Two Solo Canoes on 50" Bars. Safe?

-- Last Updated: Nov-29-12 11:27 PM EST --

I found an excellent deal on two Dagger solo canoes about 1.5 hours away. It's mostly 55 mph driving. My bars are 50 inches wide. Each boat is probably 30" wide. I hope to tie one boat off to the side of the racks, and lean the other one up, over and against it. I did this once before for about 15 miles on a back road. I've seen others do it, too. I will only be doing this once. Is this safe if I keep my speed to 50 mph? I have straps. I also know how to use rope and knots and I'm very good at overdoing things. Is it safe, though.

Two different ideas

– Last Updated: Nov-29-12 11:54 PM EST –

I've seen that done too, but naturally it's better to have both canoes flush on the racks.

One thing you can do is put one boat a little farther forward and the other a little farther rearward, so that their side-by-side profile will be quite a bit less than the sum of their maximum widths. It's best to accomplish most of this by rearward shifting of one boat, as moving a canoe rear of center (relative to the rack, not the car) turns it into a "weather vane", while doing the opposite gives crosswinds against the front end a lot of leverage for straining your straps and rack-to-roof connections. You'll even feel your car getting yanked around a lot more with a boat that is positioned forward of center as compared to rearward of center.

Another thing you can do is find a pipe having an outside diameter that will fit inside your cross bars. Using a pipe that's long enough to fit all the way through and stick out both sides will make it easy to anchor in place so it won't slip out. A tight lashing around the smaller pipe just outside the ends of the larger pipe will do the trick (spread the lashing over several inches of the smaller pipe and it will NOT slip). You might be able to extend the width of only the rear cross bar and leave the front cross bar as-is if you position the boats to the rear of center so that there's less overall width on the front bar than the rear bar. You can do a little staggering of boat position too, as described above. Still, for an extra few bucks, you can simply lengthen both cross bars and avoid the need for boat-positioning puzzles.

You could lengthen your cross bars by using four shorter sections of larger pipe that fit over the ends of your existing cross bars, but connecting them solidly will be more difficult. You'd either need lashings that wind both ways (so the pipe can't loosen by spinning) or a set of hooks that grip the outer ends and pull them inward with rope, or drill holes, thread the holes, and install clamping bolts. If your bars are Yakima or something similar, the above method (a smaller pipe running all the way through the inside of your bars) will be much easier.

You should be okay
Sounds like your biggest worry is driving 50. Where in the U.S. is there 55mph highway that people aren’t driving 70+? Driving 50 sounds downright scarey.

I drove from Maryland to Arkansas and back with two boats exactly as you describe. I went about 65mph. So long as the racks don’t rip off the vehicle and they are tied on solid, you should be good to go. Your gas mileage will be among the worst you ever got, but that’s nothing to do with safety.

I don’t have gunwale/load stops on my rack, and I worried about side-to-side movement in strong cross winds and behind 18-wheelers. There was more of that than I cared for. If you don’t have stops, use those tie-down skills to make sure the boats don’t migrate to the side.

I think it would also have helped my situation had I positioned the boats center-racks. I tie them on with more sticking over the hood, the center of the boats are just behind the front rack bar. In side winds, the front of the boat wants to twist downwind. If they were more centrally balanced over the bars than the truck, it might have been better.


Bottom to bottom
A third alternative that actually works pretty well for royalex boats is to tie one boat on as normally, gunwales to rack, and then stack the second boat on top, gunwales to the sky. Thread the bow painter of the top boat through the grab loop of the bottom boat then to the bumper/frame or whatever. Tie the sterns together, too. You will also have ties from the racks over the top of the boats, a pair for the bottom as normal and a longer set across the top boat. The top boat may move a little, but it isn’t going anywhere. If one boat is longer than the other, the long boat goes on the bottom.

An option with this set up is to tie a Santa doll sitting in the seat of the top boat. I’ve never done it but it’d be sure to get some grins.


I"ve stacked two boats on edge as well
Worked fine. No matter how you rig it you will need a couple of long straps or ropes.

I did it
I have done this lots of times,but with 3 solos. One in the center and 2 leaned against the center one. I had gunnel brackets for the outboard boats at the bar ends. I think these are importand to have. I do use lots of lines to the vehicle(not just the center boat),criscrossed.

Good luck,Rurtle

try putting them on their sides
I have used Chips method of stacking the canoes with the uppermost one hull up, and it works quite well but it does create a lot of air drag and might be a problem if you have to drive under anything low. If you get caught in a heavy rain you might also be taking that top boat off in a downpour.

I would probably try putting the boats on their sides. If the sheerlines are somewhat comparable they might nest together fairly well and most boats are significantly less deep than they are wide.

Consider creating longer crossbars by securely lashing 2x4s to your siderails. You can create your own gunwale guides by screwing in scrap pieces of wood to the 2x4s.

Worked for us on a 2.5 hour drive from Conn. to NJ.

Stacked canoes-better solution!

I also drove long distances with stacked canoes on top using too narrow bars (you could buy longer bars if the rack permits it). I damaged a lapstrake wood canoe (my favorite) doing just that . In my anger at my stupidity, I came up with a better solution and have used it successfully a number of times. It works with Yakima and Thule square bars-will be interesting to see if I can adapt it to the Thule aero bars on my new car.

Buy two straight 2"x3" and cut them to the length that you need to situate the two canoes on their gunnels. Place the 2"x3" on top of your bars and attach them with long hose clamps (like radiator clamps but longer) around the 2"x3" and your bar. I also did some redundant lashing with parachute cord by the hose clamps as safety back-up. Have made many 7 hour rides with that set up. The radiator clamps have held every time.

Cheap and proven effective. I bought the extra long hose clamps at a auto parts store.


Ocoee and back with 2 OC-1s
Made a run to the Ocoee once (7 hrs each way) with 2 solo canoes on similarly sized bars. Tied one down the normal way, gunwales down, then tied the second boat up against the first one, still gunwales down, but with one gunwale on the bars and the other up on the bottom of the first boat. Rode well like that at speeds up to 80 mph, though I did have a bike tray on one side that acted as a load stop.

I’ve used the 2x4 method, two, only attached with a pair of u-bolts through each board. You have to drill, so slightly more work than hose clamps, but I’d have to think more solid.

That was on a old Rav4, where the racks are less than the width of one canoe, and only about two feet apart. We carried a pair of 17’ boats. It looked freaking ridiculous and it really didn’t work that well in our case, because we were carrying the boats upside-up and filled with gear. Oh, the racks were fine. It was us that was the problem, and a several hours long drive across rutted dirt roads. By all rights, should have been a disaster, but we made it okay.

I would have suggested this earlier, but the legality is questionable, depending on the state and the size of the car. Many states limit how far the bars can overhang.


Bar Overhang

– Last Updated: Nov-30-12 12:03 PM EST –

I have often heard that the bar ends cannot extend any farther than the vehicle's side mirrors, but that may not apply in every state. Where that is the law, it's a little ridiculous because auxiliary mirrors that stick out much farther than the factory-supplied side mirrors are legal everywhere.

Done It Lot’s of Times
and for long distances. Basically I tie off the flat one first and then lean the second on that and tie it off with a fresh set of lines but I also tie it to the racks as well. Both boats get tied off at bow and stern as well. The only time I ran a rope through the car and round the hulls was when the winds were way up. Never had a problem yet…gonna go find some wood to knock on!


It work absolutely fine.
I’ve done it all my life and never had any trouble whatsoever. The way I do it is to tie one canoe on the normal way and then tie the second canoe on with separate ropes. Also, very important to tie the bow and stern of each canoe to the vehicle separately.

Scottfree, I didn’t catch what vehicle &
rack system you are using. I’ve never used crossbars longer than 48 inches. My best rack setup when carrying two canoes was on station wagons with roof rails. The crossbars could be firmly mounted with substantial fore-and-aft spacing, and the roof rails allowed supplementary snub lines to prevent canoe movement fore and aft. With that arrangement, I would mount the first canoe over on the passenger side of the rack, and I would tip the other canoe up with its inside pointing at the first boat. Good tie downs, snub lines, and end lines, and there was no problem.

But recently, we’ve used a series of Accord sedans, which means towers and clips. I firmly connect the crossbars to one another, which makes the whole mess much firmer and less likely to drift. But I admit some reluctance to carry two full size canoes, especially on our '08 Accord, where the bar spacing is only 32 inches. I would NOT use snub lines with a tower-and-clip rack, but if gunwale brackets are used for the first canoe, the second will sit tighter. Then I give extra attention to the end tie downs, seeing that there is a triangulation force pattern pulling the bows and sterns not only downward, but inward toward the axis of the car.

Got 'em
I got the two boats home just fine this afternoon. Everything was solid and secure, and I didn’t notice any issues with handling. When I originally asked my question, it was going to be 50" Thules on a Subaru. Instead it was the factory rack on a Honda Element. I know others who’ve had three boats on their Element racks without problem, so I felt confident that I could put two solo canoes up there.

Thanks for all the help.