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Should you tie a bowball down when 1x is on roof rack?

Do you know of any good guidelines for carrying sculling boats on the roof of cars with/ without … read more

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Do you know of any good guidelines for carrying sculling boats on the roof of cars with/ without a full sculling rack?  There has been an incident at our club as the bowball was tied down to the bumper and the strap worked loose and came undone and then got caught under a wheel as the car slowed down and wrenched the boat but tying the bowball down was an insurance requirement and I’m not sure how we prevent it in future?

Trailering – My advice is to always use a full sculling rack plus roof rack – the span on a car isn’t wide enough to support a single scull and you don’t want to break it.

Single scull car roof rack Car roof rack for rowing boat or canoe[/caption]

I tie down the bow using a strap with a metal buckle that I position in front of the windscreen – i.e. not down near the bumper so I can see if it works loose.  I take the end of the tie and use electrical tape to wind it around so it doesn’t flap in the wind.

Buy Car Racks for 1x and 2x boats

For the stern I just put the tie over the hull approx above the rear bumper of the car – it’s just a loop so not tied onto the boat and both this and the front strap are there to prevent the boat flexing up and down too much when the car is at speed.  These ties should be much looser than the ties over the roof /sculling rack i.e. they need to be able to move up and down 5 cms or so.

What do you do when transporting your single on a car roof rack?

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

17 thoughts on “Should you tie a bowball down when 1x is on roof rack?

  1. I use an aluminum ladder secured to the car roof bars. I then rest my boat bottom up onto insulation foam (available in all shapes and size at your DIY shop) and lash her to the ladder. Simple – Easy – Gets the job done.

  2. Loose straps can cause an incredible amount of damage if not checked. Even on a trailer boats on the lower racks can be cut in half if a loose strap gets caught in a wheel, I’ve seen it and it’s quite ugly.

    I would never tie a rowing shell down by the bow or stern, I would tie off in the strongest part of the boat in the cockpit. If the car does not have any roof racks then I would strap it through the windows or doors. It’s best if you have to transport like this to use some kind of collapsible cushion to protect the roof and the hull of the boat and keeps the boat from shifting. I like to use pool noodles and packing foam block. You can also buy foam blocks from canoe and kayak shops.

  3. I would never carry a single scull on a car without using a proper boat cradle. I mount my cradle on roof cross bars which are of the stronger commercial type (available at Halfords) rather than “domestic” as this reduces the amount of roof bar flex – particularly important if the car roof line is short and your cross bars are relatively close together. Use lock nuts or nyloc nuts on the cradle securing u bolts. Secure the boat on the cradle with good quality straps – these should be checked regularly for any damage. Do not overtighten them. To secure the bows I use a strop of broad tape, well back from the bow ball, run vertically from the boat to the car’s demountable towing eye. For markers I wrap red and white tape around the parts of the hull which project beyond the ends of the car and put a high vis flag on the bow and stern. No need to use gaffer tape to stick the flags on to the hull – just wrap the front flag around the bow ball and put insulation tape around it. Tie the rear flag to the end of a piece of thin rope then form a loop in the rope near the flag and pass the loop over the stern of the boat so that the flag hangs about 250 mm from the stern post. Lead the rest of the rope forward and secure it to either the boat rack or the roof rack. Travelling at night use lights on the bow and stern of the boat – LED bike lights are ideal. If possible carry your sculling blades inside the car – more secure and avoids road dirt.
    Check when the boat is on the rack that the hull as good as level. Some cars have sloping roof lines and the rack may need packing at one end. Thick foam pipe insulation is ideal for this.
    Check everything before you drive off and on any occasion when you stop.
    For shorter trips (say up to 50 miles) your car/rack combination may allow room to enable the riggers to be left on the boat – but make sue they do not overhang too far sideways. For longer journeys I prefer to remove them. If you leave the seat in the boat make sure it is secured – say with a bungee. It it is easily removed or likely to fall out then remember to remove it – preferably before you put the boat on the car – before you set off. Also take care opening the back doors – the tops of the rigger pins will be a close clearance.
    Hope this is helpful – safe journey.

    See British Rowing website

  4. Having the bow secured when driving it on the roof of the car is a condition on my single scull insurance. I have a sculling rack, and the boat is well strapped down to that to secure it, and then the rope for the bow is not about tying it down, but actually about preventing it lift off. If something happens to one of the “proper” ties above the roof that I can’t see when driving. then my boat isn’t going to lift off in the wind and fly like a javelin till it lands on someone or something. When trailering or driving any rowing boats, use high quality ties, check them well before leaving, and then again 5-10min into the journey, and every time you stop thereafter to make sure that they aren’t coming loose.

  5. THe bow ball strap is normally a condition of insurance. However it seems totally wrong to me – firstly the strap waves around in front of the windscreen as a great distraction, and second it can lead to great bending stresses on the boat. THe looser the strap, the less it damages the baot but the more of a distraction it is!

    1. If your scull is tied down properly, then the bow strap will only reduce the stresses caused by the wind. The more the boat lifts or dives, the more it catches the wind. The bow and stern straps should be tight enough to work in concert to prevent the boat from bouncing, but should not hold it down. I use offcuts from an old climbing rope for this which is softer and nicer to the scull, doesn’t flap like a strap, and is also very slightly stretchy.

  6. Greetings,
    I have been making, using, and selling roofracks, similar to the one shown, for 16 years in New Zealand. Mine are 316 stainless steel, 2m long, with 50mm belt straps. They are bolted to the crossbars with 2x 6mm bolts. They have also become popular with single waka ama owners.
    Boats get tied to the rack at each end (2m apart). If used on a 100k.p.h. motorway I advise a bow tiedown, preferably to each side of the car. This tiedown is to contain wind gusts, or violent wobbles perhaps due to potholes or humps.
    The 2m rack length is kind to the boat – kinder than the usually much shorter distance between crossbars.
    A little wobble in the roofrack is kind to the boat, and can be safe.
    Have fun.

  7. The roofrack I refer to is indicated in Bob Vine’s blog above. If the straps are not secured it looks as though they could fall off if moved sideways?

  8. If I’m putting a 2x on the roof of my car I like to get a little more rigidity in the longer rack by tying the rack to the bumpers. I can pre-load it that way and it makes the ride a lot less bouncy with the longer boat. Works pretty good!

  9. I find it curious that when shells are trailered on a typical boat trailer, it is common to position the boat so that the gunwales rest directly on the racks of the trailer since the cockpit is the strongest part of the shell, yet when car topping it, people tend to avoid placing it directly on steel roof racks in the same manner. The steel bars on my van are a healthy distance apart so I secure the shell directly on my roof racks with the gunwales in contact with the roof racks, like would be done on a trailer. I have a bag for my boat but if I didn’t, I’d use a bit of foam between the gunwales and the rack to protect both the gunwales and the racks from scratching. Luckily, my insurance does not require me to secure the bow or stern. I recently traveled to a regatta >500km away with my shell secured in this manner through very windy and stormy weather and at speeds in excess of 100km/h. My shell stayed very secure throughout the trip. Of course, we periodically stopped to check the straps etc. Also, I was told by a boat manufacturer here in Canada that tying down the bow or stern of a car topped shell is a big no-no as if secured too tightly, stress from wind or road bumps can snap the shell like a toothpick. Sadly, he’s seen it a load of times. He suggested that if you must secure the bow or stern, to use something elastic, such as bungee cords, so that there is some give to allow for some flexion.

  10. The roof rack in the photo above is the tried and tested ‘Tim Crookes’ rack now made by Tony McCormick (Rowing Design) in Runcorn. Both 1x and 2x versions are available. The boat sits in slings on the rack which act to suspend and protect the boat from the rigours and potential damage of transporting a boat on the roads. The boat sits in two slings and with additional straps over the hull above the slings to secure it. It works very well. I would not normally attach a rope from the bow ball to car bumper as this would put pressure on the hull and defeats the object of suspending it. An additional tie could be used between the two slings in case one tie fails or possibly in adverse weather conditions. Another point against a bowball/car bumper rope is potential injury in an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist.

  11. Just for info For uk rowers our Club insurance ( Company affiliated to British Rowing) Stipulates that the bow ball must be tied down when transporting on a car roof otherwise it is not insured. My car doesn’t have anywhere central to tie it down.

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