Help with purchasing first canoe!

I am buying a family canoe for day paddle. It will be 16-17 ft to carry 2 adults and 2 children. I have a few questions:

(1) My car is a 2015 Toyota Sienna. I can’t find any hook to tie down the bow and stern of the boat. At 17 ft, I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable driving around with the boat on top even with Thule racks, unless the bow and stern are tied securely. Anyone figured out how to do this for this vehicle?

(2) The roof rails are situated over the back half of the vehicle. If I center the 17 ft canoe over the rails, it will overhang the back of the vehicle by like 5 ft. Anyone tried installing either a 3rd crossbar or using foam blocks directly above the front row seats, so the boat can be centered over the entire vehicle? I don’t know why they don’t make roof rails that go the full length of the roof!

(3) A paddling shop near us sells the Clear Water Designs Kawartha canoe for $1k. Any experience with this model? How does it compare to similarly priced canoes from bigger name shops like Old Town or Mad River?

(4) Wood canoe paddles at this shop go for about $90. I see there are wood paddles on Amazon for $25 or so. For example:

Any point in paying $90 vs getting them for $25 a piece?

Thanks, greatly appreciate any help, especially regarding the bow & stern tie downs. Safety for myself and other motorists is paramount. I don’t mind paying $90 or whatever for paddles, but definitely don’t want to be driving at highway speed without the tie downs.

For the front tie downs:
I use a loop under the hood on each side attached to the frame near each fender.

When not in use just leave them there tucked under the hood

I never use rear ones

Jack L

I have the same car
and use loops of nylon webbing with the grommet in the end and bolted underneath the hood where the fenders attach. Think it’s just what Jack said. Got mine at REI for about five bucks. Haven’t found a solid back attachment point. But I think a couple of the bolts there go into steel and that’s what I will be using with the same loops. Make sure you bolt into a steel hole with a steel bolt as there are some plastic ones holding on bumpers etc.

The overhang hasn’t seemed to be a problem yet however be advised you cannot open the rear hatch when the canoe is tied down. I simply untie the back rope and the hatch will lift up the back of the canoe as it goes up. Okay with wood, but wouldn’t do it that way with metal gunnels.

If you can’t find the grommeted webbing loops, for years I simply tied a loop of rope around the arm that holds the hood to the body and tied down to that. Never had a canoe try to exit the vehicle so I can’t attest to the strength of that set up.

Here yer go…


On my Olds Silhouette minivan,
I use 2 inside the hood side strap loops attached to the vehicle body under the hood. They each connect to a 4’ strap that is looped to the front thwart of the canoe.

At the rear, I use a single strap looped around the rear thwart that goes straight down the back of the van to a loop strap around my hitch bar. This single strap serves very well to prevent any forward movement of the canoe from braking. Without a hitch, maybe the same rear strap could connect to the frame underneath the rear bumper, although I have not had to look into that.

I also use 2 pieces of nylon rope over the canoe to secure it to the roof rack, although those are supplemental.

Check your state laws, as some states do not permit rope usage, and require straps.

I inspect the straps occasionally to make sure the spring tension is good in the latches. A very small dab of oil on each spring helps to keep them nimble.

The rear overhang is just under 18" for a 16’.

Good luck!

#1 - same as above
#2 Haven’t tried it but it (third bar) should work.

#3 Never even seen one. Looks like a good shape, but I would be really surprised if it doesn’t weigh more than advertised. But with your kids along you need it to be 17 or more feet anyway.

#4 Yes. There are good reasons to pay $90 for a paddle - depending on which paddle - and it does make a difference. But you may not know which paddle will be best for you without some experience. That is the good reason for starting with a $25 paddle. OTOH, you could just trust me when I tell you that you’ll be happier with something like this…

Thanks for the replies
I decided to give the Thule Quick Loops a try.

Regarding the paddle, the dealer I’ve been working with sells Badger Paddles, they are supposedly handmade in Canada:

They are in the same general price range as the Bending Branches Explorer Plus. Badger paddles look nice, but I can’t find any review for them online.

The canoe is quite heavy, I don’t know if it’s heavier than the 70 pound as specified. This seems to be typical weight for entry level boats.

Most people will be better served by a modern paddle design than the beaver-tail or otter-tail paddles from a place like Badger. Modern paddles have a blade shape that’s generally more versatile, with less blade length to recover for standard strokes, and easier use in shallow water. Also, you can accidentally hit rocks with something like that Explorer Plus, or even use the paddle as a push pole. You need to avoid such stuff with a traditional paddle as it chips and frays the end of the blade, allowing water to soak into the wood. You may want a traditional paddle for certain situations someday, but for a beginner, I’d recommend that Explorer Plus or something similar.

I’ve had a number of fairly small cars. My Civic had two metal loops under the front bumper that worked nicely for a front tie down. When I bought my canoe and had a CRV with no front tie downs, the dealer put two loop straps around each hood hinge and that worked for me for a while. In my Subaru I simply use a cam strap with two hook ends and secure it to the front wheel wells. There are many options for a front tie down in nearly any car.

As far as paddles, I like Mitchell and Grey Owl. They aren’t too expensive. The Mitchell a bit more, but both come in well under $90. The Mitchell is particularly nice.

As far as the Kawartha, I can’t speak to that. I have no experience with it and have read nothing about it. However for a good, all around, do everything, family canoe it’s hard to beat the Mad River Explorer 16. It doesn’t excel at anything, but does everything. And it’s a load monster. Fill it with your family, camping equipment and a cooler and it can handle it.

Tie Downs Et al
First, “Thank you” for recognizing that the tie downs are important for the safety of others, not just to keep your boats safe!

I have used nylon tie downs that I attached under the hood for years, like others. I also have had some smaller vehicles and narrow rack space in vehicles like our Chevy Sonic and Honda Element. With the “Belly” tied/strapped down and front and rear I wouldn’t worry about a 3rd rack. On most shuttles I don’t bother with the rear, but if I’m driving any distance it does “Secure” the boat better.

As for the boat extending past the vehicle, I have never put a flag on a boat that was on my roof top, only when carrying in the back of the truck. But if it makes you feel “Safer,” why not? Cheap investment and easy to attach. Not a bad idea.

Now for paddles; good paddles are essential to your enjoyment. Heavy, clunky paddles will tire you out and decrease your enjoyment, especially on a long day. I’ve been paddling since the '70’s and know what paddles “Fit” me. I can and have purchased most of my paddles online since 2001. But it may benefit you to find a paddle shop to heft different paddles. Size depends upon your position in the boat as for seat height, and your torso length. Stick with straight shaft paddles initially, and preferably a “Brand” name like Bending Branches, Sawyer, Mitchel. But JUST SAY “NO” to Wallyworld Feather Brand paddles!

Hopefully that helps. Here’s a few pics of my tie downs holding vehicles:

Front crossmember under radiator
I used to have a Suzuki SX4 and hauled a 12’ canoe on it. Beautifully functional combination, I might add. I found factory holes in the crossmember under the front end that were ideal for an “S” hook on the end of a strap. A piece of Tygon tubing around the strap protected the front of the hood from vibration scratches. A couple of twists in the strap prevents wind oscillation.

Re: a red flag, check your state laws. In CO anything protruding more than 3’ passed the back requires a 12"sq red flag. It has been a long time since I was a professional driver in an OTR rig. I seem to remember that 3’ law being DOT required nationwide. (That means on any federal highway like interstates.)

Sounds good
The canoe I will buy cost no more than $1500, it’s not a big deal if it gets damaged, I don’t want the thing to fly off and mash into the car behind in case of a crash. Roof racks will probably hold the canoe secure for most situations, but there is always the possibility of a crash whenever one is driving, additional protection will be nice in such cases. I think tying down bow/stern will also prevent it from swaying from side to side in crosswind.

The paddling shop near here only carries Badger and Mitchell Paddles, looks like both are quality brands. I don’t know how to pick the right paddle, luckily the shop allows buyers to demo any boat or paddle before buying.

The shop sells only Mitchells and Badger

Then get a Mitchell.
If they have some that fit you.

Or, you could see if they can order others. Or order for yourself, or find another shop to try others.

I have nice examples of both kinds. The ottertail is not the paddle I use most. It’s pretty much limited to solo paddling a tandem in deep flat water. For everything else, a more modern design or a pole works better.

I Have a Badger…
…Otter Tail and love it.

Nothing against Badger.
They look very nice. But I wouldn’t look to an ottertail as an ideal paddle for all-around tandem canoe use. Not a disaster if that choice is made - just not the best choice, IMO.

Get used to your most secure tie being

– Last Updated: Jun-24-15 11:59 AM EST –

thwarts to bars...make this your most secure tie. All the previous front ties are really good too...and good ones do indeed help in tieing DOWN, but the greatest job the front[rear if you choose in addition] ties do is to securely align the bow & stern and keep each from swaying left and right. It IS especially important when the crossbars are way back, as are today. In fact if a below -the-front-bumper is possible...the mid-hood-length ties will function as that front tie-down, but the thwart-to-crossbar ties will give you the most rock solid support in preventing any movement...then add the standard over-the-hull ties in addition and you're home free.
Paddles: It's all to give comfort, but whatever...try to use your torso, with a little twist, to provide the power. Plant the blade in use the torso & chest muscles to pull to your hips..then add a j-recovery & take. Pulling back past your hip with just arm can put a lot of strain on the elbow..over just a few minutes...and don't bind up your arm muscles by using a deathgrip with either hand on the paddle.