Don’t let the rest of the season go by without a good paddle

Posted Sept. 16, 2011, at 2:31 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 16, 2011, at 3:54 p.m.
To make loading a kayak on the roof of your vehicle, put a non-slip pad on the vehicle, then lift the bow of your boat up to sit on the pad. Next go to the stern, lift and push the boat onto the racks.
Jeff Strout
To make loading a kayak on the roof of your vehicle, put a non-slip pad on the vehicle, then lift the bow of your boat up to sit on the pad. Next go to the stern, lift and push the boat onto the racks.
A piece of line can be use to tie your boat to your racks. The trucker’s hitch is a good knot to tighten the rope around your boat.
A piece of line can be use to tie your boat to your racks. The trucker’s hitch is a good knot to tighten the rope around your boat.

Summer’s about to pass us by, and this weekend’s cooler weather should serve as a good reminder to that, but don’t be fooled into thinking your paddling opportunities are over.

In fact, some of the better paddling weather is on your doorstep so make some plans to get out and enjoy. The water will remain warm into October and the lower air temperatures will make for comfortable paddling. More so, I know, than the hot, humid days of summer when the added insulation from your life jacket makes sitting in a sauna a more viable alternative.

Pop open your Maine Atlas and Gazetteer and pick a body of water near you. Look for the red boat-shaped icons that indicate a boat ramp (the outlined ones are carry-in launches) and plan a day on the water. If you prefer salt with your paddle, most, if not all coastal communities have public boat ramps where you may gain access to the water. Just remember that it’s not polite to tie up the launch ramp, so outfit your kayak or canoe off to the side and out of the way, and when you’re ready, pop onto the ramp and shove off.

If you prefer the electronic approach, check out the Maine Department of Conservation’s resource list at http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/boating/sitelist.html. You may get a kick out of the Google Earth application that allows you to zoom into a particular site and get a picture and information about the launch facility. Or you may like the straightforward list of launch site by fresh or salt water at http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/boating/sites/tidal_and_freshwater.html.

And then there’s another list just by towns at http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/boating/sites/town.html.

As always when planning a day on the water make sure you go through your check list of essential safety gear (top of the list is your PFD), take a snack (or go crazy and pack a stove and a meal) and plenty of water, check the weather report (and the tides if you’re headed to the ocean), and dress appropriately for the water and weather. Plan a hike if the wind’s howling. This weekend pay attention to the sea conditions, it could be rough.

While a destination is essential, it’s also important to get your kayak to the launch site in a safe and secure manner. With the help of Gabor Degre, one of our fine photographers here at the BDN, we put together a video that may help the boat loading-and-tie-down-challenged get their craft onto their car and securely fastened to the racks. (The talent’s outstanding.)

For the uninitiated who may shy away from kayaking (or canoeing) because getting a boat on their car is a daunting task, I’ve tried to make it straightforward and relatively easy. Most of us who wrestle kayaks onto the roof will have a technique adapted to our own vehicle, but the basic techniques are valid.

If you can’t check out the video, here’s a synopsis of the footage (it’s something I think I’ve written about at least a few times).

What you’ll need: a roof rack and kayak saddles (could be foam blocks); a padded mat to protect your vehicle’s trunk or hatchback; cam-buckle tie-down straps (about 12 feet long) and two pieces of rope about 10 to 12 feet.

The two cam-buckle straps are for securing the boat to the rack and saddles, the two pieces of line are to tie bow and stern to the front and back of your vehicle.

Put the padded mat (it could be a foam sleeping pad) over the back of your vehicle in line with the saddles (or blocks). Place the bow of your kayak on the mat and while stabilizing the boat, proceed to the stern. Lift the stern and slide the boat up and onto the rack. You will never lift more than half the boat at a time. To unload, reverse the procedure.

With the boat in its cradles, hold one of the straps by the cam buckle and throw the other end over the top of your boat. Reach under the boat and rack, loop the free end under the rack and throw the loose end back up and over the boat. Pull enough of the strap over the boat to leave the buckle about at deck level.

Loop the loose end under the rack and up through the cam buckle and snug it up. Don’t reef down hard, just snug. Take the remainder of the strap and wind it around the rack and cross bar and tie it off so it won’t blow in the wind.

Repeat on the front rack. Then tie off the bow and stern with the pieces of rope. Tie one end to the undercarriage of your vehicle and the other to the kayak toggles. Again, not too tight.

If you don’t have the cam straps (save up and get them, you’ll like how they work) you can tie a boat to your rack with a piece of good rope (line). You’ll need a minimum of 7 feet.

Tie an overhand loop in one end. Put the loop under the crossbar and run the free end over the bar and through the loop, pulling it all the way through, thus securing it to the bar. Now run the free end over the top of your boat, under the crossbar and tie it off using a trucker’s hitch.

No matter what you use to secure the boat to the roof, be sure there are no loose ends that could become entangled in your wheels.

I recommended that you check your rack’s connection to the vehicle’s roof, and your knots or fastenings from time to time to be sure all is secure.

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