Getting to the Water

Ever since Henry Ford introduced the automobile 100 years ago, the world of canoeing was altered forever.

Before then, canoeing was a two-way adventure: if you went down a river, you then had to turn around to go back up. It is a skill that today is used by very few people and one that is quickly becoming lost.

With the advent of the car, paddlers are now able to get a much quicker ride back to the top and able to drive to other paddle locations.

The auto changed the world of canoeing from a transportation vehicle to mainly a recreational activity.

It also came with the need of a new skill: how to safely transport your canoe on top of your said auto.

Statistics tell us it is a skill that we are still learning.

Did you know that most canoes get damaged by being improperly tied onto cars. You have a big responsibility when you start tying things onto cars.

One of my big nightmares is the picture of a canoe coming off of my vehicle and into the car behind me.

I will admit, I have lost more than one canoe from the top of my car and, the few times it has happened, it made me sick to my stomach thinking of the consequences.

So let’s talk of the proper way to tie on canoes (or kayaks, if you paddle on the dark side).

You will need: good-quality rope or straps, a solid roof rack or foam blocks, secure anchor points and a method for getting your canoe on and off of your car.

First, you need a good solid roof rack, which has been increasingly expensive to do since auto makers stopped putting rain gutters on their cars and creating the multi-million dollar car rack industry.

Kanoe People, Up North and Canadian Tire all stock a multitude of racks and adaptors for your specific car.

Don’t scrimp on your roof rack, it will be the foundation you attach to. If you are only going to move a canoe a few times, then you can use foam blocks that attach to your gunnels and protect your roof from getting damaged.

There is also an inflatable rack available.

Next, you need a good-quality rope or straps. There are a multitude of straps available that do a great job and eliminate the need to learn your knots. However, there are also a lot of junk straps on the market. Get the best quality you can.

NRS is the leader in making cam straps. Their buckles hold tight and their webbing has very little stretch. Their straps also have the length of strap conveniently marked into the webbing.

Poor quality straps stretch and their buckles slip under load. There are significant forces at play when you are driving at 90 km/h with a canoe on top.

Ratchet straps are also a good idea and allow you to tighten down your load very securely. Again, get the expensive ones as they will last much longer and be much safer to use.

I love ratchet straps and have ratchets welded onto my canoe trailer, which makes them much easier to use, otherwise you need a way to secure them to your rack.

Be careful to not overtighten your straps and damage your canoe.

If you use rope, you need a good quality rope.

I like using a sheathed rope — like mountain climbing rope — not the cheap imitation ones. Six- to eight-milimetre nylon works great, as it has a little bit of stretch and holds knots well. Too thick of a rope makes tying knots under tension more difficult. A rope that is too small will not be strong enough.

If you use rope, you will need to learn three knots to be effective: the bowline, the trucker’s hitch and two half-hitches.

You will find that is an excellent website to learn your knots and does a much better job than I could describe. Those three knots will serve you very well for a multitude of purposes in your everyday life.

Be aware that U.V. damage occurs to both ropes and webbing. So, when you are not using your ropes or straps, keep them away from the sun.

If you keep them on your car or use them lots, check them well and retire them every year or so. You may not see the damage, but with time the ropes will get weaker.

You will need two straps or ropes over the canoe, from one side of your rack to the other. AND you need a strap or rope on each end of your canoe down to your front and back bumpers.

These end straps keep your canoe from flying forward or backward. The top straps keep your canoe from moving side to side.

You need to think about keeping your canoe in place if you need to do a sudden stop.

The longer your boat, the more critical the end straps are. Do not rely on only your roof rack from keeping your canoe attached to your car, the forces created can quickly exceed the physical limitations.

To load and unload your canoe, one of my favourite ways — and least risky for all — is to start with your canoe upside down. Have your partner stand across from you and pick up the canoe from the centre.

Remember to look at your partner and smile before you stand up.

Then place one end of your canoe on your rack and slide the canoe into its final resting spot.

Unload in reverse.

I find this method saves my back, is easy on the canoe and vehicle and gives me lots of control.

The old traditional way of rolling your canoe up over your head with your partner has lots of potential to twist your back and cause you injury (which may mean less paddling — a very bad thing).

Do your research well and take securing your canoe very seriously as you are responsible for your load. Consequences can be deadly and can be avoided with proper attention and care.

If you are the driver of the vehicle, make sure you check your load before you leave and it is always a great idea to check again a few minutes down the road to make sure things have not shifted.

Arrive safely at the water so you can enjoy your outing.

Catch every Eddy, Surf Every Wave … and Red Canoes are faster …

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