Rock­ing the boat



One of the best things to add to your trav­el­ling rig is some form of boat, but it’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple tell you they did ex­actly that, and got it wrong. Usu­ally, it’s be­cause the boat and mo­tor se­verely cramped their rig some­how. You see plenty of small boat mo­tors mounted on A-frames and in the backs of utes but, with­out some plan­ning, they can be pretty awk­ward.

Mind you, if you love your fishing and you’re head­ing north, a boat’s al­most manda­tory. I’ve got mates who won’t leave home with­out one!

If your rig has been en­gi­neered to take it, then fine, chances are it’ll work and work well. My big­gest fear, though, is the peo­ple who fig­ure that as long as they can fit the boat and mo­tor some­where, they can cart it any­where! Hmmm...

Think of it like this. A 10hp boat mo­tor weighs in around 40kg on av­er­age. That’s about the same as a spare tyre with a steel rim, so if you’ve got a spare wheel car­rier not be­ing used for a spare wheel, bingo. Un­for­tu­nately, that prompts the ques­tion ‘where’s your spares?’

Yes, that was plu­ral. If you’re head­ing of­froad, or even rea­son­ably re­mote, there’s noth­ing like the se­cu­rity of a cou­ple of spares. And don’t go with­out pack­ing a de­cent tyre plug­ging kit, too. What’s de­cent? Any­thing from a good 4WD shop should work and, yes, they cost more than the cheap­ies. But it’s cheap in­sur­ance when you’re on the side of the road.

One of the most pop­u­lar places for a boat mo­tor is the A-frame. That’s fine, but fac­tor in the location and weight and you have a se­vere ball load­ing is­sue, un­less you’ve en­gi­neered

things ac­cord­ingly. I saw a chap on the

Gibb River Road once with a 15hp mo­tor on spe­cial brack­ets he’d welded to the front of his ‘of­froad’ van, which had been ‘bal­anced’ ball weight-wise by adding a big trunk on the rear bar of the trailer to hold all the camp­ing an­cil­lar­ies. The boat was on a rack on top of his dual cab, but that wasn’t the prob­lem – a bent trailer axle was. I’m pretty sure what had hap­pened in that case was the con­stant ham­mer­ing at each end of the van chas­sis had cre­ated forces that had to go some­where. The bent axle was pos­si­bly a whole lot bet­ter than a cracked chas­sis but, ei­ther way, the fur­ther you move weight from the cen­tre of a trailer, the more chance you have of disas­ter.


Talk­ing disas­ter, on my last trip I ran into a lady driv­ing slowly home tow­ing a big tan­dem van be­hind a 200 Se­ries Land­Cruiser. She was fu­elling up in Rock­hamp­ton and, not­ing the dust and mud on the rig, we started chat­ting. There was an empty mo­tor bracket on the A-frame and the roof rack of the wagon had an empty roller cra­dle, too.

Her hus­band had jig­gled the boat off eas­ily with her help and then pulled his back lift­ing the mo­tor on to the tran­som of the tinny. As it hap­pened on slip­pery mud on the edge of the creek, he’d been lucky to be able to crawl

out with­out drown­ing. For­tu­nately, they had a satel­lite phone and had man­aged to get him out quickly. Too quickly to re­cover the boat or mo­tor, but fel­low cam­pers had promised to help.

So, the best boat racks on cam­per trail­ers fea­ture hinged frames that swing from points equidis­tant from the axle and are mounted di­rectly on the body of the trailer it­self. These will last, with luck, and don’t take too much ef­fort to load. If the mo­tor is sim­i­larly dis­posed – or per­haps it’s the mighty 2hp model, you’re sup­posed to be re­lax­ing any­way – then the job’s done easy. But there’s al­ways some­one who can prove you wrong...

Let’s hope it’s not some­one from the Depart­ment of Trans­port, es­pe­cially if you’re putting that boat on the roof. In fair­ness, I’ve never seen it yet but that wor­ries me be­cause I fig­ure there’s al­ways go­ing to be a first time and prob­a­bly, know­ing our uni­formed brethren’s man­age­ment struc­ture, when it does hap­pen, it’ll be a blitz.

The thing is that every ve­hi­cle’s roof has a rat­ing de­ter­mined by the man­u­fac­turer. That’s usu­ally some­where be­tween 50 and 100kg – the Pa­jero’s is 60kg, for ex­am­ple – and with a tinny weigh­ing maybe 80kg you can see how easy it can be to ex­ceed the le­gal limit. And it’s not al­ways a ‘le­gal’ thing – add plenty of cor­ru­ga­tions and a tight cor­ner and it’s easy to rock the boat, so to speak!

My choice for roof racks is al­ways the alu­minium ones. They save a heap of weight and, if well en­gi­neered, can be just as strong. One of the best ones avail­able in re­cent years is the Fron­tRun­ner sys­tem from Africa. You get a light­weight, flat and very sta­ble plat­form that’s su­per se­cure – one can only pre­sume Africa’s tracks are as bad as ours.

Sur­pris­ingly, they of­fer an ex­cel­lent ca­noe or kayak car­ry­ing sys­tem for their racks, too. Why sur­prised? Well, I’m not too sure I’d like to go ca­noe­ing with the rhi­nos. Our crocs are scary enough.

Righto, when it comes to cart­ing some form of boat, don’t be put off! Just get it right be­fore you leave home. It’s amaz­ing how much of this won­der­ful coun­try can be opened right up with a boat.

ABOVE: In any ad­ven­ture there comes a time when you’ve got to won­der how long it’ll take to run back and flip the boat over be­cause the truck is sink­ing. Okay, so maybe that’s just a fan­tasy I’ve had too many times driv­ing Milo...

TOP LEFT: Ca­noes are of­ten the cho­sen craft of trav­ellers for a lot of great rea­sons, in­clud­ing ease of load­ing and the fact that you can pad­dle places mo­tors aren’t al­lowed, like this out­back gorge. Hold still, Glenno, you’re rock­ing the boat!

BOT­TOM LEFT: In­sur­ance for tube­less tyres! A good punc­ture re­pair kit like this one will last for years in the back of your truck and al­ways be ready to plug a hole. Get a de­cent brand – the cheap ones’ plugs and glue can be very sub­stan­dard.

ABOVE: The all-alu­minium Fron­tRun­ner ‘Slim­line II’ built in South Africa is mar­keted as the ‘best roof rack in the world’. Fair enough, it’s light and ex­cep­tion­ally strong, has a low pro­file deck (no side rails) that’s great for load­ing or rooftop tents and has 25 pur­pose-built ac­ces­sories to mount things like shov­els, spare wheels, axes, LPG bot­tles, bikes, skis – you name it!

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