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Updated: Dec 1, 2022

With more of you owning singles, here’s some info on how to transport them to interesting places to row (and race) them!

CARTOPPING Roof Racks Start out with the right roof rack (crossbars) for your car to support the cradle.

or Yakima are the big ones. Call them to find out what model you need for your particular car, and then look for a local dealer – or buy it used on eBay or Craigslist.


without a cradle – yikes! photo Row2k

Some people just use kayak saddles or foam pads on the cross bars (or directly on the roof). Even if you have adequate space between roof rack crossbars (At least 4+ feet)  consider investing in a cradle about 6-8 feet long to support your shell properly, and then clamp the cradle to your crossbars. Burnham and Revolution sell these. Be advised, there are state laws about protrusion   And don’t forget to display a flag on the stern!

with a cradle…ahhh        photo Maas boats

DIY cradle You can DIY your own cradle for a fraction of the cost… Ask Steve C. Peggy M. or Francine how to build one.

Adding Support Lines (Thanks Mari for reminding me to include this!) From Doug Rathburn I would recommend that you never transport a shell without guide ropes in the front and rear. At 70mph on a bumpy highway the long lever sitting on top of your car can generate tremendous forces. The guide ropes help prevent the shell from rocking frontwards and backwards. You do not need to put much strain on the hull by pulling really tight. Just nice snug ropes will work fine to avoid the boat pitching much.

Steve suggests a bungie from one end of the line to the bumper as a shock absorber.

Without support lines. Photo Mari Friend

With support lines. photo Doug Rathburn

GETTING YOUR SHELL OFF THE CAR AND TO THE WATER Depending on lots of factors, there are different ways to do this.

Stern Dollies If you’re not strong or tall, a DIY stern dolly can easily get a 27′ shell off a 14′ car. You can make your own …Or you can buy one here

make sure dolly doesn’t slip off the stern

I use carpet samples on the slings to slide the boat on and off – they really help.

Stern dolly for transport

photo Maas boats

Midship Dolly You can buy a simple kayak dolly for around $40 at Amazon


Hoists, racks and pulleys Hoists are another cheap DIY for getting your shell on and off your car if you’re by yourself.  A roof overhang or tree will do if you don’t have a shed. 

Or just buy a complete hanging rack system  from Burnham

Rear assists for getting on/off  high vehicles:

Rhino Rack T-Loader

Converting a simple bike rack into an “alley oop roller” using a PVC t-fitting, pvc pipe and a pool noodle.


Sawhorses Make them tall enough to be able to flip the boat without jamming the riggers into the ground. Getting your shell from car to horses and back is easy.


Behind the two slings is a roller (skateboard wheels) built into the cradle for getting the shell on and off the car.

Note the bungee from the stern dolly to the cradle so dolly doesn’t fall off.

He thought of everything – even a makeshift “sling” to keep the skeg off the ground using a pool noodle.

TRAILERS Trailers are expensive and hard to back up – and they offer less shock absorption than your car…. (plus, you still need a cradle to support your shell)…But there’s nothing as easy for launching a shell at a boat ramp – or for transporting multiple shells (one on the cartop, one on the trailer)

Be advised – Ferry fare for car+trailered boat  (sum of both lengths) is through the roof (2019 one-way fares). Cartopping will save lots of $$$.

Parting shots – from Steve Chapin

A Pocock 3X on John Robinson’s pickup, after new decks. Not quite legal, but well tied and supported. Handled highway speeds just fine.

Maas 24 and an 11ft skiff atop sailboat, bound for Shaw Island.

And then there’s this…

And this…

photo credit Al McKenzie Row2k

and this…

Copyright © 2007 National Lampoon Inc

And this…


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