Locking a canoe

First, I apologize for posting this question again. I posted it back in February but the thread is no longer available.

Anyway, I need to be able to “lock” my canoe both on the car racks as well as in a campsite (e.g., to a tree). I know I can’t stop someone that is determined, but I want to make it pretty difficult to “walk off” with my canoe.

Any suggestions? Home made or on the market products?



No worries
No one would even think of stealing a canoe these days. :wink:

Easiest thing is probably a $20 to $30 bike lock (cable type) around the thwart or one of the seats. I like the 4 digit combo locks because I don’t have to keep up with a key – nothing worse that missing a trip because you lost/forgot a key. The larger cables would be tough to cut even with bolt cutters.

And make the lock as visible as possible. Just the appearance of being locked will keep most folks honest.


bike lock seconded
I’ve also used a bike lock with a great degree of success, a simple cable type about 4 feet long and with a cable about as thick as my thumb. In camp I chain my boat to a tree and when its on my car I chain it to my racks, which have thule locks keeping them on my car.

I personally use the Schlage 6’ cable found here


but I think any of them would be fine.

Get Some 1x19 SS Rigging Wire…
…and have eyes swaged in both ends. Get a GOOD padlock. Run the wire around and under both seats and the thwarts, and padlock the eyes together.

The 1x19 is a real bear to cut - they’ll need something a bit beefier than their Leatherman or a regular bolt cutter. Make 'em take time, make 'em make noise, make them bring tools - that’s about all you can do. Rooftop security became a lot more difficult to achieve once the cordless disk grinder was invented…

Excellent advice given here. I would just add that running the cable through as many seats, thwarts, handles etc would be a good idea. If it’s just around 1 thwart…a leatherman could be used to quickly loosen the nut that secures the thwart to the gunwhale and off pops the cable. Also, for cheap insurance, you can buy a bell or two…the type you use on a bird dog’s collar. They’re cheap, and thieves hate nosie. One or two bells on that cable makes a racket at night if someone is messing with your boat or other stuff. One jingle will send a thief running.

In Camp
I use two longer cables when I leave a good quality canoe at a campsite all day unattended. Put your canoe bottom side against an 8" or bigger diameter tree you are locking it to. Loop one end of a cable through the other to make a noose. Put the noose around the bow and down a several feet from the bow on the gunnels, but be sure that the width of the canoe still widens significantly from that point to the middle. Do the same with the other cable on the other end of the canoe. Cinch the cables tight and lock them wrapped around the tree with as little slack as possible. If done right there is no way to remove the boat from the tree without sawing down the tree or cutting the lock or cable.

Thanks. What diameter cable and roughly how long does each need to be to accomplish this set-up?



Portable Alarm
I used to have a portable alarm that I would tuck up onto the seat of my canoe when it was left unattended on my car. I need to get another. Here’s one example:


What I use;
I assume they still sell them.

Look in the pet dept. in Wally world, and get a dog run cable.

It is a plastic coated steel cable.

I got two of them. One at 20 feet, and the other 30.

I just cut the snap swivel off one end, and use a pad lock.

got mine about ten years ago, and I think both were below ten bucks



Cable for hog tying canoe

– Last Updated: Apr-15-10 4:26 PM EST –

I use the vinyl covered Schlage double loop end cables and they are a rather hefty 3/8" diameter (from Menards). I use one 7' cable and one 15' and that's enough to hog tie a 17' canoe to about a 14" diameter tree. With a shorter canoe you may need a bigger diameter tree or else wrap the cable twice around the smaller tree before you padlock the 2 cables together. The shorter cables also serve as my emergency stopping deadhead when I'm pulling my canoe trailer, and to lock the canoe(s) to either the trailer or car racks when I travel.

Nose eye
You can also add a cable eye on the nose of the canoe. The ugly way is to epoxy in a big strong eye bolt. The more aesthetic way is to drill a hole in the nose, waterproofed with tubing if it goes through an air tank.

These eyes have to be large enough to run a strong cable through.

This will force the thief to cut the cable and not just unscrew a thwart or seat.

Actually, I agree with the cynical post that suggested that no one is interested in stealing canoes any more. Well, a thief might … but chances are that one of the 17 other canoeists alive in America will get wind of it.

Hey - that’s good idea!

Modification Idea:

– Last Updated: Apr-15-10 7:13 PM EST –

I know what you mean about a hole through the nose of the canoe, but an eye-bolt does not have to be big enough to thread a cable through. It only needs to be big enough to attach your padlock. Along those lines, I built a little device that slides "only so far" through one of the drain slots in a wooden gunwale, and the end that pokes through has a hole that's just big enough to admit the hasp of a padlock. The padlock is used to attach one loop of the cable to that gunwale device. The other end of the cable attaches to a tree, the roof rack of my car, or whatever, simply by passing one loop of the cable through the other loop prior to locking to make a lasso (just squeeze one of the loops a little and it goes right through the other one).

Here's the kicker though. A small eye-bolt is easy to cut. On my "gunwale drain-slot gripper" there's a 3/4-inch swath of 1/4-inch-thick steel on the free side of the padlock hole, which would only take a few minutes to cut with a sharp hacksaw, but I hard-surfaced the exposed metal so a hacksaw wont touch it (the shape is too awkward for bolt cutters, but a thief with large enough bolt cutters to attempt such a cut would just cut the padlock instead). In the absence of hard-surfacing, I'd say "bigger is better".

Of course, a crook could disassemble the gunwale with my method, but that takes a lot more time than removing seats and thwarts. Cutting the gunwale would work too, but no one who actually "wants" the boat would do that.

Don’t forget Tug Eyes!
Installed in the stems with a Master Python cable lock threaded through.

The point about a thief removing bolts is important. Use as many thwarts, carry handles, and seat mounts as possible. Slow the b*****d down.

And bells, great idea!


Thanks all
Thanks all for the great ideas.