Expressway Speed Carrying a canoe

Hello all and Happy Thanksgiving (short 48 hrs in advance)!

I am set up to carry my canoe (14’ Sportsman Mohawk) in my Cherokee roof rack. I am planning to ride on I-95 North and wanted to know if someone would have experience and/or suggestions on the safest speed I should drive. The canoe is bottom up, tied front, back and middle with my HarborFreight tie downs. The speed limit is 70 miles, but I feel like I should go 55 (like the old speed limit); again any suggestions, comments, ideas, are welcome. Thanks.

Should be OK
I routinely drive 70 with either my 12 foot OT Pack or 17 foot Grumman tied to the factory rack on my Grand Cherokee. I use 2 NRS straps across the middle, one at the rear and rope to tie down the bow.

I’ve occassionally found myself travelling at 75 or 80. Never noticed any movement from either boat, but slowed back down to 70 just to be on the safe side.

Enjoy your trip.

You’re good to go
I had a 17’ Mohawk Intrepid on the factory rack on our Rav4 (which is pretty small). I trekked about 400 miles, a large portion of that on I-44 where I usually average 80+. That day was unusually windy, so a few times I slowed down to 70 when I felt the car being pushed around a lot. Sometimes driving at high speeds around semi’s can do weird things with the wind, so maybe be a little cautious there.


If you don’t have gunwale clips, the
boat may cock on an angle. If you have gunwale clips, check them for tightness periodically on a longer trip, at gas stops, before you start, etc.

Without gunwale clips you can use two tie downs each on bow and stern to hold the boat in position.

We have hauled thousands of miles at 60-70mph, sometimes in high wind. Our tie downs kept us from losing a boat during 40-50mph crosswinds. The gunwale clips and belly straps loosened, but the bow and stern crossties kept the boat on top. They closed the bridge between Duluth and Superior just after we crossed. It was a bit exciting.

for peace of mind
get a little foam and 4 hose clamps use th efoam and hose clamps to make Gunwale clips for your boat. (Center the boat on the rack, then wrap the foam or a block of wood against the canoe, use the clamps to secure it in place.) Voila no shifting canoe!

I drive at 75, or even 80, with any of
my open or decked boats on top. As a gesture of responsibility, I am likely to drive 5 mph slower when carrying a boat.

I have hit 110 mph with decked or open boats on top, in a Honda Accord. The car felt rock-steady at those speeds.

Thank guys
Thanks for all your responses. I am about to “create” the gunwale clips, I think is a good idea. Soon to be “On the road again…” Thanks

Cherokee roof rack?
You mean the factory rack? You should be OK, but the front and rear tie-downs are great insutance.

One thing I see too often is canoes and kayaks strapped down with the straps NOT close to the gunwales (or straight down for kayaks). This allows the boat to yaw too easily. Keep your strapping system snug to the boat.

You mentioned Harbour Freight straps - Are thes simple straps like Yakima/Thule/NRS or are they ratcheting types? Conventional wisdom here on P-Net is that ratchets are not needed and can actually damage your hull if over-tightened. They will work, but are overkill.

One last thing about speeds. If you are a MPG freak (like me!) you will experience what seems to be a greatly increased fuel consumption as you go over 60 and even greater drop as you push past 70. Of course, you may need to drive faster to keep from becoming a semi speed bump.

Have a great drive.



– Last Updated: Nov-22-06 3:07 PM EST –

Wha Ho, Pilgrim;

Dat be de nice thing about de Cherokee (Sport model, if dat is wat ye have) is dat they still had welded rain gutters - which was the main reason ah' bought me' Cherokee. Ye kin' clamp on heavy duty gutter mounted rack towers such as the Quick an' Easy or de van racks by TracRac - which is what I have now. Me'thinks ah' have 'bout 6 feet of spread between them. Ah' find them much better than de Thule or Yakima racks, but nowadays wit no more welded gutters available except for full size vans, ye be kin'da stuck wit dem. Ah' use two 1.5" NRS straps as belly bands an' good rope as bow an' stern tiedowns. Pipe insulation between crossbar and gunnels give some friction, as already mentioned. Neat trick ah' saw some folks do recently be to run a strap forward and backward from a thwart(s) to the crossbar - another backup to prevent any forward or backward sliding of de boats in the event of a sudden stop. Those canoos ain't goin' anywhere! At times ah' carries 3 canoes at highway speeds.
Ah' usually drive de speed limit 55-65 mph 'round these parts. Slow-poke Fat Elmo.

Fat Elmo

I know it sounds weird and couterintuative, but my Toyota Corola wagon gets better mileage with a canoe on top! I have no explanation why. My Dodge Caravan gets about the same MPG with one canoe. However, it decreases with two.

Regarding the original question, you should not have a problem at 70 mph. I put two straps over the canoe; bumper lines both stern and bow, and I reach up under the canoe and tie down a thwart or seat to the roof rack. I believe this helps the canoe from sliding forward or backward.

What I use

– Last Updated: Nov-22-06 11:13 AM EST –

And I've given many of these away. Go to your local siding supply store and get a small piece of rubber "J" channel (Not vinyl) and cut 4 pieces about 4 inches long. they will clip on the gunwales where the boat sits on the bars. When strapped down they hold tight and leave no marks on the boat. Last time I ask for some of this they gave me about 20 pieces 20 foot long that were damaged be the forklift for free.

I've tried everything, pool noodles, pipe insul, rubber hose and have found nothing better than the J channel and it lasts forever.

I have had canoe going 110 with these and it never moved.

When I purchased (used) my 16 foot Mohawk Blazer RX tandem, I had to make the trip from Louisville, KY to Cincinnati, OH. With the boat securely strapped to the clamp on rack on my 92’ Old Cutlass V6, I calculated the exact same mileage for the trip home carrying the canoe as for on the way down (75-80 mph). When I carry my Mohawk Challenger (14 feet, solo, lighter and less “fine”) however, there is a noticable decrease in mileage under similar conditions.


go 70!
You may actually be worse at 55 than at 70. All the turbulence from every passing semitrailer will cause more problems than the air passing over your car at highway speeds. Keep up with the flow of traffic and check your tie downs every stop.

BTW, do not forget to put a twist or two in your tie downs or the resonant vibration will drive you batty.

I don’t go much faster that 65 when I
have my canoe on my car, anything faster that that I see my canoe moving and vibrating w/ the wind turbulence. I use bow & stern straps have the stern strap tied to the thwart behind the middle seat. I use spring creek ratchet straps to go over the hull in the middle. I can’t say I care for the foam blocks that attach to my subaru’s roof racks and I think that is why it’s gets the wobble’s at higher speeds ( anywhere over 65).

I do have a question though & maybe someone can help me here. Is it ok to strap to my thwart behind the seat? the only reason I do this is because of the way my roof rack has been manufactured it places the middle of the canoe on my car without a whole lot of canoe hangin off of the front And most of my canoe hanging off the rear of my canoe.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Center the canoe and then use 3in hose clamps around a 1 in cube of wood on each corner of boat to make it from moving. Strap the boat to the rack.

Youll be fine at 70+

– Last Updated: Nov-25-06 11:28 PM EST –

My Cherokee has many miles with the canoe on top. The factory Jeep racks are about the best out there. Just tie it off in front and in back and two straps around the rack crossbars and you will be good for whatever speed you want.
I dont know if you can still get them or not but Mopar used to make another rack for the XJs that had accessories for canoes, bikes, yaks and skis. It was a set of straight square bars real similar to Thule bars but thicker. Ive got a set of those the they have been absolutely irreplacable.

Here they are. If you carry your canoe alot, I highly recommend the Sport Utility bars with the canoe carrier. Ive had mine for about 9 years and its worked flawlessly and it still looks good and not rusted up. For about $200, you wont have to worry about the canoe sliding or moving around.