THE HARP COLUMN March/April 1999

Hauling Your Harp: Getting safely from point A to point B.
- By Mike Lewis

Safely transporting your harp is always difficult. The two big problems that I can think of are these: Getting the harp to and from the car safely, and transporting the harp in the car without disaster.
As you know, getting to and from the car is just another part of the fun of owning a harp. I'm frequently asked about the best system I've seen for getting a harp to and from the car. The absolute best transport system I've ever seen is two Marines from the U.S. Marine Band. (Call your local recruiter today.) However, most harpists do not have access to such a system, and since people make money selling harp carts I am not going to go into the pros and cons of each one here. That said, I will recognize that the Van McKay style cart (named for its original designer) rules the day. See Figure 1 if you have any doubt about what a McKay style harp cart looks like.
A plain old McKay cart leaves a little to be desired, so here is a simple modification you can make that will make it "mo' better." First, add a bungee cord that goes around the base of the harp and attaches to the axle of the cart. Next, place a bungee cord over your harp's harmonic curve and attach it to the cart via the axle again. (See figure 2. Remember that bungee cords can snap around and hit you or someone else; please use with caution.) This simple modification will help hold the harp to the cart when someone 'helps' you down the stairs and instead pulls the harp off of the cart. (See figure 3, "Big Oops.")

OK, you've gotten the harp to the car. I'm going to assume you have preheated or precooled the inside of your car so that your harp will be comfortable. I'm also going to assume you have padded the harp with cushions underneath for transport. May I also assume you have not thought about using any sort of tie-down system for your harp?
What will happen to your harp if you hit a really big bump? What will happen to your harp in the event of a crash? Forget about your harp for a minute and worry about what will happen to you when your beloved harp comes speeding toward the small of your back at 55 mph. This sort of crash has already happened in other countries; it's just a matter of time before it happens here in the US. Will it be a loved one your harp claims? Who will be the "lucky" harpist? This area of concern is ugly; I simply ask that you think about it.
Everybody wants to sell you a harp cart, but no one wants to sell you a harp tie-down system for your car. I will tell you why. It would be difficult at best to devise a cheap system that would fit all the different cars, trucks, and harps in use. Another issue is liability. A harp falling off a cart is one thing, but a harp ripping free of its tie-down system in a rear end crash and injuring someone is quite another. Talk to your car dealership and see if they have a solution that works for you. There are cargo vehicles available, which have more tie-down points than a station wagon. However, cargo vehicles do not have to meet the same crash safety standards as a car, so asking, "Are they safer?" is a valid question.
I know a harpist who just had her harp repaired. She picked it up at the repair shop and put it into the back of her station wagon with no tie-down system. Less than five miles from the shop, she hit a bump that sent the harp slamming into the roof of the car and then back down again. Presto, her harp has another broken neck.
Some days, wouldn't you rather be a piccolo player? THE HARP COLUMN March/April 1999