All Tied Up

Before you drive to the fishing grounds, make sure your canoe or kayak is securely tied to your vehicle.

When it comes to making a great escape, it’s hard to beat canoeing or kayaking a local stream. Within just a few paddle strokes, you can leave the landing behind and enter a quiet world of glistening water and soaring trees. Whether you’re fishing, birding, or just out for a healthy paddle, though, safety is the top priority. That means always wearing a USCG-approved personal flotation device, and packing a throwable float cushion for even the easiest routes. It’s also a great idea to let a friend or family member know about your float plans.

And it means knowing how to tie your boat firmly to a roof rack. Paddling safely, it turns out, actually starts in your driveway.

This method of tying down a canoe utilizes 3/8-inch-diameter climber’s accessory rope and an easy-to-tie trucker’s hitch. It follows the rule of twos: Use two tie-downs across the boat, two bow anchors, and two stern anchors. Here’s the step-by-step instructions.

Step 1: Place the boat on the roof rack upside down and centered fore and aft. Attach the rope to the rack by passing the running end of the line through a loop in the other end and cinching it down tightly. Push the tie-down rope against the gunwale where the canoe rests on the rack, and toss the rope to the other side.

A man affixes a rope to one side of a car-mounted canoe rack.
Use a trucker’s hitch to tie the rope to your roof rack. T. Edward Nickens

Step 2. Use a trucker’s hitch to tightly cinch the rope. Here’s how:

Reach up about midway from the rack to the top of the boat and form an overhand loop in the line. Form another loop in the running end of the line, and push it through the inside of the first loop.

Pass the line under the roof rack. Feed the running end through the loop. Cinch it down as tightly as you can, and secure the knot with two opposing half hitches.

Repeat at the other rack.

A man ties a knot in a rope to hold a canoe to a fishing rack.
Tie down your canoe to the other side of the roof rack. T. Edward Nickens

Step 3: Run two independent bow anchors by tying two ropes to the bow, and the end of each rope to your vehicle’s bumper or tow hook. Use a trucker’s hitch on each anchor. Repeat for stern anchors.

A fishing canoe tied down to a rack on top of a truck.
Once the canoe is secured to the roof rack, it’s time to hit the road. T. Edward Nickens

Step 4: Test the rig by grabbing the bow and shifting hard left, right, up, and down. You should be able to rock the vehicle without shifting the canoe. Do the same for the stern. Solid? Super! You’re ready to roll.