Tie Down Loops

I’ve about decided to drill holes in my gunwales to accommodate cordage loops. I see that a number of people have done this, but I can’t find any details about the diameter of cordage to use, distance and pattern of holes, how to keep cordage from being cut by sharp holes. I’m sure there’s a best approach to this that someone has learned.

I’m also interested in the type of netting that works best. A bungee net? Webbing? Any sources for good webbing that will fit a canoe and is not apt to get caught in branches?

Thanks for helping me not learn these things the hard way.

Consider pad eyes vs. holes?
Sometimes you can find bungee webbing designed for pickup truck beds. Most of it has large openings and is secured at the joints by a metal bit. If you can find the style that has smaller openings, and the joints are ‘welded’ together, it may serve.
What won’t snag? I think I’d loose the bungee idea and create a nylon “deck”. Less likely to snag, and would offer rain and wind protection. I made one of these decades ago, secured with Velcro to the gunwales.
Then I discovered the kayak! LOL! Good luck to you,

It might depend on just what it is you want to contain. For flotation bags, most whitewater open boaters I know simply drill holes just below the gunwales directly through the hull. This works for either composite, polyethylene, or Royalex boats. The cordage is then laced through the holes, running back and forth from side to side. The continuous cord is laced along the exterior of the hull going from one hole to the next closest or furthest from the stem. This eliminates the need to drill potentially weakening holes in the gunwales and eliminates the need for additional hardware. But if you need to remove or loosen the cordage, to put gear in the boat for example, it is somewhat inconvenient.

It is much easier to run cordage through either pad eyes or P clips secured to, or just below the gunwales. I use 3mm diameter nylon accessory cord for restraining either bags or gear. The stuff made by BlueWater is extremely strong for its diameter:


Nylon cord will stretch a bit when wet, but it really is of no consequence. It shrinks back to original size when it dries.

It is also often convenient to use a keeper strap of either 1" wide nylon or polypropylene webbing running down the center line of the canoe from a point of fixation near the stem to an anchor bonded to the hull bottom. This keeps your bags or gear restrained in the ends, or center.

I assume this is for flotation bags, since you say you’ve seen this method used a lot, and that’s the normal purpose of having lacing across the top of your boat.

As to the diameter of the cordage to recommend, many people just use standard parachute cord. Its diameter is about 1/8th of an inch (so roughly the same as the 3 mm recommended by Pete). You can get it lots of places, though quality varies tremendously. The worst quality parachute cord I ever bought was from REI, but it could be that they buy it from whatever source is most convenient at the time and in that case my experience may not be definitive. The best I’ve ever bought was from Cooke Custom Sewing, but surely there are lots of other quality sources.

If you are making a containment system for flotation bags, the easiest method to setup is what Pete describes, or some modification thereof. Lacing and unlacing your float-bag cage through holes drilled in the hull is a rather time-consuming process (probably less so if you make the holes bigger than I did), but of course that doesn’t matter much if you typically run with the bags installed. If you like to be able to switch back and forth between bags or no bags at a moment’s notice, you could use pad eyes, or still keep it simple and rely on holes drilled through your hull. What a lot of people do is install the parachute cord, not as a continuous back-and-forth weave, but as a series of individual loops passing through the hull (best done by drilling pairs of holes through the hull instead of a series of equally-spaced holes). Then a separate cord is woven back and forth between those permanent, small loops. To accomplish that same thing, when I switched from standard lacing to quick-install lacing, I simply used my existing hole spacing to install a single cord on each side, woven back and forth along the hull, so that cord could be slackened off a bit to create a series of loops, or fully tightened to be flush with the hull and out of the way when the float bags and back-and-forth lacing were removed.

If you are talking about tie-down loops as a way of securing packs or other gear, a small number of loops or D-rings secured to the floor of the boat would work far better than a lattice across the top.

Here you go. I’m not a canoe paddler, but this looks like the way my friends have their canoes set up.

That method illustrated in Raftergirl’s link is quite similar to the “quick-lace” variation to the standard lacing system that I described, although their rope appears at a glance to be somewhat thicker than what most people use. In any case, notice that if you pull that base rope tight, it basically “disappears”, so it can remain laced even when the bag is not there. In the illustrated setup, the D-ring on the floor is only used with small end bags. With the larger bags, the canoe seat helps hold the bag from moving away from the boat’s end. For the original poster’s solo canoe, that D-ring on the floor is not optional in that way. You really need it. Some people even put two D-rings side by side and have two straps over going down over the wide end of the bag. By the way, though the whole world uses strapping down the top of the bag and ending at the D-ring, thick rope is fine and makes things simpler. Your bags will never know the difference.