Canoe on car roof rack

I’m a novice canoer with a very basic question. I have a 15 foot kevlar canoe and a tubular bar roof rack. The canoe fits the bar with room to spare. Do I carry the canoe inverted or right side up? Does inversion catch more air and increase wind resistance and strain on the canoe?

for canoes you want to carry them upside down on the rack.

You also
want to worry a bit about the canoe yawing (twisting relative to the car) about up there. Crosswinds and passing trucks will cause that. If it gets too far sideways wind pressure can cause damage. If the rack bars are adjustable, put them as far apart as you can get them. Using bow lines, right and left, will minimize yaw and help to assure the boat stays with the car in case of rack or strap failure. Most rack systems can also mount gunwale blocks which prevent yaw.


Like they said above. Definitely get the canoe brackets and 2 good straps. With a little practice you can put the canoe on your car and tie it all up in about 5 minutes - no knots or ropes to fuss with.

Great info right here
Several articles on carrying boats -

For me -


Homemade Gunwale clips to prevent sliding on the bar.

Tied across the bars, of course, and at tied from the bow to the front tow hooks.

Not much wind catching, but if you do
find a cover…it’ll help. Fwiw, tiedowns from bars to thwarts are money. Tying the thwart to both bars is usually best if you only have one thwart close to a bar.

Realize that it’s going beyond the minimal, but adds a significant amount of solidness to the whole setup.

Upside down on the gunnels, like…
every other long time canoe owner does.

Jack L

Move canoe BACK!
I have been carrying canoes many years for thousands of miles and all the above recommendations are right on! One other thing I highly recommend is to move the canoe BACK so that there is less front suspended length that sways back and forth is the wind. I used to try to position the canoe proportionately with the vehicle so that the canoes ends were proportional to the cars. There was always more of the canoe suspended forward of the front crossbar than the rear crossbar. It just looked better,…BUT it does NOT work better that way. Now I move the canoe back about another 2 feet and the windvane effect is greatly alleviated which is IMPORTANT especially in composite boats. It will hang over the rear more so just attach a bright red streamer!

In other words the canoe is evenly

If it overhangs in the rear, it IS a bit daunting when that truck pulls right behind you at 70 mph.

And watch parking lots. You do have to park with the rear overhang in mind.

I’m not sure
what you have in mind as far as moving the canoe back. My experience is that the canoe is best placed on the racks so that the canoe is centered over the racks. This way the lines used to tie it down to the crossbar will serve to hold it on the rack AND also to resist the tendency of the canoe to move forward when braking and backward when driving at high speed. Also, I personally prefer to use rope with a bowline to tie the rope on one side of the cross bar and a trucker’s hitch to tie the other end over the hull of the canoe. I don’t trust those buckles on straps and straps lose a lot of tear resistance with the slightest nick in the strap. I do trust my knots. I use 3/8 or 1/4 inch nylon that you find in the hardware store. It does stiffen over the years so ever few years I spend $10 and replace the rope.

I agree with you on centering …
the canoe.

I have always centered all of ours. I want the same length in front of the racks as I do behind them, and I don’t care about any overhang. We carry various canoes from 14 footers to ones eighteen and an half feet long

We always tie a red flag on the stern.

I always use a front tripod tie down on the long ultralight canoes, which protects them from sideways wobble when an eighteen wheeler comes flying by at 70 MPH.

My preference is for the cam lock buckle straps, but to each his own on that matter.

Jack L

Not positive, but I think I understand
what yatipope is saying. I find that my canoes can “balance” on the cross bars even with a little more length fore or aft. I prefer to err to aft as well for reasons he mentioned, plus, I’ve found that cuts down on the wind noise.

I’m with you on almost everything

– Last Updated: Sep-13-13 12:54 PM EST –

except nylon line. Save that for hanging towels to dry.

Spend the extra few bucks on polyester. You won't regret it. Give it a good dunking in a bucket of clean water once or twice a season and it'll last almost indefinitely.

I keep different lengths for different boats color-coded for instant ID.

Check out the specs:

On my car, I always center the boat
on the car, not the rack. The front sticks out over the rack more, but it allows a better angle on the bow and stern lines. On my van, I center the boat on the rack since there is realy no way to do a stern line anyway.

Found a picture - boat centered on car

Centered on the car, the tie down lines are at much better angles to hold down the boat and keep it from shifting sideways.

Not centered
will minimize the tendency to yaw in crosswinds and with truck passage. If you have more boat aft of the racks than forward, it will tend to weathervane which brings the bow back toward center. With more boat forward you have the opposite effect and a bit of yaw begets more yaw.


If you can find some material that will
cover the bare metal of your stock rails where the

gunwales will ride I think the tiedown will be more

solid as the gunwales won’t be apt to slide as much.

If you know your knots and have frontal tiedowns…an evenly spaced placement on the racks will be fine, but it’s easy, as yatipope mentioned, and tie the canoe on …back a foot or two, but the thwart-to-bar ties(at both sides) can substitute for bow ties if nothing is avail.