Logistically, the first part of any canoe trip is getting yourself, your boat, and your gear to some water you can paddle on. So canoe transport is the first things we’ll cover. Unless you live right next to a lake or something, this will probably involve tying your canoe to the roof of a vehicle.
You will need some kind of roof racks for your vehicle to safely transport your canoe. In a pinch you can create padding between the gunwales of your upside down canoe and the roof of your vehicle with towels, foam pads, blankets, etc. Roof racks are much better though. If your vehicle does not have built in roof racks, they make racks that will easily attach (and detach when not needed) to your roof.
Once you have roof racks on your vehicle, you need some tie down straps. These straps are made of webbing material, with hooks on each end, and a ratcheting device close to one of the ends so you can easily tighten down on whatever you’re tying down. And by the way, you can do all the this with a plain old rope if you’re good with knots. Tie down straps will likely be sold anywhere roof racks are sold, plus just about any hardware store you can think of (contractors use them to tie down ladders, etc.). A set of tie down straps will probably cost you about $20.
It is, without question, easiest and best to load a canoe with two people. Bring the boat along side the vehicle, lift together, flip it upside down, and place carefully on your roof racks so that it is centered on your roof. Eyeball the canoe from the front of your vehicle to make sure it is inline with your vehicle and won’t be catching the wind and pulling you around on the road. Your boat should be centered from side to side, and front to rear (over the wheel base more than the roof).
Now you carefully cinch down your canoe to the roof racks with your tie down straps. Once you have it cinched down, you should be able to grab the gunwales of the boat and yank on it without the canoe moving at all, or only very slightly. You can tie it down too tight and damage the structural integrity of your canoe, so get it secure, but no more than that.
Now you need to anchor your bow and stern so the boat won’t slip out from under your straps during a sudden stop. Get two of lengths of rope, preferably about ten to twenty feet long, one for your bow and one for your stern. Canoes typically have somewhere in the extreme ends of the boat where you can tie a bow line/stern line – and by the way, it’s very handy to have a bow line and a stern line when you’re out paddling, so just keep these ropes tied to the boat. Attach the rope securely to the end of the canoe, then tie off to the frame of your vehicle just below the bumper. Make sure you tie off excess rope so it isn’t flapping around in the wind.
Now grab your paddles, life jackets, and whatever other gear you need and get yourself to the water!
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