Canoe Rack

Tom Widney

LOVES Wooden Canoes
I am in the process of building a canoe rack on my pickup bed, the cross members will be six feet from each other, that is two 2x4's bolted to the steel uprights on both the fore and aft of the pickup bed.

My queation is, in order to carry two canoes side by side , what should the width of the cross bars be? I don't have the luxery at this time to place two canoes side by side and measure, I need the rack in order to go pickup the canoes. The crossbars will be un bolted from the steel rack when not in use.

Second question; should I cover the 2x4's with either carpet or old bicycle inner tubes in order to protect the wooden gunnels from scratching or is this a non issue?

Thanks for any and all thoughts on this.


My Thule bars are 78 inches and will handle two big prospectors with a couple of inches left on each side and my racks are not 6ft apart (You may get by with less width given the shape of the canoes).
carpet is good, i like those foam pool noodles - just slit them once and wrap them over the bars, works great especially on older boats with spruce gunwales or even gunwale caps. 'specially if the road is rough.
I have 78 inch Yakima bars. I can get my 20 foot White and any one of my other canoes on the roof without any trouble. I have even managed to get a kayak up there with two canoes (jerry rigged for sure).

I find that the current Yakima gunwhale mounts do not damage the wood.I no longer see a need to add protective foam. Before I started using these I used to slip small pieces of pipe insulation between the rails and the canoe.
The older Yakima gunnel brackets had little ribs molded into the seats, where your gunnels would rest.... and when you tied it down, would create little lines dented into your gunnels... each and every time you tied it down... it was UGLY!

The newer Yakima parts are smooth on the surface, and so far have left fairly little in the way of black rubber skid marks on my wood gunnels. Pool noodles are cheap, easily replace-able in season, and offer a bit more shock absorption than the gunnel brackets, but fall apart quickly. Carpet scraps are more durable, but less cushion-y, unless you double- or triple-layer them, but then it's harder to get them to stay put. Gunnel brackets stop side-to-side motion, but there are other ways to accomplish this... and I'm not convinced that that's really necessary on paved roads over reasonably short (half day?) distances.

In the free world, you can pick your poison....
older yakima brackets

For the older, ribbed Yakima brackets, get a computer mouse pad -- thin foam rubber with fabric surface -- cut to size to cover ribbed faces of bracket -- glue on with Pliobond or other contact cement.
That's a pretty good suggestion for the older Yaki mounts.
Another thing that I occasionally do to protect gunwales and also the canvas is to take old canvas scraps and lay them across the canoe and then put the ends between the gunwale and the rack brackets. That allows me to cinch up the hold down straps tightly without worrying about the paint. The canvas is thin enough to fit tightly in the gunwale bracket so the canoe does not shift or settle as it does when you use foam.
different mouse trap

While we are on the subject of home made canoe racks, here is my design, in use on a short bed Ford with a tool box. The front rack locks into the rain gutter and a rap around ratchet strap holds everything in place.


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The answer to your original question is apparently very simple (or am I missing something here?). Just measure the maximum beam of your two canoes, add them together, and add length to keep them apart and for whatever kind of brackets you might be using.

And Jeff- what do you call that canoe in your avatar? "Dark Side"? "Any Colour You Like"? Or maybe you got a bit too much of the paint and varnish fumes while building/restoring, and decided to call it "Brain Damage"...

Tom --

It is unusual for the beam of a canoe of 18 feet or less to exceed 36-37 inches -- so unless you are getting a monster canoe -- 20 feet or more, or you have some reason to believe that the canoes are abnormally wide (some "sports" "fisherman" or square-enders are much wider), I would think you would be safe with 78 inches or so. Doesn't anybody you can call near the canoes have a tape measure? Of course, since you have a truck, you can bring longer 2x4's for cross-pieces along, and a saw, then cut the 2x's off when you see what you need.
canoe Rac

Wow! Jeff, You went all out and had your truck painted red to match the cool canoe. Very nice rack, your canoe work must be about the same great quality, thanks for sharing- Canoe MI
Finished canoe rack

Sorry it took so long but I finally built the rack with the help of some good friends.
It is a 78" in. wide varnished 2x4 covered in a "ON SALE" piece of carpet I bought for small bucks. The reflectors are to warn unsuspecting fore heads off. It still needs some flat washers on the mounting bolts.

The best thing about the whole rig is that we were able to take the aft steel uprights off another old canoe rack made for another truck and bolt it right on this bed.

Thanks for all the input


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Cut open some old tennis balls & tack them onto the ends of the crossbars... hats with ballcaps won't see the reflector strips, and the tennis balls make the lobotomies a bit less painful...:)