Bow and stern tie-downs for car-topping?

-- Last Updated: Mar-13-12 11:38 PM EST --

I need to figure out how to arrange bow and stern tie-downs on my new 17 ft canoe. I don't have holes drilled to install a painter. Is this what I need to do to properly tie it down?

You can see my current arrangement here.

The bow and stern tie-downs go up from the vehicle, around the carry handle, continue up over the canoe, around the carry handle again, and back down to the vehicle. Where the strap goes over the canoe, I can easily slip that forward, right over the edge, loosening the whole strap, rendering the whole thing useless. In this photo, the strap going over the canoe, was vertical at the start of the drive. They had slipped that far by the time we got home.

I hate to attach the strap just to the carry handle. What should I do?


Ideas for minor changes

– Last Updated: Mar-14-12 10:27 AM EST –

First, you'll do far better to use two lines to make a pair of tie-downs at each end of the boat than using a single strap "wrapped through and around" the handles and hull as you are doing. This will be much easier to do with a pair of ropes than with straps too. This will prevent the problem you mentioned of potential tension loss if the loop slips over the end of the boat, and will also prevent the canoe from sliding side-to-side as it will when the wrap-around section of strapping lets the boat slide within it.

Second, using the carry handles as anchor points is fine. They are strong enough for the loads involved.

One modification you might try is to make the angle of your front and rear tie-downs, as seen from the side, more effective at complimenting each other and thereby keeping the boat in place in case of slippage of the boat on the crossbars. This means providing more angle as seen from the side, and making the front and rear alignments opposite of each other, as described below. The front tie-downs, being nearly vertical as they are, will get tighter if the boat moves forward or backward, but in the absence of any pre-existing angle the boat will move several inches for the first bit of substantial tightening. If you put the front and rear tie-downs in opposition, each pair only needs to pull in one direction, and the affected tie-downs will tighten much more rapidly in proportion to the amount of boat movement if there is already an alignment away from vertical as seen from the side.

At the front, you could anchor your tie-downs farther forward on the vehicle. On that car, it would likely be easy, especially if there is a pair of tow hooks up front (if there's not a tow hook on each side, you can probably install some kind of hook to the frame pretty easily). Otherwise, loop straps similar to what you have could also be installed at the front of the hood to accomplish the same thing. An alternative would be to keep the current tie-down points just as they are to take advantage of the excellent side-to-side stabilization that they provide (I'd keep using them in addition to any additional front tie-downs because they are already at the very best place for side-to-side control), but add a set of lines extending to an attachment point farther back on the boat. In either case, having "more angle" on the front tie-downs will make them quite effective at keeping the boat from sliding backward, as commonly happens from air resistance at highway speed. If you have gunwale blocks, that's not much of a concern, but since you don't (I don't use them either), a bit of slippage on the crossbars is likely.

At the back, I do something no one else does, but I'll explain why. From the back edge of the vehicle, the tie-downs go NOT to the end of the canoe, but to a thwart somewhere forward of the back of the car. That way, the rear tie-downs angle forward on their way to the boat instead of backward, and this accomplishes three things: It keeps the boat from sliding forward if you slam on the brakes, it puts the rear tie-downs in opposition to the front tie-downs (which on most setups slope backward on their way from vehicle to boat), and finally, it provides better side-to-side control than lines going to the end of the boat (just like your current front tie-downs do). If you make your rear tie-downs in this way and they are in opposition to your front tie-downs (sloping in opposite directions as seen from the side), there is NO place the boat can slide, even if the roof rack or roof-rack tie-downs completely fail. On the other hand, if you do like most people do and have BOTH the front and rear tie-downs angling rearward from vehicle to boat, all those tie-downs will become loose if the boat moves forward even a tiny bit, and if it were to move a couple of feet, like if the rack failed, they'd be so loose that the boat would be free to come off the car sideways. In actual practice, the main advantage of all this is that the canoe can't slide around much on the bars, so you don't need to cinch it down super tight. If you look closely at this photo...

... you can see that both of those canoes have a pair of rear tie-downs, and the anchor point on each canoe is a thwart just a little forward of the back of the car, rather than the rear end of each boat. I could have done the same thing with the kayak, but it would have required more elaborate work, and the kayak is well contained by those J-hooks so front-to-back control isn't needed unless the roof rack comes off the car.

Finally, there's one more thing I do that no one else does. I don't try to keep as much of the boat within the confines of the ends of the car as possible, but most people do. Look at your setup and notice that there's a lot more of the boat located forward of the roof rack than behind it. You'd do better to center the boat on the roof rack than to aim for getting it somewhat centered relative to the overall length of the vehicle. It would be better still to put the boat a little behind center relative to the rack. Here's why. Crosswinds and turbulence from traffic really grab the front of your boat hard at highway speed but have almost no influence on the back end of the boat (kayaks don't really have this problem, but canoes can get buffeted big-time). Thus, having more of the boat forward of the rack than behind the rack provides a longer lever with which the wind can pry your boat against the attachment points. Shortening the amount of boat that sticks forward of the rack does wonders for reducing how much the boat gets pushed around. The more you can make the boat act like a weather vane as it streams through the air at highway speed, the less it will get buffeted and the less work your tie-downs need to do (on a windy day, you'll feel the vehicle get knocked around much less too). Just remember you have more boat sticking out the back, and keep that in mind when choosing parking spots, etc. so passers-by don't bang their heads or careless parking-lot drivers don't hit your boat (it's easy to park to avoid such risks).

And FINALLY finally, there's another thing you can do to provide side-to-side control on crossbars that lack gunwale blocks. At each crossbar location, tie a rope to the lengthwise bar that I see there, wrap it all the way around the boat and tie it to the same spot on the rack as the first end. Now do the same on the other side. Thus you will have a pair of looped-around ropes at each crossbar. For each pair of opposing loops, one loop will keep the boat from sliding left and the other will keep it from sliding right. In actual practice, this helps a lot if done at the front crossbar and only a little bit more if done at the rear, so you get the most for your effort with a single pair of looped-around ropes at the location of the front crossbar. These opposing loops are far more effective for side-to-side control than the straight-down pull of the main tie-down straps, and eliminates any temptation to make those main straps too tight (which can warp your Royalex boat - I've seen it happen). With accessory tie-downs arranged as described, not much tension is needed in those main straps.

Tieco Ty-Ups, Best Bow & Stern Ties

– Last Updated: Mar-14-12 9:45 AM EST –

As usual, Eric (Guideboatguy) has lots of excellent advice. As for me, I've struggled with dyslexia all my life. Knots are so hard to remember for me since my brain just doesn't remember them properly. So, I've been relegated to using straps. Problem is, straps tend to make noise and you have to twist them to prevent it. Even so, they're not as good fore and aft as rope.

Several few years back, my friend bought me some of these tie downs, and by golly they're the best thing since sliced bread IMHO! They are so easy and, like rope, are better cutting through the wind. Also they will last forever. If the rope ever wears out, replace it. The little metal rope holder should last a lifetime. I have an abundance of straps, so I use them over the belly and use these on bow and stern. I guarantee you'll love them! If not, sell them to me!
OOPS, sorry about the first link to pictures!
Here you go.

Thanks for all the info!
Thanks, this helps a lot. I’ll reconfigure my system. I am going to try to keep using straps though. I don’t get any vibration when I twist them, and they are quicker to use.

Tie-Ups Quicker
Quicker to use, I swear. Took a lot of convincing to get me to try them, but now I’m a believer too!