Monday, July 21, 2008

I learn to load/unload my kayak successfully

At last, a breakthrough in the issue I've had with loading and unloading my kayak on my car!

Last year, after purchasing a new car with a nice, fancy spoiler on the back, I realized that my old method of loading my kayak from the back of the car wasn't going to work anymore. I purchased a new rack system (Yakima BoatLoader that allows me to load the boat from the side.

It sounded so simple...extend the rod from the front crossbar, put the bow of the boat on the extended rod, lift the back of the boat onto the saddles and then move the front of the boat onto the saddles.

While the boat is very light (42 lbs), I'm short, the boat is close to 3x my size and I just didn't get how to maneuver the boat correctly. One day, after an annoyingly nasty paddle --it was hot, the river was full of nasty vegetation, and there were too many bugs, I dropped the boat onto the new car while trying to load it. I was lucky that it was a glancing blow and I was able to polish out the scuff marks and the surface scratches. And the boat suffered no damage. But I was traumatized by the experience!

I avoided kayaking for the rest of the season :-(

This year, I gathered up my courage and decided to get over this phobia I had for loading the boat. And, I'm glad to say, I have achieved success. I realized that instead of trying to handle the boat from the handles on the top of the bow or aft ends of the boat, I needed to move the boat from underneath and from the MIDDLE of the boat, not the ends.

Here's how think I'm doing in (I'll need to observe more carefully next time to see if this is how it's working):

  1. Grab the boat by the bow handle and balance it on the extended rod at the front of the rack system.
  2. Hold onto the boat by the coming of the cockpit with one hand and and underneath the hull with the other hand (this is a little tricky as the boat tends to want to slide downwards at this point -- I have to move quickly). Then I lift the boat up so I can get the back of the boat on the rear saddles. At this point, the back of the boat is on the saddles and the front is balanced on the extended rod.
  3. At the bow side of the boat, I push up from under the hull and position the bow on the front saddles.
Getting it off is similar.

  1. I hold the boat from under the hull to get the bow end on the extended rod.
  2. Then, again, working from the cockpit area, I grab the coming of the cockpit, keeping one hand underneath the hull, and lift the back of the boat off the rear saddles.
  3. Finally, I put the back of the boat down on the ground, and holding onto the coming of the cockpit to keep the boat from sliding, move forward so I can move the bow of the boat off the extended rod.

I've done this a couple of times and it's getting easier. I'm feeling a lot more motivated now to get out on the water. One small, but important personal accomplishment. :-)

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