As a manufacturer, we’ve seen many canoes brought in for fiberglass repairs over the years. One thing has always remained constant… By a huge margin, most canoes are not being paddled when they get damaged. Many boats that we see in for repairs have “flown” off a vehicle at highway speed or rolled across the yard into a tree!
Tying your canoe down properly is so important that all of our staff are instructed in the proper way to do it. Most important are the straps over the sides of the canoe. One over each crossbar. These are the ones that actually hold the canoe on the rack (not the bow & stern lines as most people think).
If using rope, use polypropylene or natural fiber rope – DO NOT use the cheap yellow rope that is so commonly seen. This awful stuff is difficult to work with, doesn’t hold a good knot, and won’t coil or lie flat. Better yet, use cam straps! These wonders are amazingly quick and easy to use and with the one-way cam, have no chance of loosening off.
NEVER use stretchy bungee cord for securing your boat to your vehicle. These won’t give you a solid connection and have been known to break or “let go” at most inopportune times. Whether you use rope or straps, ensure that they go around your roof rack right next to the gunnels of your canoe. You want no possibility of side-slipping. Tighten these attachments very snug! We joke with people, saying to tighten the straps until you hear the first crack… then back them off a bit!
If you have adequate spread between racks, this alone should secure your canoe to the racks. Now… are your racks firmly attached to your vehicle?
Driving at highway speeds creates a great deal of lift inside an up-turned canoe. A lot of force is trying to pull your racks off your vehicle.
Use quality roof racks like Yakima or Thule racks. They may not be cheap, but you do get what you pay for…
The bow and stern lines, which ideally would run as an inverted “V” from bumper, up to canoe stem, and down again to bumper, are safety lines that ensure that even if the main straps fail, or if the rack comes off the vehicle, your boat should stay put long enough for you to stop driving. The bow and stern lines shouldn’t be extremely tight, but just snug.
A final word on working with ropes
A knot that is very useful for making a rope very tight is the Trucker’s Hitch. Learn it and your life will become much easier…