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HomeNL-2017-05 Gear Tip: The Safety Knot

Gear Tip: The Safety Knot
May 2017
by John Rich
As canoeists and kayakers, we spend a lot of time thinking about things that can go wrong on the water and how we can stay safe in those circumstances. But there are also things that can go wrong as we travel to get to the water. And one of those things is a boat that is improperly secured to the vehicle. A boat that comes loose on the highway is a loose missile that could create deadly and expensive accidents. (Example here.) So we must do all we can to keep our boats attached securely to our vehicles while en-route to the water.

The most common method of securing a boat is to tie it down to roof racks on top of the vehicle. And to do that, we use web straps with a piece of hardware called a cam-buckle. The strap is threaded through the cam-buckle, where a spring loaded lever grips the webbing and keeps it from slipping out. That cam-buckle must have good gripper texture to lock onto the webbing. But what if that texture is a little worn out? 

In the first photo below, you see webbing held in place only by the cam-buckle. If that webbing were to slip, the attachment point to the car is then loose, and the boat could come flying off.
There is a simple extra step that can be taken to add a backup to the cam-buckle to ensure it retains it's hold on the webbing, so that your boat stays secured to your vehicle. 

And that is... "the safety knot". 

It's simple, and it takes only 5-seconds of your time to implement in your tie-down procedures.

You start by installing your tie-down straps as usual - the strap is threaded through the cam-buckle and cinched tight. Then take the loose end and put an overhand knot in it. See photo 2, below. While the overhand knot is loose, slide it all the way up as close to the cam-buckle as you can get it. With the knot up against the cam-buckle, pull it tight - see photo 3, below. Then secure the loose end of the web strap as usual.

With this knot in place, it is impossible for the webbing to slip back out through the cam-buckle and come loose. The knot is physically too big to fit through the slot on the cam-buckle. This locks your strap in place so that it cannot come unsecured.

And with that, you can travel in confidence to the water for your day of fun. 

No safety knot   Overhand knot   Safety knot

The author, John Rich