cars and trucks wearing canoes as hats...


That is very short "wheelbase" on the roof. Unless there are constraints to prevent it, I would encourage moving the front rack forward as far as possible.


Curious about Wooden Canoes
That is very short "wheelbase" on the roof. Unless there are constraints to prevent it, I would encourage moving the front rack forward as far as possible.

Not an option. This is an Audi-specific Thule-made rack and the bar locations are not adjustable.

Roger Young

display sample collector
Short or small-base roof rack issues:

I haul with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and have done so for a number of years with several different vehicles and canoes. I agree with many of the pointers and comments made, particularly by Greg Nolan about avoiding windage torque by placing more of the canoe’s length just aft of center of your rack – even as little 4” to 6” of greater length to the rear will make a huge difference; and by MGC regarding ‘spread distance’ or base length between cross bars. Sometimes, though, positioning may also be constrained by other factors, such as when hauling a trailer. As a vehicular brand choice, my Jeeps have performed well; some prefer other makes. Here are some issues to consider.

The roof rack cross bars on a Jeep can only be positioned a maximum of 30” apart; more spread would be highly desirable when hauling canoes, but is rendered impossible by design limitations. Also, nowadays, the cross bars attach to the rails by gripping hooks of 2 small bolts at each end which fit into channels in the rails. There are no ‘through holes’ in the rails themselves, meaning that when you tie down to the cross bars, everything depends on those bar connector bolts. Some roof rail systems have independent through-holes in the rails; earlier Jeeps did, too. Now there are none. The linear rails are more permanently attached to the roof structure, and likely have more structural integrity than the channel-locking bolts of the cross bars. In total, though, whatever you tie on to your roof relies upon this structural integrity of the attachment of rails and bars to that roof. Wind turbulence at highway speeds creates strong forces on an object the size of a canoe, which is a great air-catching cavity when tied upside down on a car. That cavity provides ‘lift’ forces which are acting in opposition to your tie-down attachments. Travelling at freeway speeds (legal limit or more), or coming up behind a tractor trailer and the turbulent air stream which follows them, will tend to make an object on the roof slew around. Those forces will test the breaking strength of whatever you use.

All of that makes secondary tie-down apparatus even more important. A breakaway canoe results in the destruction of your prized toy, and represents a life-threatening missile to anyone behind you. A front tie-down ought to be mandatory equipment; a rear one nearly as much so. For years, when hauling an older Chestnut Bob’s Special, I simply used to hook a front tie-down over an inwale, through the space between the ribs of the open forward gunwales. (Never trust a painter ring alone; there is simply not enough structural integrity. Using thwarts is better, but also can cause damage). I stopped using the hook through the gunwales one day, when I noticed that my inwales/outwales were badly separating simply from the stress of the wind forces; the screws were wearing loose from road vibration or torquing and buffeting by cross winds in turbulent air. When I later purchased a courting canoe with 4’ covered decks and no open gunwales or handy thwarts, I had to find another solution altogether. Tying the canoe down by ropes surrounding the hull was possible, but a bit of a nuisance each time, and often roughed up the hull. So, I created a padded ‘horse collar’ apparatus that is easily adjustable and works in minutes on canoes of any length. All you need is about 30’ of polypropylene rope and two swimming noodles.

The noodles are hollow, so I simply cut a quarter-sized hole in one side at the middle of each noodle. Cut in just deep enough to reach the hollow center. Fish the rope through this side hole to one end; leave a 24” exposed section then back through the other half of the noodle to the middle hole where you started; exit through that hole and tie off to the main section of rope. You should then have a collar, one part of which is foam noodle and the other part being about 2’ of rope. Do the same at the other end, but leave 15” of tail rope extra after fishing through the noodle and tying. If you place several small loop knots between the collars, spaced about 15” apart toward the tail end, you have an instantly adjustable system quickly capable of being sized to fit different canoe lengths. To use, simply slip one end of the collar over nose or tail of canoe, with the foam part placed over the hull and the exposed rope loop hanging down. Walk the length of the canoe, placing the rope between the collars along the keel or bottom and put the other collar over that end in similar fashion. Adjust, if necessary, by using the left over tail to lessen length by tying to one of the intermediate small loops and pulling collars toward one another. Put collar system on after attaching your tie-downs to cross bars. Finally, connect the rope loops of the collars to front and rear of your vehicle; I use quickly adjustable web-strap tie-downs. Front and rear tie-downs should be snug enough to prevent movement, but not so tight as to exert excessive force on canoe shape/structure. They are a secondary safety feature, the main attachment being at the roof racks. Vehicle and canoe need to become (and remain) one unit, as long as traveling on the ground.

Others may have better systems; this one has worked for me. The equipment does not take up a lot of space and travels with me all the time ... just in case there’s a canoe needing a ride somewhere. The foam noodles help to prevent chafing wear that can come from using plain rope. The collar system works well with awkward canoes, and those wrapped in a cocoon. Here are some photos of a recent trip hauling my cocooned courting canoe. You will see I broke the rule slightly about positioning more of the canoe to the rear than the front; I was pulling a trailer and wanted rearward clearance. I also have always used 3 individual tie-down straps at the cross-bars. A separate one at each bar, for sure, and often a third, just in case. ‘Overkill’ perhaps, but I hate the thought of picking up canoe kindling along the roadside. And, I have no desire to face a lawsuit for negligence in failing to properly attach my canoe to my vehicle, or at least show that I took adequate precautions before setting out. My canoes, as well as the other guy’s life behind me are both important.


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Dave Osborn

Dave Osborn

Manitowish Waters Wooden Boat Show
Shell Lake Guide Deluxe
Not sure why some of my photos end up upside down... But in this case it is a CANOE WEARING A HAT!
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Curious about Wooden Canoes
image.jpgWell, we completed an 800 mile (round trip) from Maryland to Vermont at highway speeds up to 81 mph. No issue with the Thule bars,l and Thule Portage canoe kit using the set up in this photo. Very stable!
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Rob Stevens

Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
Enroute to Algonquin Park, I stopped by the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborugh. Unfortunately it was too early in the day, so it wasn't yet open.
My Ford Ranger with custom built quarter sawn oak rack, with a 16' new build Chestnut-style canoe.
Truck and blue canoe.jpg

Dan Lindberg

Ex Wood Hoarder
Now there (pointing up) is a proper canoe carrying vehicle.

actually the best I've had was the daxx mini van, long enough for a good wheel base, low enough to be easy to load.
But I hated it from the 1st moment I got it, too lightly built and no room up front.

Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
Multiple Canoes at Hat-wearing Event

I took this picture specifically for posting in this thread... but forgot to do so until now! Taken at the 2016 Annual Assembly.


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Kathryn Klos

squirrel whisperer
How We're Handling Hats on the Jeep Cherokee

I wanted to share the way Fred has his 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee set up now for traveling with canoes. The maximum separation between crossbars that the roof rack permitted was only 30 inches-- so essentially only the middle 30 inches of a 17 foot canoe could be held in place. Adding a Yakima Drydock-- which is attached to the trailer hitch (and thus to the car's frame)-- has provided greater stability for carrying canoes. The separation is now 87 inches. And using the longer crossbars has made it easier to get canoes on and off the car (this is a tall vehicle!). Leaving the middle crossbar in place (the one that's only 30" from the front crossbar) gives us a place to attach a lock between car and canoe.

We like traveling with one canoe on the longer crossbars in case we "see something" that we "need to rescue".


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Rob Stevens

Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
Here's a different vantage point of my "Atkinson Traveller" on the home-built rack on my Ford Ranger.


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Rachel and Stephen edits-45.jpg

Wedding chariot:
1958 Willys/Jeep wagon with a 15' canoe built by the old man (me) as the wedding present.

Jody Bronson


LOVES Wooden Canoes
Land Rover Defender

1909 Peterborough Cedar rib

1950 Chestnut Playmate cedar/canvas

All in the UK


Michael Grace

Lifetime Member
I'll second that Peterborough cedar rib canoe. This one's on our Toyota Tacoma in a vast palmeto/longleaf pine forest along the Ochlockonee River in northwestern Florida. The wrapped canoe is a 1916 B.N. Morris Model A Type 3.



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Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
Old Town Guide's Special on a Model T. We still have the canoe, not sure what became of the car.



LOVES Wooden Canoes
and I will trump that (excuse the topical pun) Michael with what has turned out to be a Thomas Gordon canoe given to me the other month having spent the last 32 years in a barn. I gave the canoe to Alick who is currently restoring her back to glory. We think the canoe is from about 1880




LOVES Wooden Canoes
Far too much weight and 26' of chestnut Ogilvy on a skoda fabia.
It will look better when finished!