The Irenabyss Gallery - Equipment - Matt Brain

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Carrying 2 Double Sea Kayaks on a Car

(our poor Toyota Tarago)

The loaded Taragoimage
The loaded Tarago The Tarago's first expedition to Cape Paterson (Taken at Sandringham)

We bought our Tarago in 2008 as a car to move our family that had just grown to 3 children, up until then we had driven a Toyota Camry. We looked at several other people movers, but in the end settled on the Tarago for the way it felt like a car, not a bus. At that time we weren't doing much load carrying - mostly city transit driving so we chose the smaller 4 cylinder engine. For add-ons we didn't get the roof rails (already owning some Thule Aero bars, and Thule Atlantis Roofbox but did take the tow-pack.

Craftright 100kg load Roller Standimage
Craftright 100kg load Roller Stand From Bunnings for $20. Note the roller has been taped with foam. I used the roller, inner bar and legs.
Tarago Rooflineimage
Tarago Roofline Showing Thule Aero bars, Thule Kayak Stacker 520, and Bike carrier.

We have enjoyed the car - it is perfect for bringing kids + friends home from school, moving large loads and reasonably good for camping trips. It drives like a car not a truck (this was a must for Kathryn) and doesn't feel too big on the road. BUT when we recently purchased two double sea kayaks we had to make some modifications to the load carrying arrangement.

The Tarago is just short of 5m long, a good distance for the boats which are 5.4m long, however the usable roof length is considerably shorter. Furthermore the boats weigh around 36kg (empty) and the roof and Thule aero roof rack load limits are specified at 70kg. In retrospect a Toyota Hiace would have been the vehicle of choice for us, but here is how we made do.

The Cape Paterson Boat Ramp.image
The Cape Paterson Boat Ramp. This was taken just before we returned home.

The first problem is getting the boats onto the car. I can single lift them but not above waist height. There are various solutions but all had limitations: The Thule Hullavator kayak loader's max weight would be exceeded, the Yakima Showboat is excellent value but was too short for the distance from my rear rack to the back of the vehicle. The idea behind the showboat suited me though - drop the front of the boat onto a roller and push it up. My solution was as follows using 50mmx30mmx2mm 3m aluminium bars and some cheap work support rollers (I used the legs too - see below) we built a rack that extends to the rear of the vehicle. Note 100mm U-bolts make an excellent fit over the aero bars onto the aluminium. They can be made tighter if a bit of rubber bike tube is wrapped around the bar first.

100mm U boltsimage
100mm U bolts Stainless because the main roof frame will stay on the roof and we have a lot of salt-laden breeze.
The mounted U-boltimage
The mounted U-bolt Ready for the Thule Aero Bar.

For boat loading I keep foam blocks under the ends of these bars over the rear of the roof - these also take a load off the cross bars.

This alone is fine for transporting a single boat sitting its base (the Trinidad's are flat bottomed) with good balancing of the load and minimal sway. In fact it actually feels quite rigid with a tied down kayak able to move the car well. However we still wanted to move two boats.

The main Aluminium Rackimage
The main Aluminium Rack The rollers bolt onto here using wing nuts for loading and a foam block between the rack and rear corner of the roof.

The next step was to get a kayak stacker. We chose the Thule Kayak Stacker 520 as it is relatively cheap and folds down easily. I soon discovered however that with the high roof, I needed something to lean the boats against after I loaded them while I raised the stacker. We already had a PVC roof pipe that we use to carry fishing rods and an awning so I made a more robust attachment for this after discovering that an Aluminium T-section fitted the channel on the Thule Aero bars perfectly. I left two short stumps of 50x30 aluminium on these and when I load a boat I place two padded vertical bars (made from the legs of the roller stand) in these. After the first boat is on its side, the kayak stacker is flipped up and locked. Yakima foam blocks (and some home made ones) are kept under the boats and these keep them off the kayak stacker. The Yakima foam blocks have so far proved durable - the best thing about them is the huge selection of pretty good quality straps that are included.

The rack from above.image
The rack from above. With foam blocks, this provides very stable support for 1 boat on its bottom.
Thule Aero bar.image
Thule Aero bar. With end caps removed.
Thule Aero Bar.image
Thule Aero Bar. Bunnings Aluminium T-section and 2mm straigt bar happen to slot in perfectly, making an excellent mount.

It is important to throw all the tie downs through the stacker at this point as they are hard to reach once the second boat is up. Like the first boat, the second boat is loaded onto its flat bottom then pulled towards you onto its side while pushing the lower edge toward the kayak stacker. This is made easier by having the bow resting on the front support which we will get to in a minute. Once on its side, everything is strapped down and a few light bulky items can be thrown in the boats (buckets and spades for the beach, life jackets etc).

Clamped On Goal Post.image
Clamped On Goal Post. The PVC pipe holders can be seen with removable vertical supports inside. The front rack is clamped on while I get the mounting sorted.
Building the mount for the PVC pipe.image
Building the mount for the PVC pipe. Superglue was used to hold the Aluminium before rivets.

I have never enjoyed driving long boats on small cars with narrow racks with just ropes securing the front and back of the boat. The leverage involved just doesn't seem structurally sound (though undoubtedly it is better than no ropes). You tend to put immense stress on the hull by clamping the boat tight down onto the racks and on the roof plus racks when you tighten the straps to the front or rear of the boat in attempts to try to make the set up bombproof. Inevitably if you check the boats after driving for a while there is some play and you may find that the boats can be easily moved side to side.

Tarago front on with clamped on rack.image
Tarago front on with clamped on rack. We build the front goal post higher with the intention of putting the boats on their side.

For this job, it was apparent to me from the start that a front goal post would be essential both to stop the boats moving side to side and to take a significant load off the roof and racks. It also allows the boats to sit further forward leaving less sticking out behind the vehicle. I built one out of more aluminium tube with a bent aluminium strap padded with foam on top. It mounts onto the front towing hitch points and for stability while loading, two lightweight bars connect it to the roof racks (these make great clotheslines when campint).

Attached are several photos from the build and here is a video of parts of the job. The set up is very solid, the entire car can be rocked by moving the boats and you can put your entire weight on the front goal posts. On the road you do notice a slightly higher feel to the centre of gravity and in strong cross winds a definite catch to the vehicle. We drove to Inverloch via the Monash freeway and South Gippsland Highway without any issue, we checked the set up several times along the way and it all remained solid. There were quite strong winds across the road on the return journey which made it less comfortable but by reducing our speed to below 90kph it felt fine. In windless conditions we travelled around 90-95kph.

The boats at Cape Paterson.image
The boats at Cape Paterson. The padded aluminium bar on the front rack makes loading easier as the boat can be rotated in that spot.

The final advantage is the entire unit can be removed from the car very easily. From a security perspective, two car steering wheel locks and a chain make a great way to lock your boats to the car and a steel bar with a padlock in each end will stop your front goal post or tow-bolts being 'borrowed'.

Copyright Matt Brain. Last updated December 2011

Sunrise Cape Paterson.image
Sunrise Cape Paterson. Victoria.

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