Bow & Stern tiedowns...objective?

I have the Yakima bars, towers and gunwale brackets to car top my OT Tripper 17’, do I need to tie down the bow and stern? (I do take very long highway trips transporting my canoe) What exactly is the objective of doing this? Must the tie-down be at the bow and at the stern? Couldn’t I just secure a rope or tie-down to a cross bar to the thwart or seat? I just don’t like the ropes or straps in my line of sight while driving…I like an unobstructed view.

Bow and stern ties…
… serve at least two valuable functions:

  1. Backup. If anything happens to the connection to the rack (strap breaks or loosens) - or the rack itself (clips, bolts, gutters, etc - do fail sometimes) - stuff won’t go far. Cheap insurance. If not for you, do it for everyone else on the road.

  2. Visual reference. You can tell everything’s riding OK up there.

    I’ll skip them for non-highway speed local trips, but use them otherwise. The set I use have handy hooks/ratchet hardware - and were not expensive (buy at boat/outdoor/hardware store - not “paddling” outfit or ones same brand as racks - 3x more $). Like rack straps - don’t crank them down. Just enough so the front one’s not flopping around (use rope, not web). They don’t need to be tight as they are not really holding anything (yet). I don’t use them on my 21’ surf ski as there is no where to tie them and the hull is more fragile.

if the roof rack takes flight
there’s nothing holding the canoe on. It’s a belts and suspenders thing when the consequences are causing an accident that will send minivans full of families off the road to avoid your canoe.

Think of it this way,with four attachment points if one of them goes,the other one,and then the other two will go VERY QUICKLY. Sure, sure you and I make sure things are on correctly,but if you think about it with only two straps holding the canoe,if one goes,the canoe goes. With the rack, if one attachment goes,the canoe goes.

A 3/16" - 1/4"line doesn’t obstruct that much of your vision.

When a friend drove her Saab across the country with three kayaks on the roof I attached bow/stern lines AND a long cam strap from the roof rack into the passenger compartment through the door and under the roof line because one of the Yakima posts couldn’t get secured tight.

Sure with widely spaced racks on a van or truck with lumber rack a bow/stern line isn’t that critical, but it’s the marginal aftermarket roof racks and closely spaced racks that are the problem.

A friend had the experience of being rear ended by another car,the kayak/rack broke free of his car and the only thing that prevented the 18’ needle nosed wood kayak from flying into the back window of the truck in front of him was the bow line/stern line.

Not that many folks get the opportunity to see how well everything stays attached until the accident happens,and then it’s a hell of a learning experience. My favorite is the image of a roof rack with three sea kayaks taking flight down the Altamont pass. I wasn’t there but the imagery was great.

Those side/side supports for canoes are worthwhile because they keep things from shifting. I had a wide 14’ canoe slide around on a widely spaced rack when a semi went by,surprised me as it was REALLY secured well. It it was a royalex canoe the straps would have left a mark it was on so tight,but it still swung left/right a foot in the turbulence of the semi.

This isn’t a canoe or kayak story but related to flying objects at freeway speed. I was going down the right lane of a two lane highway at 65mph while a string of cars passed me a little over 70,out of the blue a spare tire bounced up about 50’ in the air and landed on the roof of the car passing me. It swerved and came to a crashing stop with the roof/windshield caved in. 24 yr old young man was in a coma and dead a week later. I’m guessing it was a back door mounted spare from a Jeep that pulled off the road but I’m not sure.

Anyway like seatbelts you don’t know when stuff will happen.

Bow/stern lines are more critical with passenger cars and closely spaced roof racks where folks get lazy on checking their installation regularly. But who knows what kind of accident can send the rack off and complicating the scene with flying missles.

Panic stops and rear enders
You stand a much better chance of not having your boat become a free flying missile if it’s secured to a solid part of your car, i.e. bumper or tow hook.

Your rack should be OK for normal conditions. Tieing off the ends will prevent the unexpected from being worse.

Look it’s a bird. It’s a plane. No it’s an Old Town Tripper and I hope it don’t hit me!

Helps avoid tickets for unsecured load
If you’re in an accident of someone else’s doing, but your boat gets launched into a busload of orphans, you’re in deep trouble if it is deemed not properly secured by investigators.

My racks are bolted on, so for two-lane blacktop trips I use my cam straps to secure kayak into j-cradles, with the straps looped under the side rails to add security. If I’m going anywhere on the Trans-Canada, I use bow and stern lines.

I feel
the bow/stern tie downs help to keep the ends of the boats from lifting and flexing upward, especially when larger trucks pass in the opposite direction. Also they do add added security to the load.

I Like An Unobstructed View, Too…
…one that isn’t obscured by your canoe headed for my windshield.

Bow and stern lines protect both your equipment and the people behind you. The very best of racks and straps can fail, and at highway speeds, that means your vessel becomes an unguided missle. Think of the tiedown lines as as a sort of PFD: you plan never, never to actually need it, but when you do need it, you’ll be really glad it’s there. So will the people behind you, who’d rather not get smashed up in an accident as cars swerve and skid around at highweay speed trying to avoid your bouncing betty of a boat.

Friend, a few years go, had someone leave his place with two 'yaks strapped to a big name, big bucks rack. He suggested a nose line, as chappie was headed for the highway - got a rather sniffy lecture on how safe, secure and big-time expensive the rack system was. So off he went, and, yup, back he came - front strap had failed at about 120 kms, boats flew up, tore the back rack right out of the fiberglass truck cap, complete with a palm-sized chunk of FG on each rack base. My friend isn’t the “I told ya” sort, but I suspect even he had to crack a little snide grin when he saw that tangle heading back into his driveway.

You ask a question…

– Last Updated: May-08-05 11:21 AM EST –

you get great answers...guilty makin' answers (orphans, families of 4, etc)! Thanks for the replies. I have always tied the bow and stern...even on short trips. However, I was curious especially after reading several of the archived threads on this forum...I was a little confused by some of the opinions about bow and stern ties...I even read a post where someone suggested it was stupid to tie off the bow and stern (unless I misread this post). Here it is...

About tying to the bow, has anyone tied a rope/strap to the front seat or yoke so that the rope/strap is in close to or in contact with the windshield and secured the rope/strap to something under the hood closer to the front passengers? I wonder if the rope/strap being close to the windshield would be less of an obstruction that a rope/strap protruding out to the nose of the vehicle.

Helps to know the huge forces at work
Wind force doubles for every 5mph of speed. So if X amount at 5mph, 2X at 10, 4X, at 15 mph, 8X, 20 mph, by the time one gets to 70 mph allot of force exerted. The comments on side and lifting forces as well as torque on the ends all make us realize the need for the whole rig to be secure, and that triangulated bow and stern lines are better still.

Even if ones backside is covered by lesser means, noone wants their boat or anyone else hurt so tie her down well.

Notice that the sage who posted this

– Last Updated: May-08-05 1:45 PM EST –

advice has only made one post on

Tie the boat down. Use white rope you will get used to the minor obsturction in time. Make them not too tight(even a tiny bit loose) and you will see them tighten if the boat slides. Remember the stern tie downs are very important, because if you slam on the brakes then the boat could hurl off the front of your roof.

Hood loops
I’ve got an F-150. No place to tie on the bumper.

I tied two loops of rope to the body under the hood. They come out from under the hood when I need them.

More hood loops
My set-up:

no tow/recovery hooks under the front bumper? rear of the truck, if you have a receiver hitch installed makes a GREAT tie-down point (heck, if it can hold 500 lbs tounge weight and 5,000 lbs pull, it can hold a canoe/kayak)

Long time ago…
Long time ago, an aquaintance was hauling a 17 foot Grumman(about 75 lbs) on top of his vehicle with no bow/stern tiedowns. He’s doing about 60 mph on a 2 lane; big rig passes in opposite lane at about same speed. Front tiedown snaps, bow rises, rear tiedown snaps, 75lb, 17 foot Grumman goes ballistic. At about 15 feet of elevation, it sails over the 2 cars following the big rig. Second car hits the ditch to avoid it. Grumman end up in ditch on opposite side of the road, over 100 feet from where it separated from roof rack.

Nobody hurt; Grumman “very slightly” dented. But imagine 17 foot, 75 lb Grumman going through windshield of second car.

Bow & stern lines for 2 boats takes me about 15 minutes to secure. View obstruction negligible. Err on the side of safety; what have you got to lose?


F - 150 Rear bumper
Ya I tie off to the the rear bumper.

Nope no tow hooks on the front.

The loops work pretty well.

wow, you got some great answers here!
I typically use shock cords with hooks on them to tie down my bow and stern of my sea kayak. It takes about 3 seconds to get them on and they do a nice job controlling the flex of my kayak. For my whitewater kayaks, I simply tie a cable around the handle, around my rack, and then I close the door on the cable. Basically for me, if my kayak/rack goes flying off, I want all the damage to occur to my car rather than anyone else’s car. Also In regards to the bow lines, I find that it’s most useful as a visual indicator. When something is going wrong on the rack, this line flapping around usually gives you enough heads up to slowly pull off the road and fix the situation before something bad happens. Of course if I was making a real long distance drive, I would probably use heavy duty climbing rope for my bow and stern just to be extra sure. Like many people said, it’s cheap insurance.

And even MORE hood loops…
… which I agree should definitely be used when driving at freeway speed. Others have more than adequately stated the case; I’ll just post one more picture:

Here’s the entire roof rack if you’d like to see it all:

Drive safely,


ropes in sight don’t bother me
I’ve driven cross country with both canoes and flat bottom boats on top of a pick-up with cover. The ropes become unoticable after a while. Besides, the sense of security is more important than the so-called unclean line of sight. I’ve had a Yakima tower work loose from a rain gutter before. It didn’t come off the gutter, but if it hadn’t been held down by the bow/stern lines, it might have.

I used 1/2" ropes with my 17’ canoe and never noticed the difference between them and smaller lines. Another way to look at it is its a great place to store your painter lines when traveling.

painter line on kayak
I’ve started putting those on my kayaks just for that reason.

Shock cords have a high failure rate
I don’t know what kind of shock cords you are using, but most aren’t very good when it comes to a lot of stress, especially the kind a canoe puts on a cord when you come to a sudden stop from 60 mph. Shock cords generally fail where the hook and cord come together. The hooks on the heavy black rubber cords aren’t very good, they straighten out easily. The only cords I’ve seen that take much stress are those with rubber molded over the place where they attach to the hook. And, there is generally too much stretch in a shock cord. I’ll put my faith in rope and a good knot.