Water Hiking

Since the south is in the middle of a terrifying heat wave known as “Summer”, and I was going to be unable to do anything on the water for the next two weekends or so, I worked feverishly Friday night, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday morning to finish my boat rack.

I started with a basic premise that I would be putting the boat on and off the car by myself, that I really wouldn’t have much help at all. So the system had to be totally workable by me. Also – since the back of the car has a lift gate with a decorative plastic piece, I had to get the boat over that when loading and unloading.

The first thing I did was make a trip to lowes Friday, and picked up 6 of their 8 two-by-fours, and 3 pieces of 4 foot 1×4 oak boards.

Measuring a LOT on top of the car, I managed to put together the main body of the loading rack. IMG_3870

The problem I had was, nothing was square. The back of the car is not as wide as the front. I used the foam boat sponges as a guide, and constructed the rack around them and the luggage rack. In this picture I’m not done yet, there are now blocks in place to prevent shifting side-to-side, and moving back and forth. There’s also a block and extension under the front piece, to prevent the rack from lifting upon the front when the boat is loaded on the back. Initially there was more 2×4 material in the design, but the oak is thinner and I think lighter overall. The rack only serves to load and unload the boat, when it is fully loaded, it rests on the sponges on the luggage rack, taking all the weight off the wood piece.


Here you see the underside of the rack, while I’m putting on a layer of duck canvas. The side blocks and the front-to-back shifting blocks are visible now. I slopped a layer of stain on the wood to protect it from water in the future. In addition to the rack, there are a set of loading ramps that attach to the back with a steel rod acting as a hinge. The ramps themselves are two 8 foot 2×4 pine boards, also stained and covered in duck fabric.

My main issue with the ramps was: How to make them long enough and still portable? I initially tried a hinge in the middle, which when flipped upside down, provided a straight board. Any weight on the center point bent and twisted the hinge, destroying the pivot. It “unwound” the hinge at the joint. I scrapped the hinge and got 8 pieces of 1/8″ thick construction straps, a foot long each with 5/16″ holes. I bolted four straps to one piece of wood with carriage bolts, and then slotted the other board into the makeshift slot. Four more bolts and wing nuts make a temporary joint strong enough to hold the weight of the boat as I slid it up the ramp. I left a flap of fabric good enough to cover the bolts and protect the boat.


Here you can see the boat loaded on the rack, and the ramps on either side of it. I put on a little guid on the sides I could strap down the ramps (the little arched piece of wood). You can see the ramp pairs with their strap joints sticking out. Right now the boat is on the car backwards, but it works just fine like this. In face the car’s luggage rack runs a lithe uphill, and the back of the boat is downhill from the from, so putting the boat on backwards levels it with the road a little better. After tying everything down, it was time for a full-up test.


My daughter volunteered to be the front seat paddler and leak-test the boat with me. She had a lot of fun and it worked out well. The boat unloaded fine from the car and slid down the ramp as designed, slowly and controlled. She did help some by pushing from the front.


We paddled for around two miles on the lake in the hot sun, and headed back to the car. It was easy to tell which way the current was running, and some wind helped push us downstream. Next time we will explore the upper end of the lake and the creek that feeds it.


I learned a lot during this build/engineering experience. First – the south is damn hot in the summer. I sweated more Saturday than I have in a LONG time. I went through 5 shirts, 3 pair of underwear, and 2 pair of shorts. Thankfully the 4 trips to Lowes to get different size bolts, replace the crappy hinges, and buy a forstner bit to countersink some of the bolt heads, helped cool me off. I missed out on a hiking trip, but I had fun anyway, and the Air Conditioning was only 30 feet away when I needed it.

I need to make a few upgrades to the rack as it is. The steel rod hinge pin for hooking the ramps to the rack fits too snugly, I need to open the holes up just a bit, maybe for 3/8″ to 1/2″. Some fabric underneath the rack’s oak side pieces will help it slide on and off the car easier, and I need some bungee cords to make securing the side ramps a bit quicker than lengths or paracord. But overall I’m pleased with the design and it’s usefulness.

Now I have to make a rail system for sliding the boat underneath the back porch to keep it out of the sun.


Author: theosus1

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