Kayaks on the rack

Last year I wrote a truly magnificent article called ‘Tie down your kayaks’, where I discussed how changing my car forced me to think again about how to transport kayaks.

Basically the answer is to use a decent roof rack combined with a kayak cradle or J-bars to secure the boat in an upright orientation.  And, if you want to ensure you don’t void your insurance, it’s also necessary to use tie-down lines on the bow and stern.

So, armed with these fascinating insights, here are some reviews of the kit that I then purchased for shifting boats about with my Ford hatchback.

Prorack Whispbars

Prorack whispbars - image 1

My last roof-rack was a pretty basic affair that was noisy at speed and clobbered my fuel economy by about 10%. This time around I fancied having something more streamlined that I could leave on the car semi-permanently. The obvious product to go for was the Thule Wingbar, but in the end I opted for something slightly different.

The Prorack Whispbar is made in New Zealand, but despite that, still comes in a lot cheaper than the Thule Wingbar. The Whispbars have a greater adjustment range, allowing you to fit the same bars to a wider range of vehicles (useful if you are a multi-car family). Plus, with the Thule bars you need to trim the rubbers in the bar channels to length to suit each differing load, whereas there is no need to do this with the Whispbar.  That means you can easily change between a kayak holder, bike carrier, roof box, etc, by just sliding the appropriate fittings up and down the channel to the required position.  All far more convenient than the Thule bars.

On the road, with no load on the roof, they live up to their name, and are incredibly quiet. You notice some slight noise with crosswinds but that’s about it. And I cannot detect any noticeable effect on fuel economy.  You kinda figure there must be some effect but if so then it can only be 1% or so.  You could say it’s lost in the noise, but perhaps I should say lost in the whisper!

However, whilst £20 or so cheaper than the Thule bars, a pair of Whispbars still comes in about eighty quid dearer than standard Ford roof bars.  So I will have to do nearly 7000 miles of driving with the bars fitted before they have paid for themselves in saved fuel.

About the only other negative with the Whispbar is the open back to the feet.  It looks a bit ugly and cannot help with security, but it is a small downside to an otherwise excellent product.

Prorack Kayak Holder

Prorack kayak holder

Prorack’s kayak holder is really simple to fit and comes with a multitude of adaptors to fit to Thule and other types of roof bar. It comprises of four grips that mould to the hull of the kayak and mount the kayak in an upright position on the car roof.   This keeps the boat upright so that air forced up the windscreen hits the streamlined bottom of the boat.  A neat trick with the holder is that the feet can pivot allowing the boat to be easily loaded and unloaded from the car.  Michael Day was certainly impressed when he saw them in action!

Thule Quickdraw Lines

Thule Quickdraw

I keep preaching the mantra of “tie down your kayaks” and you can do a lot worse than using Thule Quickdraw lines for this purpose.  This is especially true if you are moving boats without a cradle.  Simply attach one end to the bow of your boat and the other to your front towing eye then simply pull the line through a ratchet to take out the slack.  Repeat for the stern and it’s job done, really quick and easy. Each line is long enough to secure one or two kayaks.  The only thing I didn’t like about the Quickdraw were the open hooks on the ends for attaching the towing eyes, so I replaced the hooks with more secure carabiner clips. A pair of Quickdraw lines will set you back about £30.

Playboater Cockpit Cover

Playboater cockpit cover

This is a simple neoprene cover to keep rain out and to slipstream your boat.  It comes in various sizes and, with my boat, is a very snug fit and feels unlikely to come off.  But if it does it has a leash for attachment to the boat seat that should prevent you losing the cover.  Circa £40 so not cheap, but very effective and should last a while.

Rodney Casbierd

How to mount your boats: Capsize drills on cars

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