Help with trip to Montana!!

Hey all, I have been on the forum awhile. I use to be registered but couldnt remember my infor so Im re registering. I just bought a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. I have a 16’ old town Charles River royalex canoe. I have the factory rack on the minivan. I was woundering what would you do to tie down the bow and stern? I can get those loop things that go under the hood to anchor the front of the canoe. The back i am lost because there is no way to attatch anything in the back, the bumper is all plastic with no metal or achor points. I live in st louis missouri so I need advice on straping my canoe for a 25 hour drive at 70-80 mph highway speeds.

slow down
At 80 mph you’re quite likely to get to Montana a lot poorer than you started if you get there at all. And you’d better figure out how to really strap that canoe down well, or it won’t make the trip.

Look for tie points
Get on your back and crawl around under the bumber. Maybe use a flash light. Look for holes in the frame or anything you can get a rope or strap around. I’ve always been able to find a hole in the frame that I could get a 'biner through or some frame member I could loop a strap around, but worst case you could probably drill a hole somewhere and install an eye bolt.

Perhaps you could get a strap around the hinges for the back lid and make a tie-loop that hangs outside the door. It doesn’t really need to be the back bumper. Straps on the lid hinges might also allow you to open the lid when the boat is on without having to untie, as you would a rope to the bumper.

Good luck.


inside tie downs?
I had a couple of older Caravans and both had hardware inside the back that I used to attach loops of sturdy 1" tubular rock climbing webbing, long enough to hang out of the bottom of the tailgate when it was closed. I would attach my lines to those loops when I hauled boats (or ladders or bundles of electrical conduit.) Worked fine.

By the way, I would be hesitant to haul a boat long distance only tied onto the factory racks and not aftermarket racks like Thule. If you are going to only use the factory bars, also run an extra long strap around the boat and inside the van, across the ceiling (easier if you have sliding doors on both sides, not always the case with Caravans.)

tow points
Some cars have large screw-in eye for towing that goes into a hidden hole in the rear bumper.

If you thread a rope threw a frame member you will need to check for rope chafing on a regular basis. Or attach a screw link and thread the rope through that.

70 is normal speed through MT, even on two lane roads. Just watch for those cross winds.

Factory rack??
Why would you be hesitant in using the factory rack? It is bolted to the roof of the vehicle and it is some sort of metal, not sure what type. I was going to run 2 straps over the middle of the canoe tied around the factory rack. Then run a bow and stern line.

wrong orientation
Unless your Caravan looks different from every one I know of your racks are parallel and not crosswise to the vehicle, so the boat would not be resting on them but between them. What do you plan to have the boat resting on? You can’t just lay it on the roof and expect it to stay in place and not slide and scrape both car finish and boat gunwales. Are you using foam blocks? If so, how will you secure the blocks to the roof?

My roof rack

– Last Updated: May-19-14 5:35 PM EST –

Drove caravans for 20 years
And you would do well to get a commercial

rack like Yakima or thule. Side to side motion is as important to stop as front to back. Especially at the speed you’re talking about. Use extra lines to anchor to the automobile not just the rack, commercial or factory. Redundancy is always a plus.

factory rack or yakima rack
I know a guy who will sell me a complete 4 yakima railgrab and 2 58" bars. With 4 locks for the railgrabs. For $150. Or will my factory rails and crossbars work? I don’t want to throw away money when what I have will work. I want to make sure I don’t loose my boat on the way to Montana

long trip in a Dodge…
owned a new 1984 Dodge Caravan, piece of crap, for 9 months of hell before I turned it in and rid myself of numerous issues involving the piece of crap and the incompetence of the Dodge Boys at not one, but two piece of crap dealerships in the Washington, D.C. area. My brother, a die-hard Mopar fan, got royally ripped off by yet another Dodge piece of crap dealership. Can’t say enough good stuff about Dodge…but would suggest going below the speed limit and securely fastening fore, aft, and side-to-side as others have suggested.

that will probably be ok
I would suggest that you check the factory weight ratings. I have found they tend to be surprisingly low. The connection points of the cross bars to the laterals are weak points. But your canoe is pretty light (62 lbs). More of a challenge might be how low it will ride on those low profile bars since it has a 10" drop from your gunwales to the bow and stern. I would put those grey slotted hard foam carriers across the crossbars (or you can make some by slicing pool noodles. That will keep it from sliding, add a little height and hold it more securely since tightening the straps will compress the foam a little.


– Last Updated: May-19-14 9:09 PM EST –

2 eyebolts thru the rear door spaced as wide as possible:

as hi on the door as possible

Eyebolts could work up front but I have no idea what's under the grille.

Use a long 3/8th's inch shaft with blue locktite on clean surfaces.

Foam gunwale pads are clamp strap secured to the canoe.

Sew your own from Seattle Fabrics.

Clamp strap hull to car's cross members with a long strap - 15' ? - around hull twice coming and going around each side under the car's cross members.

Blue squares of Walmart sleeping pads work for rope/trim protection. Electrical tape to rope. Tape tapes to itself with a tight stretch. Tape is used to shield paint from rope scrub. Tape rope lengthways with seam opposite paint. 3M 33

2- 3/8th's cord front and rear, 80 should be no problem if you stop n check tightness.

Try Valvo full synthetic for the trip. Add oil every day in a small quantity

Montana's rivers have 2 floods, one low flood before melt and a winner post melt. Open water and long rivers are windy.


The North Fork is beautiful. Yellowstone burbly.

bottom seal

If you have skill, cut a cardboard template for the open bow. Transfer to thin paneling or ? then seet metal screw - many - the piece onto the bow under back to beyond the windshield by a foot or 1.5.

Main problem with your rig is stopping. If braking is often then checking the front cross member u-strap is essential.

Better mounting an add on thwart over rear cross member, u-bolt the two together.

Making this stuff up as you go!

– Last Updated: May-19-14 10:20 PM EST –

Why make a cover for the bow end of your boat? Have you checked what goes on in there? I have. A half-full air bag doesn't flap around at all. Even a totally deflated air bag just sits there limp. There's really no wind inside the front of the boat. And who wants to put sheet-metal screws through the hull or gunwales, or have to mess with removing the damned cover when you need the ends to be open?

Your advice in the previous post about adding a little oil each day is "made up as you go" too. A small change in total oil volume has no effect you will ever notice. A lesser volume of oil "ages" faster, but that's the only downside, and even that is only in proportion to the magnitude of that volume difference, which in this case is miniscule. In fact, you can't even conveniently measure the amount of oil a good engine loses in a day, or even in several days of highway driving, so the increased rate of oil "aging" won't be noticeable either, and it won't matter at all if a person changes the oil well before it's really needed, as most of us already do. Still, even this is irrelevant since the aging difference will be so tiny and the point at which the oil "should" be changed isn't a clearly defined point, but a very broad range of time.

A good anti-slide method for braking

– Last Updated: May-19-14 9:56 PM EST –

What works well to keep the canoe from sliding forward when braking is a pair of lines going from the rear of the car to a thwart which is located somewhere forward of the back end of the car (anywhere forward of the back of the car - the exact location won't matter). These will prevent the boat from sliding forward in the simplest manner possible. In my case, those are the only rear load-control lines I use, since any lines going all the way back to the stern will only keep the boat from sliding backward, something already accomplished by the front lines.

I suppose it's convenient to use the rack as an anchor point against forward sliding of the boat, but even then, there's no need to install a thwart at any particular location. Rope aligned in the direction of force is all you need, so just make the rope longer if necessary. One additional reason for such control lines is to keep the boat "where it is" if the rack fails, and that's a good reason to attach them to the car, not the rack. Of course, this has been debated here endlessly, with some opting to play it safe in this manner, others not so much, and a few just making sure the rack is as securely fastened as practical (doesn't seem to be the case here, so lines attached to the car seems like the better method).

your roof rack looks a lot like my town
and country rack- lots of good suggestions already- but I’d run a couple of extra straps over the boat and through the open doors. Tighten from the inside near the the ceiling. Remember to put some twist in your lines/straps unless you like to listen to humming. You want a bomber set up for long distance driving. No worries, just make sure check your rigging at each pit stop and adjust as is necessary.


– Last Updated: May-19-14 10:49 PM EST –

I see, you mount a video camera on the roof with tassles, watch the air bag ? How does an airbag function keeping air from entering the hull from a windshield flow ? develops frost ?

How is your bag held in ? Girdle ?

Synth oil develops like new slipperiness with small fresh oil adds every morning during a long trip.

and remember pump tires to max.

No, let me tell the story about Montanans

The Montanans ancestors were from Texas ...

Air flow inside the boat, oil

– Last Updated: May-19-14 11:30 PM EST –

There are other ways to look for evidence of strong air flow in the boat. Weeds and dirt that are easily dislodged usually stay put remarkably well. A loose air bag with a shiny new surface should have scuff marks on it from the bag cage after a highway trip (as is the case for a tied-down tarp placed over a load), but it doesn't. Also, one time, a friend who drove alongside me for a bit later said the loose air bag up front was perfectly still, not flapping at all.

Air deflected up the windshield probably enters that portion of the boat, but blocking that air flow seems counterproductive if you want to minimize overall air resistance. I'd prefer to let it flow up through there and back down at the other end than to create a blockage (and probably a lifting force) that wouldn't otherwise be there.

By the way, I've mentioned this a number of times before in the context of air flow and forces applied to a car-topped canoe, but when I hang a couple lengths of surveyor's ribbon from the stern, it's clear that there's no rearward air flow at that location, which there'd almost have to be if a huge volume of air were traveling inside the length of the hull. The ribbons hang straight down, just twirling a bit in the turbulence behind the car. The ribbons don't even seem to be strongly pulled in a downward orientation, as would be the case if strong air flow inside the hull were flowing downward instead of rearward. So if there's no air flowing straight out the rear, and not much at all blowing straight down, what became of all that volume of air entering the boat at the front? I say there's hardly any air entering from the front in the first place. The fact that your front belly straps can be a little loose yet the boat won't lift as a result is additional good evidence for that.

I must admit I'm awfully skeptical about the need to add a miniscule amount of oil to somehow rejuvenate the synthetic oil that's already there. The whole point stressed by synthetic-oil fans is that the stuff is incredibly stable even over very long periods of use. You are the only person I've ever heard claim that it deteriorates a noticeable amount in a day of driving, and the idea that a tiny addition positively affects the whole batch makes no sense to me from a logical perspective (seems too much like magic). How can your claim be explained, especially when there's a whole science regarding oil lubricity analysis and this idea of recharging the whole batch of oil with daily additions hasn't become accepted in that realm. I doubt you'd ever find such advice on a truck-maintenance discussion, and the oil-change interval for truck engines can be 10,000 or 15,000 miles.