So.  Around 1996 or so, I bought this Suburban.  And the first thing I did was put racks on it because we were going to the river that weekend.  Those racks lasted an awfully long time.  They’re gone now- the years took their toll and we didn’t kayak so much these days. My wife hated the wind noise so she removed the racks before a long trip- after I asked her not to take off the racks.  You see, a long time ago, Yakima towers had these funny plastic/nylon thumbswitchee thingies that you used to tighten the rig, and then you turned the key on your locking cores and voila!  Racks.

But the little plastic nylon whatchamacallems, they only last thirteen or fourteen years or so, what with all the UV radiation and hard use and me probably not installing or using them correctly.  I dunno.  They broke.  And I’m not that great at remembering where keys are. So when the racks came off, they were off pretty much for good.

But the few times I’ve needed to transport boats, well… kayaks are pretty short these days.  You can chuck a six foot boat into the back of a Suburban and drive to the river. And you can, in a pinch, tie a canoe down on the factory luggage rack.  It’s not a great idea, but whattaya gon’ do. Throw some foam blocks under it and hope for the best.

Til now.  The family is starting to kayak.  I’ve been taking the kids to the local lakes and rivers to paddle.

For the first time since 1996, I had to go buy racks.  Just the towers.  I still have my old bars, chewed up as they are.

So I did the research and found that I needed ‘RailGrabs’ now.  Off to the local version of the Outdoors Galore Store.  It’s called Outdoors, Inc.  They had what I needed.

The installation was easier than the old ones.  Partly because I eschewed the locking cores this time.  There’s a clever little system that requires you to figure out which of three parts to install in each tower before you go to the truck to tighten things into place.  Nice.

I may have the wrong parts installed.  After dry-fitting a couple of things, I went with the middle sized clamp arms, and maybe now that I’ve had a good long shakedown drive lugging four boats, I think maybe I’ll redo the things with the small clamp arms.  I’ve got to do some fine tuning either way.  I’ve put the bars too far apart, so that if one boat is racked cockpit down, the highest (lowest) point of the cockpit sort of touches the truck roof.  There’s enough paint missing over the last 16 years without scrubbing any off the roof.

Moving the bars closer together will probably fix the stacker bar issue I have, too.  The stacker bars are the vertical bars that you can strap boats to either side of.  Mine sort of turned on me, as I racked some pretty short kid boats. With the bars so far apart, the straps tried to migrate toward the ends of the boats and pulled the stackers.  No matter.  Fine tuning never killed anyone I met so far.

Final thought: Rail Grabs are some nice work.  They’re easier to fit and adjust than the old towers I had ages ago, so obviously Yakima is continuing to fine tune their gear over the years.  And they’re not so tricky that I shy away from working on them.  With my old towers, I’d probably have been more inclined to say, “Oh, they’re up there and they’re holding.  No sense fooling around.”

Well done, Yakima.  Thumbs up on the initial use of RailGrabs.  Now we just have to run the experiment for thirteen or fourteen years and see how they do.