Tying Down to Trailer

I have the crossbars on my two-place canoe trailer set 7-1/2’ apart and use a pair of 9’ cam straps to secure each canoe to the crossbars.

When I was cartopping, my crossbars were MUCH closer to each other and I used bow and stern lines as well.

Are bow and stern lines necessary on a trailer when the crossbars are set at that distance? I guess I COULD rig up spring lines that lead back to the crossbars from the bow and stern, but that would be a bit of a hassle. The canoes are 15’ and 16’

some type of rubber padding …

– Last Updated: Oct-05-08 8:32 PM EST –

.... where the gunnels meet the cross bars makes a world of difference to help eliminate canoe shifting ..

With straps to bars , I would go "over" the canoe in a criss cross that goes in front of and in back of each bar (just imagine a figure 8 wrapped over the canoe), at each connection (tie down) point ... that's two (one front and one back) each canoe ..... additional lines are your opt. , could have one for a safty back-up in case of catostrophic failure to keep your boat near your vehical ... (that would be a heavy line 1/2" - 5/8")

I'm thinkin if you need to ask if you need extra tie lines , you maybe ought to use them until you are confident and comfortable with securing just to the cross bars ...

when your boats are secured tightly front and back using the over the top method , the canoe won't shift forward or backward because ...... the canoe gets wider , so that "wider" won't be able to push into the smaller area where strapped down ...

No bow / stern lines on my trailer
My experience with my four place canoe trailer is that canoes on a trailer are subject to a lot less wind and truck shock force than they are on racks on top of my minivan. I don’t use bow and stern tie off lines on canoes on my trailer; and I am confident hauling boats long distance with just two belly ropes per canoe tied very snug with trucker’s hitches and a single rope (or security cable and lock) from a thwart to a rearward cross member on the trailer. The reason being if you ever had to make an emergency stop this would greatly help hold the canoe from lauching forward (especially narrow solo canoes without an appreciable midship belly to them).

yeah , I think a safty line …
… is always a good idea … there is also always the possibilty of a crash/hit that throw the trailer in strange ways …

No need tie downs front and back

– Last Updated: Oct-05-08 10:10 PM EST –

Your span is plenty sufficient for no tie downs. I use three cross straps just in case, though.


Here are some outstanding saddles to consider--fit any bar. I use them on my trailer cross bars.

tying down
I’d be seriously tempted to use a pair of saddles like those—if I were hauling a kayak, but I’m hauling canoes—carried upside down resting on their gunwales.

I’ve just started hauling a tandem canoe on this trailer and I agree that the wider mid-section helps keep it in place.

I will be picking up a pair of solo canoes from Dave Curtis (very soon I hope…) which certainly do have a much narrower mid-section. I imagine I’ll be overly cautious with extra lines tying it down.

no need to worry
If you have metal trailer bars and vinyl gunwales there is an extra slippage problem and pipe insulation around the trailer bars helps immensely.

Wood gunwales dont have as much of a slippage problem but I use rubber pipe insulation around the bars anyway to protect the gunwales (or roll cage padding which is more durable).

Tying down is a matter of technique and not a lot of rope. Tie belly straps down and loop them under the bars right next to the canoe. This acts as brackets do to eliminate fore and aft motion.

A safety line per boat insures you will drag your boat alongside the trailer. Its just a loose leash.

Never use ratchet straps.

There is less buffeting around with a four canoe trailer(when that big rig cuts in front of you) than higher ones or roof mounted craft.

I check after one mile after starting, then at ten, then every rest stop…My trailer has been quite useful in helping with gas mileage. Important to me as I travel about twenty thousand miles a year for paddling.

Just dont forget you have a trailer behind you and use the car parking lot…

Newtonian Physics
I had been tying down the canoe with straps–over one side of the crossbar and back on the other side (forming two “stripes” on the top.) Today I tried crossing over and making a “figure 8” on top. Big difference; much more secure–with less of a tendency for the canoe to to be able to “wander” side to side.

When cartopping, I had been using four lengths of 1/4" 3-strand dacron line for bow and stern lines (each pair forming a Vee.) Now with canoes behind me on a trailer (aimed at the back of MY head) I suddenly see the wisdom of moving up to 1/2" or even 5/8" line. Hah! When the canoe was up on the ROOF and aimed at that jerk in the car ahead (sporting a political bumper sticker you don’t agree with) that 1/4" inch line was plenty big enough! Ain’t human nature grand?

I have several hundred feet of heavy nylon line like that–left over from cruising sailboat days. Carrying that sort of of line was very reassuring. I even made a bright yellow Sunbrella bag for it which was easy to spot. I never imagined even a short length of it would be useful on a canoe.

Though one has to wonder if any canoe’s thwart or handle would hold against the sudden forces applied to it by a heavy line anchored to a trailer during a collision. “An object in motion tends to stay in motion.” Or, perhaps the purpose of the heavy line is to keep the canoe from ever attaining any motion relative to the trailer. (“an object at rest tends to stay at rest”) I hope to never to test either principle.


highway safety
When carrying boats on the highway, the issue shifts from one of hull safety to one of highway safety. A 16 ft. canoe flying off a vehicle or trailer at 60 or 70 mph is a formidable missle to cars driving behind. Cross straps and stem straps are always preferable. Just my take.