Advice on Canoe trailer


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
Does anyone care to offer advice on a canoe trailer? I just built this, I put four slightly swiveling supports so that it will catch at least three ribs in those four corners. Standard boat trailers tend to use rollers that put a lot of weight on small areas. The canoe is 132 lbs, old and brittle I guess. My real concern is breaking a rib as it travels.
Looks like a AA-grade OT sailing canoe with outside stems and sailing setup. And it looks in near-mint condition (structurally). These sponson canoes are heavy, as you must know. Don't know if I'd risk all that weight on 4 such closely-spaced points. You've got a lot of weight hanging over the ends. Any possibility of extending the supports forward and back, and making your blocks/bunks even longer?

Oh- just noticed your front support- that's good, but still a lot of weight off the back.
Thanks H.E.
I was waiting for someone to see what I did not. That sent me scurrying to the boat house. There is 6'4" hanging off the back. Will someone tell me that is okay? If not, I can easily add the old tongue to the back and get a support point 27 inches further aft. But the trailer gets a bit more unwieldy then. You're right, a 17 ft HW with sponsons and sail.
Based on personal experience, I'd have to say that the worst way to carry a canoe is on the ribs. I tried it once, on a freshly restored canoe, and broke 8 ribs doing it. Since then, the ONLY way I carry canoes is on the gunnels.
I hauled my Prospector right side up two times. I cracked three ribs. After that I bought a Yakima roof rack and built a six canoe trailer. The trailer supports the canoes on the gunnels also.
I carry a HW sponson sailing canoe on a trailer that is sprung very light, with marine carpeted eight foot 2x4's laid flat. The Hw makes good contact the full eight feet.If it was sprung heavy then it would tear the canoe apart, having it sprung light the canoe floats.
Here's a picture of the trailer I use to haul my HW sailing canoes. Those are Thule bars on the top.



  • canoe_trailer_sm.jpg
    119.8 KB · Views: 1,182
IMHO, trailers flex and the canoe's on them must flex and if you bolt everything down so nothing can flex, something will break... It is simple physics... Two tie down straps are fine and the guide straps front and rear are highly recommended but they are to keep the canoes from swinging not from flexing. Tie down too tight and break the canoe or the trailer, as something must give.
The cross bars on my trailer are 1/8" wall square tube. I cut a 4.5" diameter pool noodle length wise and spread it over the square tube. when a canoe is strapped over this the closed cell foam of the pool noodle acts as a shock absorber on the gunwale.
Pool noodle

The vertical ones just protect the sides. This might be over kill but I am new at hauling a wooden canoe 3500 miles.


  • ASSEMBLY 803.jpg
    ASSEMBLY 803.jpg
    60.2 KB · Views: 699
I think you'll find the pool noodles aren't very durable -- they'll wear through long before you get to 3500 miles.

There are other ways to deal with this, though. At many canoe stores, you can buy foam blocks, with slots cut in them perpendicular to each other. One slot goes over the crossbar, the other accepts the gunnel. These hold up much better than pool noodles, though they also won't last forever. Old fire hose is durable, but provides little cushioning, so it needs help.
You are right about the durability. I had to use new ones for the return trip. Also, contrary to what I expected, the noodles held up better on the canoes that were not lashed so tightly.
I just got back from 2 weeks in the Canadian bush. After considering all advice, thank you skifree, I modified my trailer and report great success. I trailered this 1948 Old Town 2300 miles with over 200 on gravel roads. No damage to the canoe whatsover. Those rails are of triple laminate with "great stuff" added to get perfect conform to the hull. Canoe is tied to the rails with racheting straps using specially made spreaders so the gunwales hold their shape and the sail has a place to ride. The two rollers are in firm contact but only the front is tied also with rachet to the trailer. I do not like trailering a canoe, takes the canoe advantage away, but at 132 lbs this was the only way to go alone. I had to build a ramp at my camp site as well just to beach and turn over the canoe.
That 17 ft Old Town with sponsons carries quite the load and it is the most seaworthy canoe I have ever been in. Great canoe and sails well too. Love those sponsons. Now to refinish a 16 footer and try to get the weight down.
I really need to take less gear but I am curious how much an 18 footer with sponsons would carry. I should add, it paddles just like 17 footer should paddle, very nice. I was surprised.