a real game-changer – a lock. This little gem ensures your rack stays put, right where it should be. But if by some chance, your J rack didn’t come with one, it’s worth picking one up.
Think of the lock as a beefed-up security guard for your rack. Not only does it provide extra stability during transport, but it also keeps sticky fingers away while your car is parked, and you’re having a blast out on the water.
Trust me, there’s nothing that can ruin a great day of paddling faster than coming back to your car, just as the sun’s setting, to find out that your racks have gone on an unexpected adventure of their own. The sudden theft leaves you not just with the headache of having to buy a new set, but also with the pressing problem of figuring out how on earth you’re going to get your boat home!
So, getting a lock is a smart move. It gives you peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy your time out on the water knowing that your gear is securely fastened and waiting for you when you return.
02. Prepping Your Straps for the J Rack
Alright, moving on to step two. Picture this: your J rack is now solidly attached to the crossbars, all ready and raring to go. Now, it’s time to bring in the supporting characters in our kayaking adventure story – the kayak straps and tie downs.
If you’ve already got your cam straps in your gear, great! There’s no need to make a dash to the store to buy specific kayak straps. However, keep in mind that kayak straps are specifically designed for J racks. So, if your cam straps are showing signs of wear, it could be an ideal opportunity to upgrade. Kind of like swapping out your old cell phone for a shiny new one, you know?
Now, let’s talk about a common myth in the kayaking world. Many paddlers think that the first step to securing their vessel is to lift it onto the racks. But that’s as misleading as thinking the Red Sea would part just because you stepped into it! Nope, you want to arrange your straps first. Believe me, having your straps ready beforehand will make your job a whole lot easier when you’re hoisting your kayak onto the rack.
When it comes to the act of positioning your straps on the J rack, it’s simple. You loop them up through the upright of your rack, much like threading a needle. Some J racks come with a nifty little feature – a clip that can hold your cam strap in place while you’re getting your kayak ready. This clip resides at the top of the upright. But if we’re being honest, a lot of us find it easier to just let the cam strap go through the upright and fall to the bottom. Kind of like letting go of a kite string and letting it glide down. Feel free to try both methods and see which one floats your boat. Remember, there’s no wrong way to go about it.
Now, here’s the next move. Pull the straps out of the way. Imagine yourself directing the front strap towards the front tire, and the rear strap towards the rear tire, like a maestro conducting an orchestra. Why do this, you ask? Well, you don’t want your straps playing hide and seek under your kayak once you load it up. So make sure they’re out of the way, waiting in the wings for their cue.
03. Adjusting Your J Rack to the Perfect Angle
As we swing into step three, let’s set the stage right for your kayak. Now is the time to adjust your J rack, making sure it’s open wide and ready to comfortably cradle your kayak in its “J” shaped embrace. Think of it as fluffing up a pillow before settling down for a good night’s rest.
There’s nothing more irksome than hauling up a hefty kayak, ready to load it up, only to find your J rack stubbornly closed. It’s a bit like those annoying times when you’ve settled down with popcorn for a movie night, only to realize the remote is across the room!
If this happens, you’re left with two choices – one, to channel your inner Hulk and hold onto the kayak while wrestling the rack open (not recommended), or two, to put your boat down, adjust the J rack to the proper angle, and then lift the boat back up again. Picture the latter scene in your mind – it’s akin to being sent back to start in a game of Snakes and Ladders!
Believe me when I say that it’s absolutely worth your while to ensure your J rack is open and at the right angle before even touching the kayak. It’s like checking if the coast is clear before sneaking into the kitchen for a midnight snack.
04. Preparing Your Kayak for Lift-off
Almost all kayakers concur that hoisting your boat from the side of your vehicle is the ideal loading method. Kind of like the right side of the bed you always prefer to get up from, you know?
However, life doesn’t always roll out the red carpet for us. Sometimes you find yourself in a jam-packed parking lot, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. In such situations, you might have to switch gears and ask for help with rear loading – especially if your boat has more in common with a majestic whale than a nimble dolphin in terms of size and weight.
For the purpose of this guide, let’s stick to the path more traveled and discuss side loading. Position your vessel beside your vehicle, right beneath the watchful eyes of the J racks.
Before hoisting your boat, there’s one important check to perform. Ensure your kayak’s cockpit is void of any object that might get an impromptu flying lesson during the journey. Think of it like checking your pockets before tossing your pants into the washing machine. Trust me, once your boat is sitting pretty on the racks, reaching in to rearrange or remove stuff will be as tricky as trying to tickle a dragon’s belly! So, make sure your kayak is ready and empty before the grand lift-off.
05. Loading the Kayak onto the J Rack
Now take a moment to assess your own strength. You must consider carefully whether you can lift the kayak by yourself?
You’d be surprised at the number of kayakers who can single-handedly hoist even the bulkiest, heaviest boats – a testament to the magic of adrenaline and determination. But listen, there’s no ‘kayaking Olympics’ medal at stake here. If you can’t comfortably lift the kayak, don’t feel pressured to play the lone ranger.
Let’s be clear – attempting to transform into Superman and lifting a weight that’s beyond your capacity is a direct ticket to a trio of troubles. First, you might end up hurting yourself – think strained muscles or a sore back. Second, your kayak could take a nasty tumble, resulting in scrapes, dents, or worse. Third, your vehicle might bear the brunt of the mishap.
So, for the love of kayaking, swallow your pride and ask for help if you need it! There’s no shame in being safe and sensible. Remember, even the mighty Frodo needed Sam to help carry the load!
Once you’re ready and have gathered your strength (and maybe a helping hand), it’s time to lift your kayak and settle it onto the welcoming arms of the J rack system.
06. Adjusting Your Kayak for Even Weight Distribution
Now that your kayak is lounging on the J rack, it’s time to fine-tune its position. It is like adjusting a picture frame on the wall – you want it just right. There are a couple of key things to bear in mind here before you get into the whole strapping-down business.
The golden rule? Balance is everything. Make sure the weight is evenly spread across both J racks. It’s a bit like sharing a pizza – you wouldn’t want one person to hog all the slices, right? So, aim for the center of your boat to line up with the center of the roof rack system. This way, neither the front J rack nor the back one is burdened with too much weight.
Now, onto an important detail: your boat should nestle comfortably within the J roof rack. How can you confirm this? Give your kayak a gentle wriggle. If there’s too much movement, like a bowl of jelly on a roller coaster, you’ll need to make a few more adjustments. Sometimes, a little shake and shimmy will help your kayak settle into place.
So, adjust and nudge your kayak until it feels just right, sitting securely in the pocket of your J rack with the weight evenly distributed. With this step done right, your kayak will ride as smoothly as James Bond in his Aston Martin!
07. Securing the Kayak to the J Rack
Now, we’re getting to the really fun part – the tying down! Assuming you’ve followed through with step 2 (and we know you have because you’re awesome that way), this step is going to feel like a breeze.
Pick up those cam straps, swing them around and behind the boat, and fling them over to the front. But before you get into any actual tying down, pull the strap so it snugly circles the top of your J rack frame.
Next up, you take the tag end without the cam buckle and give it a good pull. This will hoist the cam buckle up on the kayak until it’s comfortably nestled about halfway up your kayak. Think of it as adjusting your tie before a big meeting – you want it to be perfectly positioned.
Take the tag end and guide it through the hole on the bottom of your J rack (right above the crossbars). Draw this tag end through and slip it under your crossbars. It gives you the might of not just the J rack but the crossbars and roof rack as well. A comforting layer of security that’s going to let you breathe easy.
Then, bring the strap back up through that same slot in your J rack and attach it to your buckle. Be sure the buckle is in the sweet spot – high and about halfway up your kayak. This ensures the buckle won’t take a swing at your car or window. For this reason, we advise using straps with rubber buckles over metal ones – this is your safety precaution for both your car and your kayak.
Once all that is done, pull the strap and buckle tight. Secure any flappy excess strap so your vehicle doesn’t look like it’s trying to signal for help while driving. Repeat the same process on the other J rack, and you’re good to go!
08. And… Action: Time to Drive Off!
Whoosh, there you have it! From attaching the J rack to the crossbars to tying down the kayak – you’ve done it all. Time to hop in the driver’s seat, crank up some tunes, and head towards your watery adventure. With your kayak securely fastened, you can drive with ease and look forward to some quality time on the water. Safe travels, kayak champ!