Sunday, December 12, 2010

Overhead Boat Storage

The question came up about how to store a canoe or kayak inside. There are a lot of options, but choices will be largely dictated by things you have little control over, like the height of your vehicle, the weight of the boat, the clearance height of the garage door, and the type of garage door. There is also the question of how deep your pockets are. There are fancy and very expensive commercial solutions, or you can do it yourself, making the cost of a storage arrangement run between $50 to a couple thousand.

I feel there are two primary ideal objectives. The best solution is being able to load and unload the boat single-handed so your plans don’t have to depend on someone else’s availability to get your gear loaded. If you have a small, light plastic kayak of about forty pounds, options are almost limitless. Wall racks are an option. However, if your boat is an eighty-pound tripping or expedition canoe, juggling the craft alone can become a bit of a challenge. In this case, I have found an overhead hoist to be ideal. If you can raise and lower the boat directly onto your vehicle’s roof rack, you can be loaded and underway in a few minutes. This requires a couple things---sufficient door clearance so you can drive in and out with the boat loaded on the vehicle, and some garage door arrangement other than an overhead door. These can be a rolling hanger door, double swinging doors, or a rolling metal warehouse door. If you have an overhead door, it will roll back under the rafters right where you’d want the hoist secured. You can install a beam or beams to span the width of the door that hang below the door when raised, so the door rolls back between the overhead beams or rafters and the hoist. This involves some extra engineering and imagination, more money, and greater clearance over your vehicle. The next best solution is hanging the boat where there’s room, and transferring it from the hoist to the vehicle. This can include a very reliable, inexpensive, but strong do-it-yourself pulley set-up. Since I have an overhead door, and a truck too tall to allow driving in and out with the canoe on top, this was what worked for me.

Make two 2 X 2” crossbeams a bit longer than the boat’s beam. Cover it with carpet to protect the boat. At each end of the boat, slide a single-sheave block onto the line, and secure the line to one end of the beam with a clove hitch. Run the line over the boat with just enough slack to tie an overhand knot in the doubled line with the block in the bight of the loop, and then clove hitch it to the opposite end of the beam. Adjust the clove hitches so the block is centered over the centerline of the boat and with just enough slack so you can slide the bridle you’ve just created on and off the end of the boat. Cut the excess line and whip the ends, and back up each clove hitch with two half-hitches. I use half-inch line. It has more work strength than you need, but a half-inch line is easy on the hands and gives a good grip when lifting weight.

This photo shows the crossbeam and bridle, the hoisting line running through the two blocks and across to the wall of the garage, and the safety line.

Take one end of the line and secure it to the overhead, whether to a rafter, truss, or eyebolt. Run the line down and through the block on the lifting bridle, back up and through a turning block secured next to the line attachment point, then across the ceiling, through another turning block, and down the wall of the garage to a well anchored cleat. Once the boat is hoisted, run a length of line from the overhead, around the boat, and back to the overhead. This is a safety line that is tied in place after the boat is hoisted. If an attachment should ever fail, a block come apart, or a line part, the safety line will hold the boat in place so it can never fall.
This shows the line coming across the ceiling, through the two turning blocks, one for either end of the canoe, and down to the cleat.

The cleat is well lagged into the steel beam, and made off with a secure cleat hitch.  We all know there are two ways to secure a line---tie a knot or tie a lot.  With two lines, you can't get a bunch of figure-eights on the hitch, so knowing how to do a proper cleat hitch is helpful.  Begin by taking a 360-degree wrap.

                                         Hook the bottom horn of the cleat.
Then turn a loop in the line so the two wraps lie side-by-side, secured in place by the wrap over the top.

My installation hangs the canoe over the hoods of both our car and truck. When I’m ready to load, I pull the vehicles out, lower the canoe onto a canoe cart, and roll it outside to put it on the truck.

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