Tie Down “Helpers” - Just Say NO!

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I have long recognized that I do not want anyone helping me when tying canoes to the roof racks, especially when it involves multiple boats and lines going through specific crossbar eyebolts in a specific order. Even with folks whose rope skills and familiarity with my rack systems I trust (my family and one or two paddling partners) I still surreptitiously check their work.

I learned a lesson about extending that custom to untying boats. I had a non-paddling friend helping set a shuttle and when I took the boats off he “helped” by wrapping up the belly lines on one side of the van crossbars.

His rope wrappage was on the far side of the van, the side I couldn’t see. It was hot, there was no shade at the put in and we were a couple of hours late getting started. I was hurrying and didn’t check his work.

He had loosely wrapped the belly lines and left them dangling off the end of the crossbar. With predictable results; when he took the van to set the downstream shuttle one belly line fell loose and he ran over it with a rear tire.

Fortunately it didn’t damage the rain gutter and I carry spare Quick & Easy towers and parts. A little touch up paint on the 3 foot gouge on the roof and I’ll call it cheap lessons learned:

*Spare rack parts are worth carrying.
*Check all of the ropes when tying or untying, especially if you have “help”.
*Don’t rush at the put in or take out, even if the river is cool and shady and you are hot and sweaty.
 
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Even though I run with a bunch of seasoned canoeists (when I run with a pack), there is a tacit understanding that the owner of the vehicle is responsible for doing all the tieing on. Help is NEVER offered once the boat is on top of the car; no one is offended.

That is not to say that we are perfect.

I learned some 15 years ago another rule. NEVER visit while securing boats. My mind got sidetracked and one boat was not secured.. And the boat promptly left the trailer when I started up.

Hence all tie downs are accomplished in anti social seeming silence.
 
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When I bought my first and only canoe, a young and able sales girl offered to help me tie it onto my van racks. As I stammered and mumbled, “I don’t know”, she tied a trucker’s hitch faster than I can tie my shoes. The co-owner of the store then walked over and offered to finish off the tie down. Like a complete fool I declined, and I continued to bungle my way through hopeless knots and frayed rope ends. I’ve since learned to a) listen to good advice, and b) do it myself ably.
My wife works in a busy office. Despite being a good multitasker, she says “you can’t be sociable AND efficient at the same time”. She’s no Napoléon, but I’d salute her.
 
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I trust My Darling Bride completely, but it is not a reciprocal relationship... She doubles checks the way that I tie on her new Swift.
Now, I do understand that it's an emotional bond, and a fiscal attachment as well. Her Swift cost 4 to 5 times what it costs me to build any canoe. And c'mon, my DY Special is way prettier...

And on to the racks themselves. I am a trusting sort, always have been. But when leaving my Element at a put in for several days, I always pop the racks off and put them inside the vehicle.
I have those super quick Thule mounts, my racks could be gone in a blink!!

Finally, I used to carry 2 of my skinny strippers on 58" load bars. I had a strap slide off the end of the bar while doing about 45 mph. The one boat immediately flew out to the side, bumping the other boat. Didn't actually come off, but it was close. I was just thankful that it happened before we got on the interstate, that would have been ugly.
As soon as we got home, I bought wider load bars...
 
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And on to the racks themselves. I am a trusting sort, always have been. But when leaving my Element at a put in for several days, I always pop the racks off and put them inside the vehicle. I have those super quick Thule mounts, my racks could be gone in a blink!!

I have those Thule Tracker II’s on two vehicles and even though they have locking cores I usually remove them and put them in the vehicle. Even if the rack crossbars themselves weren’t at risk it would take only seconds for someone to strip the load stops, gunwale brackets or kayak cradles.

Plus having a clean roofline helps obscure the fact that, hey, look, I’m a paddler off on the river in my canoe and will likely be gone for a while.

I might have taken the four Q&E crossbars off the van, but the take out area where the shuttle friend was leaving the vehicle was non-sketchy, and it was brutally hot and sunny at the put in. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.


Finally, I used to carry 2 of my skinny strippers on 58" load bars. I had a strap slide off the end of the bar while doing about 45 mph. The one boat immediately flew out to the side, bumping the other boat. Didn't actually come off, but it was close. I was just thankful that it happened before we got on the interstate, that would have been ugly.
As soon as we got home, I bought wider load bars...

I use the longest crossbars I can fit to a vehicle. “Fit” meaning that as long as they don’t extend past the side view mirrors I feel I’m within the spirit of the law.

The CR-V has thule 78” crossbars and they are still within the outer edges of the side view mirrors. The one at the driver’s door has a slit tennis ball on the end, since it is at a perfect noggin thumping position when exiting the car. I expect that is why the “fit guides” for various vehicles typically recommend shorter crossbars than could otherwise be installed.

The four Q&E 2x4 crossbars on the van are a full 8’ length, which still leave them within the side view mirror dimensions.

Although more and more of my boating is solo a vehicle roof rack that can’t carry more than one canoe, gunwales down and secured, would be useless to me.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Solipsists don't have the problem of tie down helpers, or anyone else, being around. One should consider that philosophy, especially since no one else will.

About a quarter century ago I used to have wide Thule racks on my Ford Taurus. I used to leave my 1/4 black ropes carefully wound around the black bars. Mr. Cool.

One day I went through my local car wash. The owner expressed concern about the racks and ropes. Not to worry. Mr. Wilderness, Mr. Rope, knows what he's doing, chum.

Well, one rope came loose and got all entangled in the spinning roof brush. I don't even want to recall what ended up happening. Mr. Embarrassed.

That was the last time I ever left ropes on boatless racks. In fact, it may be the last time I used ropes. I went to straps about that time.

Then there was the time I was following my friend's van, which had two Blue Hole OCA's on top, through the twisty mountain roads of New Hampshire after a whitewater run. When we got to the road house for dinner, we realized that no one had tied those OCA's at all. AT ALL!!! Nada. Nothing. Gotta love those wide 80 pound boats on 2x4 racks. (No one but me could have gotten hurt. Such is solipsism.)
 
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To avoid getting old one should learn something new every day..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism

Hence you all don't exist!

Kind of reminds me of " to be..maybe you aren't" Does that mean my trip exists and yours didn't? And when I flew little red canoe airplane it flew, and your Blue Hole flew too because I am not sure about you??

This requires a reprieve of college beer days. Remember when we had ALL problems solved before curfew (yes that old for gals) and after a few beers?

:) Great story Glenn!
 
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It is good to see other people worry about their canoes like me. It takes me 20 minutes if I am quick to put the Q&E brackets back on the pickups topper, put the canoe on the rack. Put two tie downs on each bar. Then do the bow and stern lines. This is just for one boat. If we take two its longer. If I am lucky my wife has put the paddles (3 paddles for a tandem or 2 for each solo) in their bags. The dry bag, dry box, and small cooler inside the cap. Then she double checks the racks and tie downs and I take inventory of the other items.

I used to be bad about how the boats are tied down but years ago after friends lost 3 Mike Gault Lotus canoes on I-95 I got down right serious. It has only gotten worse lately since I have come to understand that if a canoe gets damaged it probably will not be replaced due to financial considerations. On the other hand I am very jelious of the people with the rec kayaks.

Just drag them across the ground leaving behind nice groves in the sand and colorfull markings on the side walks and cement boat ramps. Do not bother to try and launch/land in such a way as to protect the boat. Through them in the back of a pickup along with the paddle and use one if any tie downs. Or may be just push them in a hatch back and use a bungee cord to hold down the hatch. Yep on and off the water in less than 5 minutes on a slow day.
 
G

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Even though I run with a bunch of seasoned canoeists (when I run with a pack), there is a tacit understanding that the owner of the vehicle is responsible for doing all the tieing on. Help is NEVER offered once the boat is on top of the car; no one is offended.


Hence all tie downs are accomplished in anti social seeming silence.

Much the same here, except for my family and one paddling partner whose rope skills and anal retentiveness in tying down thousands of boats I have learned to trust implicitly. (Ok, I still check their lines and his).

I knew the hazards of potentially loose belly lines and don’t remember another time I haven’t done them all myself, or at least checked. Bad luck that one time was enough, but it could have been much worse.

On family trips, with four boats on the van’s four crossbars, one belly line per crossbar and eight bow and stern lines it is good that the family has the loading routine down pat. My wife stows the gear, my sons load the boats (in the proper order*) and I take care of the 12 ropes.

I have three friends who have driven over bow lines inadvertently left untied. One bent/tore the plastic deck plate/handle on an OT, one crushed the roof of a Ford Aerostar and broke the windshield (the Disco 174 was, however, unharmed), and one completely shattered a composite Rendezvous – snapped the wood inwale and outwale on both sides, destroyed huge sections of gel coat and broke the kevlar.

I use the painters as bow and stern lines, and one inviolate rule is that they stay tucked under the deck plate bungee “keepers” until I tie them off, and that once I have the line in hand I do nothing else until that line is tied off.

If the painters are tied off first or left dangling loose they are in the way of passing the belly lines around, so they’re the last lines I tie. Although I can’t count the number of times someone has tried to “help” me by unbungeeing the painters so they are dangling loosely while I’m running the belly lines.

One day I went through my local car wash. The owner expressed concern about the racks and ropes. Not to worry. Mr. Wilderness, Mr. Rope, knows what he's doing, chum.

Well, one rope came loose and got all entangled in the spinning roof brush. I don't even want to recall what ended up happening. Mr. Embarrassed.

That was the last time I ever left ropes on boatless racks. In fact, it may be the last time I used ropes. I went to straps about that time.

I’m still a rope guy. The proper wrapping of straps around a crossbar sometimes confuses me, I don’t like tossing the cams over or under boats or passing webbing though eye bolts, or dealing with the excess of strap (or cutting it to size and finding it too short on the next boat).

I like rope. Proper hitches, a hand feel for the right tension and good rope. Rope good.

I still leave the belly lines attached to my racks. The Tracker II Thule’s on the cars come off in seconds, and are either inside the car or at home when not hauling boats. The belly lines on the four Q&E crossbars are attached to specific eye bolts on alternating sides, and are all different lengths to accommodate each belly lining two or three hulls, passed through multiple mid-bar eye bolts and tied off on the other side.

*There is some macramé ballet involved in properly loading and tying off four canoes on four crossbars; the boats need to be loaded in the proper order - front middle, rear middle, rear left, front right - and the ropes passed through mid-crossbar eye bolts in specific order as each boat is loaded.

For an added degree of remembrance difficulty certain boats fit better in certain locations; longer tandems in slots 1, 3 or 4, with the shortest boat in slot 2.

Trying to remember which boat fits best where, from trip to trip, with seemingly different loads almost every group or family trip, is too much for my memory. Hell, I can’t remember which one went where by the end of a trip.

So I now have a stack of index cards diagramming (let’s see)….14 different boat loads/configurations on the van.
 
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I used to be bad about how the boats are tied down but years ago after friends lost 3 Mike Gault Lotus canoes on I-95 I got down right serious. It has only gotten worse lately since I have come to understand that if a canoe gets damaged it probably will not be replaced due to financial considerations. On the other hand I am very jelious of the people with the rec kayaks.

Through them in the back of a pickup along with the paddle and use one if any tie downs. Or may be just push them in a hatch back and use a bungee cord to hold down the hatch. Yep on and off the water in less than 5 minutes on a slow day.

The oops trip that started this conversation began with a 10’ rec kayak carried to the put in inside the van (E-150 with the seats out). One reason I was rushing that was the paddler was in her boat, floating and ready to go, before I had finished untying my canoe from the racks.

Not just rec kayaks; we had a 10’ 18lb OT Rushton that fit inside most minivans, and it was often handy for setting shuttle on multi-boat daytrips. Beyond the ultra-light weight of some pack canoes the diminutive length can be a transport boon.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I don’t like tossing the cams over or under boats or passing webbing though eye bolts, or dealing with the excess of strap

You got that right about tossing cam straps. I cracked my windshield in Ely, Minnesota, doing that. A very, very expensive toss. Now I carefully snake and shake straps over the boats on my high van from the front and rear using my footstool.

We high vanners are condemned to a canoeing life of footstools. I have two footstools. I need the higher one if I'm loading three boats on the van.

Excess strap isn't a problem. One length of straps fit all my boats from outrigger to kayaks to tandem canoes. (I forget if it's 12' or 15'.) The excess is wound around the gutter-clamped Thule towers, which prevents the boat from yawing sideways even with no bow or stern V lines. Any remaining excess is wrapped around the bar.

I like straps more than ropes because I think they are stronger and less damaging, especially to my expensive composite hulls. Straps are stronger than most rope because you can get 1" polyester webbing with 3800 pound breaking strength. This strap also has low water absorption, rot and mildew resistance, and has 5 times the abrasion resistance of polypropylene with a softer feel.

I think straps are less damaging because if you have 1' wide straps, and you have two wraps over the hull for each strap, you have the tension on the hull spread out over 2" of flat strap width rather than over 3/8" (or whatever) of a single cylindrical rope wrap.
 
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Some years ago NRS had wider straps but getting the buckle arrangement tight was a PITA. I think the straps were 2.5 inches wide.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I like having straps custom made by strapworks. You can get polyester straps up to two inches wide in solid colors and a dizzying array of patterns. Choose your type of cam buckle, pad and length. You can also get the straps in two weights of polypropylene or nylon.

There used to be a 10% discount code for Northeast Paddlers Message Board (NPMB).
 
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You got that right about tossing cam straps. I cracked my windshield in Ely, Minnesota, doing that. A very, very expensive toss. Now I carefully snake and shake straps over the boats on my high van from the front and rear using my footstool.

I like straps more than ropes because I think they are stronger and less damaging, especially to my expensive composite hulls. Straps are stronger than most rope because you can get 1" polyester webbing with 3800 pound breaking strength. This strap also has low water absorption, rot and mildew resistance, and has 5 times the abrasion resistance of polypropylene with a softer feel.

We have a box full of Thule straps that came with various racks over the years, but since my wife became comfortable tying a trucker’s hitch they don’t get used.

We also have a couple or four of those Thule rope ratchet doohickies that are be used to tie bow and stern lines. Those things scare me – I don’t like looking through the windshield at a chunk of metal ratchet suspended in front of the glass at 70mph and thinking “What if….”

I have damaged a couple of boats using ropes. New boats. New Royalex boats. I inadvertently tied the bellylines so that the ball of rope at the hitch was pressing against the still soft Royalex, and left permanent dimples in the side of the hull.

After a year or two when the RX foam core has fully hardened it doesn’t seem to matter, but when tying rope belly line on a fresh RX hull I now try to make certain that the trucker’s hitch isn’t tensioned against the side of the hull

We high vanners are condemned to a canoeing life of footstools. I have two footstools. I need the higher one if I'm loading three boats on the van.

I carry two step ladders in the van. I need to tie belly lines alternately on one side of the van, pass the lines through mid-crossbar eye bolts, then the other side, then back to the first side, and repeat several times. It is easier to position a ladder on each side than to try to remember to tote a single ladder back and forth with me each time.

I’ve forgotten the ladders a couple of times. Not fun.

I’m partial to these Werner step ladders; the fat front legs/feet don’t sink in soft soil like tubular step ladder legs and the oversized top step is made for standing.

http://us.wernerco.com/en/view/Products/Climbing-Equipment/Stepladders/SSA00/SSA03

Pricey, but having tumbled to the ground a couple of times when the small tubular legs on cheap step ladders suddenly sunk into the ground was a painful lesson to learn. And once should have been enough.
 
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I buy nylon and polyester strap material and Ancra buckles from Rainshed in Washington, state of.
It costs me about half of any commercially made strap, including shipping costs. And I can make any length strap that I desire.
I toss the excess strap in the rear door of my Element, but if it's raining, the excess must stay outside the cabin. I have forgotten on some occasions, the nylon makes for a very effective conduit, dripping rainwater all over my interior.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Transitioning from ropes/straps to vans to step ladders to other "helpers":

Those of us who sleep in our vans obviously don't leave tents on our sites when we base camp and drive our vans to other locations for day trips. This causes empty site issues and attracts "helpers", usually innocent.

First, you can have your site taken by someone else when you have driven away for the day and then return. This happens at honor system campsites or ones with inattentive rangers.

So, that raises the issue of to how to signal that the campsite is occupied when you and your van are not there.

At the Raystown Rendezvous most people leave on Sunday. I was staying until Monday to get in an extra day of canoeing. Early Sunday morning I drove 15 miles or so to town to go to church. My three boats were all off the site and out of sight down by the shore. So I left my step ladder with my towel draped over it in the middle of my campsite as a signal that it was occupied. However, someone leaving the campground innocently interpreted it as signal that someone had left their step ladder and towel behind when they checked out.

So I return from church and -- no good deed going unpunished -- my step ladder and towel are gone, as are just about everyone else in the canoe group. I really have no way to reach the top of my van to tie properly three boats, one being a 22' outrigger canoe. Like Jimmy Carter, I committed mortal sins in my mind. What could I do? I drove a good ways to the nearest Walmart and bought a step ladder, that's what. The whole extra canoeing day was just about wasted, as was about $30.

I later located via pnet the person who innocently took my step ladder and towel, which he eventually returned to me. Walmart in my home town got back the other step ladder.

Another time I was base camping at my favorite campground in Florida, Kelly Park in Apopka (which used to cost $7 per night). I drove my van to Blue Springs for a day paddle, leaving my favorite Lafuma recliner and some kitchen gear on the site to signal it was occupied. When I got back, some "helper" had helped himself to my chair but not the kitchen gear. I was furious. I had bought that chair in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the headquarters of Sierratradingpost, on my way to California in 2004 to pick up my outrigger. I knew it had to have been taken by someone who had recently checked out the park or who was still there. I woke up the ranger and demanded an FBI cordon around the entire area and an immediate SEAL Team 6 assault on all other campers. The ranger went back to bed, instead.

Early the next morning I traipsed around the campground and sure enough found my chair with a bunch of others outside someone's RV. So I took it back. The guy saw me and accused me of stealing his chair. WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was bar fighting time. This guy deserved to be cold cocked. But there was one small problem: I was almost of Medicare age and my martial arts skills were somewhat rusty. When he saw my FSU t-shirt and realized we were fellow Seminoles, he confessed and said he only took the chair because he thought the site had been abandoned. His explanations rang phony and inconsistent, but I walked away with my decrepit Lafuma recliner in hand.

I should have cold cocked him. But it was Sunday morning and I had to find a Catholic church in Apopka. (To find an RC church in Florida, you sometimes have to drive to Pennsylvania . . . or convert to Baptist.) Anyway, I left no "signals" on site while I went to mass and then paddled the Dora Canal later that day.

After which no one offered to help tie my boat.

Thank god.
 
G

Guest

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At the Raystown Rendezvous most people leave on Sunday. I was staying until Monday to get in an extra day of canoeing. Early Sunday morning I drove 15 miles or so to town to go to church. My three boats were all off the site and out of sight down by the shore. So I left my step ladder with my towel draped over it in the middle of my campsite as a signal that it was occupied. However, someone leaving the campground innocently interpreted it as signal that someone had left their step ladder and towel behind when they checked out.

So I return from church and -- no good deed going unpunished -- my step ladder and towel are gone, as are just about everyone else in the canoe group. I really have no way to reach the top of my van to tie properly three boats, one being a 22' outrigger canoe.

Glenn, I got that far and burst out laughing. The subsequent tale is even better, but I know the Raystown Gathering and the people and so have a hilarious mental image.

I’ve forgotten the ladders and had to position (and reposition, and reposition) the van next to guard rails so I could reach alternating sides of the roof racks (which with a full-sized van the top of the Q&E towers are nearly 7 feet in the air).

Those of us who sleep in our vans obviously don't leave tents on our sites when we base camp and drive our vans to other locations for day trips. This causes empty site issues and attracts "helpers", usually innocent.

First, you can have your site taken by someone else when you have driven away for the day and then return. This happens at honor system campsites or ones with inattentive rangers.

So, that raises the issue of to how to signal that the campsite is occupied when you and your van are not there.

I’ve not had such issues when car camping, but most of such stays for me are either multi-day family outings, so we have tents and tarps and chairs and etc anchoring the site, or overnight stays when solo, where the van arrives late in the day and is gone in the morning.

How van campers could signal “This is an occupied site” is a good question.

I’ve seen el-cheapo pop up kid-backyard tents, constructed with a spring-ring (like your Windpaddle sail or a photographer’s light reflector). Just let the ring go and they pop into shape and they twist down into a tiny flat package.

They would be useless as an actual tent, but they would clearly mark an otherwise vacant site as occupied.
 
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How van campers could signal “This is an occupied site” is a good question.

Stop at your local sign shop and make some placards, "Back soon, went to town to restock ammo." Be sure to let the rangers in on your 'joke'.
 
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