basic question about securing canoe


Growing up on a lake in Florida, I got to canoe all the time. But it was always in someone else’s boat since we didn’t own one, and I never really had to transport it anywhere. So… I now own an old fiberglass canoe that I am working on refurbishing and I am hoping someone can help me with what I am sure are a couple of very basic transport questions.

Quick background info:

I am about to install painter holes in the bow (and maybe stern) using the method described here:

The canoe currently does not have carry handles - just deck plates where someone obviously used to have some sort of handle attached. I am thinking of adding ash carry handles.

So… now comes the questions:

  1. Where would be the best attachment point for bow and stern tie down lines when transporting? Could I use the painter holes or is that asking for trouble? If not, I imagine that the next best place would be the carry handles and that the decks are the least desirable, is that correct?

  2. The painter holes seem like a very good idea for relatively minimal work and a much better option that screwing something to the decking. Does anyone else have any opinions on this?

    Thats it.

    Thanks for your patience,


Not sure what I’d do - - -but
I did help a guy years ago that put on some plastic boat dock cleats (I think thats what they are called) on both ends inline with the center of the boat. He could run a rope through the center, or tie off, and they kinda worked for carrying.

Bow & stern line attachment
I prefer to attach lines to the canoe’s carry handles for rooftop transport. On my 18’ canoe that has painter holes, I have securely tied a loop of 1/2 rope through the bow and stern painter holes - just big enough of a loop to bring it up over the bow on the deck plate and get my hand through it for canoe pulling purposes in shallows. My second preference is attaching the bow or stern line to this painter rope loop for the ropes to attach to a vehicle. Where I attach a line is somewhat dependent upon the lenght of the boat in relation to the vehicle. I try to keep the length of the bow and stern line attachment to the vehicle as short as possible, and on my 20’ canoe this may be an attachment to a thwart or a seat.

Tug Eyes
CJ’s modification works well. Here is another option for waterproof painter holes.


My $.02
Disclaimer: I’m not known as handiest (or smartest) guy around. That said, here’s my advice: Make sure your rack system is secure. Use gunwale brackets to prevent boat from shifting sideways & to avoid having to secure straps (not ropes) so tightly you deform the hull. I look @ bow line only as a safety feature in event rest of system fails & don’t use a stern line. If you use 'em just tie off to convenient but secure place on boat. If you employ both don’t pull them tight enough torque the hull

Tying off to the front of vehicle
A friend of mine likes tying off his boat to the grill of his car. That way, when it goes flying off he knows he lost the boat.

I recommend something more solid.

Also, I tie my canoe off by the painter loop which is through the hole in the hull as you describe, and haven’t had a problem with it. But the carry handle would be more secure, especially at high speeds.

the grill
HA… I like the advice about attaching it to the grill… I will have to remember that.

Thanks for all of the great suggestions. It seems that some people do attach through the painter holes (which I think I will go ahead and do now) but the preferred place is generally the carry handles. So… this really helped since I wasn’t even sure I was going to put carry handles in!!

Thanks again for all your advice!


Will you line rapids?
Your question is about tying off for transport, right? If you are not going to be lining rapids, you can drill the holes higher on the hull and not worry about a tube and waterproof, sealed passage for the ropes.

My canoes are royalex, and I don’t know if this would work for hulls of other material. But I just drilled a hole the same diameter as my rope in both sides of the bow and stern. The holes are several inches below the deck plate and several inches in from the ends of the canoe.

Cut a foot of rope and pass one end through from the outside of the hull to the inside. It’ll be a tight fit. If the rope is poly you can heat the end and draw it to a point to make it easier to thread through the hole. Tie a half hitch on the inside and pull from the outside so the knot is snug to the inside of the hull.

VERY IMPORTANT - have two, 1.25"diameter, steel rings available for the project. Place a ring on the rope after one side is knotted.

Now place the remaining end of rope through the hole on the other side of the hull, passing it from outside to inside the hull. Inside the hull, tie another half hitch. Your harness is complete.

It is not watertight. However, the holes are high enough above the water line that they are only subject to sporadic flooding from a wave or a plunge into a hole, and they are plugged with rope, so only a few drops make it into the boat. If you are paddling in conditions like that, you are probably taking water over the gunwale and won’t notice the extra drops.

Attach painters or vehicle ties to the steel rings. The rings slide along the harness to distribute the load equally to both sides of the hull and are incredibly convenient. I didn’t realize how convenient they were until I outfitted a boat without them. They also improve the lining properties, but if there is hairy lining to do, you may want to rig a harness for the bottom of the boat.

I like that in this harness arrangement, the knots are out of sight inside the hull and under the deck plates. Looks better and carries better when you use the harness loops for hand hauling.

Anybody know if this will work in fiberglass the same as in royalex? Could be the glass is sharper or more brittle and maybe this doesn’t work.

Changing subjects, I know that the straps are stronger, but I prefer to tie the belly lines with rope, because it is easier. Additionally, I do not need cleats on my cross bars. I take several wraps around the bar with rope overlapping and on top of each other. That builds up a rope bump that the canoe will not slide over. The bar is 2x4. Might not work so well on a round, vinyl covered bar. I see lots of clever arrangements for hauling boats, and it always amuses me how much trouble they are compared to a simple rope and 2x4.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

painter holes
I use the painter holes. First I tied short pieces of line into the holes (knot inside under deck) and then I attach tie downs and actual painters to those rope loops. Works perfectly for me.

Tie to the handles. The handles are attached to the gunwales and will give the best support along the length of the canoe. The gunwales are the rigidity and strength of the canoe.

Do NOT tie to the painter. The painter is a single point on the hull. There potentially is a lot of torque and pull on tie down lines. The canoe can be dammaged, and the hull cracked or broken if a lot of pressure is applied as in strong winds, slamming on the brakes, or even tightening the line too much.

The painter lines are for lining the canoe or tying it up on shore. They are not meant for transport. That is one reason many manufacturers don’t have them on their canoes. They don’t want customers using them inappropriately and then blaming them for the resulting dammage (BTW if your canoe doesn’t come with painter holes, adding them probably nullifies any warrantee).

Go with the grab handles. Next would be other components attached to the gunwales such as thwarts, seats, and even decks. If you go with the hull, then a harness should be made that wraps around the hull. Painters are the last choice.