Some boats are just plain lucky boats, and the Bear Creek Mirage has been that sort for me. You get feelings about good boats and I had that one when I first got the Mirage. It started surviving disasters the first week, when I tried to cartop it on the Hyundai for the first time.
I had asked at several canoe dealerships about what rigs I could get that would allow me to do this, and no one had any suggestions beyond rope and foam blocks. No manufacturer had tackled the problem successfully and none of the rugged systems for cartopping canoes would fit to a Hyundai Accent, probably because the companies building those rigs don’t want to get sued. The ratio of Mirage to Accent is about what you see in the pictures above, though the Hyundai is a little bit exaggerated. The Accent is one of those cars no one notices until they nearly run over one. Truck drivers scrape them off their bumpers every morning. If you drive one, you get used to being invisible and are always ready to dodge. They really aren’t designed for carrying anything bigger than they are. Put a box around a motorcycle and that’s the Accent.
So I tried the foam block thing, setting the Mirage on the Accent’s roof on four foam pads that slip over the gunwales and tieing bow and stern to the bumpers of the car. At least I intended to do that — there’s nothing on a Hyundai bumper you can hook to, since the bumpers are some sort of flexible plastic. Lucky for me there are some welded tow loops under front and back and a couple of pretty sturdy metal things on either side of the front that I could hook to as well. I’m not sure what they’re for, but they looked strong enough to hold a canoe up top, so I strung a rope from the bow to either side of the front and a single rope from the stern to the loop in the back, and headed off to the lake.
Within a mile or two the Mirage looked like it was about to go airborne, so I stopped and tightened things up, and again after the next two miles, and in little bits and pieces I got through the first ten miles without serious incident. By that time I was gaining confidence, since the boat was about as tightly tied down as you can get things without a winch.
A few miles farther a young couple came up behind me, since I was only doing the speed limit and not sure how well the combination vehicle would hold to the road at a higher speed, and in the mirror they both looked oddly animated and excited about something. They were really friendly and waved at me frequently, so I waved back a couple of times until I got tired of it. I must have offended them because they gradually dropped farther and farther back.
Coming around a sharp curve the bow of the Mirage caught the wind just right and started to oscillate up and down at a pretty good rate, so I pulled over in a church parking lot and checked out the rig as the friendly couple zipped past me, waving and grinning. Apparently they’d been trying to signal that the Mirage was about to leave the car. I hadn’t noticed the foam blocks creeping along the gunwales and out from under the boat. All my tight rigging had been for nothing because with every bump the blocks slipped a little closer to disaster. The Mirage was one lucky boat to still be sitting on the top of the car. About another inch and it would briefly have been hanging on the driver’s side of the car instead of the top, and it seems unlikely the ropes would have held up to that.
There’s nothing more fascinating than a problem you have no choice but to solve, and with a few additions to the basic setup and some later improvements I did solve it. The cartop rig I’ve used has been good enough for winding mountain roads in the Ozarks as well as long distance trips on busy interstates. It’s solid, it hasn’t ever shook loose, and I’ve never been arrested for using it although I’ve suspected that’s possible, especially in St. Louis. Eventually the Hyundai Accent wore completely out and rolled to a final stop, literally, but the Mirage lives on. Both of them were lucky vehicles.
I rarely talk about cars but I have mostly good things to say about the Accent, except for the brakes. In icy weather or snow the parking brakes tend to freeze up and I’ve driven a few miles on slick roads from time to time dragging the locked rear wheels along like sled runners. The parking brake never really worked well enough to hold the car in place unless it was frozen to the drums, so my use of it was pretty ceremonial. In the mountains the regular brakes overheat really fast, and although they don’t actually burn up they do turn to something like very hot jello and it doesn’t slow the car down much. At idle the hot brakes won’t even stop the car, and you’ll roll right through an intersection unless you throw it in neutral. So heed the warnings and use the gears, because you’ll have some exciting adventures if you don’t.
More to say on the details of the cartop rig soon. It’ll probably work even better on a bigger car.
Photo Credit: Bear Creek Mirage by Bear Creek Canoes