Balance, Momentum, and Leverage: How to Get a 25’ Kayak Off A Truck By Yourself

by Nancy Soares on August 7, 2017

The Tsunami X-3 Trident. Not a small boat.

The Tsunami X-3 Trident. Not a small boat.

Naturally I was devastated when my late husband died, but one of the things that really had me exercised was how the heck I was going to get kayaks on and off the truck by myself. It might sound silly to some, but I’m short, the rack is high, and the Kevlar boats are long and heavy.

Thanks to my friend Rebekah Kakuk, I learned how to get the X-15 up and down solo, so that was great. But what about the X-3 Trident? A boat that’s 25’ long and weighs 100 pounds? This summer I got a chance to see if I could manage it by myself and by golly I pulled it off. So for all of you out there who may find yourself in a similar predicament, here’s how to get a Tsunami X-3 Trident off a Rack-It rack on a Toyota Tacoma all by yourself, even if you’re 5’ 3”.

The specs for the Trident

The specs for the Trident

July 4th, Jim and I loaded the Trident onto the rack no problem. Jim wanted to try the boat out with his partner Patti because they were considering taking it to Baja. But at Russian Gulch they decided it was too tippy so I ended up taking it back home. Since Jim and Patti had returned to Guerneville, I was stuck unloading it myself. Actually, there are people I could have called to help, but I was walking with a friend the morning of my return and when I asked her if she could help she said, “Can’t you do it yourself?” She seemed to think I was totally capable. Of course, she hadn’t seen the Trident.

Jim and Patti at Abalone Pt. with the Trident and the X-15

Jim and Patti at Abalone Pt. with the Trident and the X-15

But her words stuck with me. Could I do it myself? I’ve done practically every other thing I’ve found myself having to do alone since Eric died. Maybe I should give it a shot. So the next morning when it was still nice and early and cool I walked up to the truck where it was parked by the boat rack and took stock of the situation.  

Yikes!!!

Yikes!!!

I thought about whether I’d be able to lower the bow onto the tail gate once I got the stern down. It seemed doable. I decided to do it. I untied the ropes and then took a break to Really Think about what was going to happen. I visualized the process of sliding the boat off the rack and analyzed where the stern would end up. Then I opened the back of the truck and stood on the tail gate. The first thing was to flip the boat over, because it was resting on its rails and it slides a lot easier on the hull. First check. I couldn’t flip the damn thing to save my life because I was positioned toward the stern of the boat and it was too heavy. So I climbed up onto the rack, made my way to the center of the boat’s frame, and it was an easy flip from there.

Got 'er flipped. What's next?

Got ‘er flipped. Now what?

I climbed down and thought about it some more. Then I got back up on the tail gate and holding onto a rail with both hands started to slide the Trident toward the back of the truck. Little by little I carefully worked the boat back. It started to tip but I controlled it so the stern slowly but surely lowered softly to the ground. Once the stern was established on the ground, I took a break and assessed the situation again. The Trident looked pretty impressive tilted up against the rack, its bow high in the air. Now came the tricky part.

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

Approaching the stern, I grabbed the back rails and again Very Slowly started sliding the Trident off the rack. Finally there was only a little bit of the bow still resting on the rack. I set the stern down and thought about the next step. I climbed up onto the tail gate and tried to lift the nose off the rack, but I couldn’t do it. The stern was stuck on the ground making it so I couldn’t lift the bow and I couldn’t slide the boat back without damaging the rudder. I wasn’t sure it would move anyway. So I got down, picked up the stern again, and slid the Trident back some more until just the littlest bit of the bow was still perched on the rack.

Cautiously so as not to rock the truck and drop the boat I climbed up on the tail gate and found that I could now lift the bow off the rack. There I was standing on the tail gate holding the bow of the Trident in my arms unable to move. I couldn’t get it down onto the tail gate because the stern wouldn’t move and the boat was a little too long to lower down without cracking the glass in the back window of the camper shell. If I tried to muscle it I was afraid to damage the rudder or lose control of the boat. Then I realized that I could probably lift the bow over the back of the rack to the side and then lower it down that way. I slid the boat as far over to one side as I could and took the hull in my arms. I gently lifted the boat up and over the rack. There I stood on the edge of the side of the tail gate, cradling the bow in my arms. I realized I couldn’t just drop it on the ground. Now what?

Yay! I did it!

Yay! I did it!

The boat actually felt light since I was only holding the very end. With my arms glued to my sides, elbows bent at 90 degrees like a forklift to protect my shoulders, I slowly bent my knees and squatted down with the boat in my arms. I got as low as I could and eased my butt down on to the edge of the tail gate till I could slide my legs over and sit. Now I could hop down and lower the bow to the ground. Mission accomplished! 

I washed the boat off and two friends who live down the street came over and helped me get the Trident into its berth. Easy peasy. While moving the boat at no point did I feel out of control or in danger of blowing out a shoulder, losing a limb, or breaking the boat. The entire process, including all those pauses to stop and think, only took about 15 minutes. So even though the Trident is almost five times taller than me and weighs nearly as much as I do, I wrangled that bad boy no problem. Whoever said, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” never said a truer word. I probably could have racked the boat by myself too but why push it?

I hope this information is useful, and I’d love to hear your stories about maneuvering boats in difficult situations. If any of our readers have a good tale to share let’s hear it! Vive la independence!    

    

 

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Moore August 8, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Great account, Nancy! Where there’s a will there’s a way, and you found it. My wife is always worrying about me hoisting the X-2 double by myself, but I, too, have a system…I “wear” it like a hat…yes, a very big hat, but a hat! My head is positioned in the center of the boat, which is upside down, and I hold onto the two rails. With the boat so balanced, I can walk for quite a ways. (I do wear a real hat when I do this, like a winter knit cap, for it can get to you with all that weight concentrated in the small spot where your head touches the boat…even me with my very hard head has limits!) From this position, I can slide it, upside down onto my bare Thule crossbars. In the garage where the boat is stored, it rests somewhat diagonally on a special rack that I made…I can tilt it onto my head, and I’m ready to put it on the car. To take it off the car, I carefully slide it the racks and lower it onto my head again, and I’m off. Now what about lifting it off the beach, and getting it onto my head? One of 2 ways works. I can grab the rails at the center of the boat and hoist it in an arcing motion up to my head, or I can grab the smaller rails near the stern, flip the boat upside down, and gradually work my way with my hands to the center (the bow digs into the sand, holding it down, until I reach the center, at which time it rises when my hands reach the balance point. So far, my neck has survived!

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Nancy Soares August 9, 2017 at 8:59 am

I love your creativity, Tony! Actually, Eric loaded his X-15 the first way you describe loading the X-2: the swinging arc to the head approach except he always wore his helmet. Unfortunately even the X-15 is too unwieldy for me to try that but I might try it with the smaller X-0 some time. Never thought of doing that before. I also like your other approach, walking your way to the balance point. Might try that with the X-15. I do headstands from time to time so I think my neck can handle it. Thank you so much for your comment. Now I have 2 new ways to work with the boats. Yay!

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Carl White August 8, 2017 at 8:12 pm

My method has served me well over the decades. I have rather high cradles for the kayak atop my Subaru Forester, but also a sturdy wooden bar wrapped in carpeting that is attached to the outermost ends of the racks and runs parallel with the long axis of the car. Thus bar thus forms the base of a squarish U, and the racks would form the uprights, if viewed from overhead. I position my boat on the ground such that I can pick up the bow (or stern) and rest the tip of it upon the bar. Now the kayak is at right angles to the car, its bow (or stern) resting on the bar and the other end on the ground. I pick the ground end to hip height, firmly press it against my hip, and walk toward the car, thus driving the kayak up onto the carpeted bar until it reaches the midway balance point. The boat now can be moved easily with fingers of one hand, rotated as needed, and dropped into the cradles. This whole business takes little effort. I am lifting the center of gravity of the kayak to half the height of the racks, using the kayak as its own lever, then forcing that center of gravity all the way up using the kayak as its own inclined plane as I walk toward the car. The carpeted bar offers almost no resistance to the sliding required. It is less effort and wear and tear for me to load (and unload) my boat this way than if someone grabs the other end and we lift together onto the racks, so I always politely decline offers to help a 77-year-old man get his boat onto the vehicle.

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Nancy Soares August 9, 2017 at 9:15 am

Carl, thank you so much for your comment. As you can see from the photographs, my rack has side bars that I can wrap in carpet. I actually have some carpet, and the cross bars are wrapped in it. My only concern is that the side bars might be too high for this to work with the X-15, as in I might not be able to get the bow up there without the tail gate, although the head carry Tony suggested could make it possible. The side bars are higher than the cross bars, too. It might work well to load the Trident. I’m going to go take some measurements and see how things could work. It’s great to see this kind of problem-solving. Things don’t have to be difficult or complicated if we think them through. Thanks again for your input!

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Carl White August 9, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Nancy, how about some sort of step-stool (you could custom-design and make it) to help you get that bow or stern up onto the cross-bar? I know several paddlers who bring and use some sort of step-up to deal with getting their boats up and down. Once that end is resting upon the cross-bar, 90% of the work is done (well, maybe 75%).

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Carl White August 9, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Nancy, in my post above, when I refer to “cross-bar”, I mean the carpeted bar running parallel with the long axis of the car. I too should have used the term “side bar”, the term you use.

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Nancy Soares August 12, 2017 at 3:47 pm

You know, I used to use a little 2-step stool to tie the ropes on the rack and then tie the X-15 or the X-0 down until I figured out I could stand on the back tire to do that. So yes, a stool could work well to get the end of the Trident up on the rack. And yes, I understood what you meant about the “cross-bar” 🙂 I was surprised at how light the bow on the Trident felt when I lifted just the very end of it, so should I be able to get it up on the rack with a stool. I’m so glad to have more ideas. Knowledge is power.

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