As I mentioned in my first post about car-topping canoes at Hyundai vs Mirage, the gunnel blocks tend to wander away if you don’t connect them to the boat somehow. The system I came up beside the road that first day uses a loop of nylon cord attached to each pair of blocks with lark’s head knots. The slight curve of the car’s roof causes the blocks to drift apart but the cord keeps them under the boat. If that were all that was necessary to keep the boat on the car I’d have been really happy, but it took more work and more gear.
Note: This article describes how I did this rig, which is far better than most cartop canoe or kayak foam block systems on the market. I still do not recommend others copy my methods. The safe and secure systems are rain gutter frame rigs and trailers, some of which I mention at the end of this article.
After some experimentation with simple rope systems and knots, none of which felt secure enough for driving without paying constant attention to what was rattling around upstairs, I came up with a system that actually works well. This requires all the gear in the second photo here, plus three strong tie-down points on the frame of the Hyundai — two on either side of the front and one in the center of the back. I’m not sure why they’re there but I’m glad they were.
The two smaller nylon strap tie-downs work with simple adjustable buckle clamps, just pull to tighten. I use two of them on the front of the car, both tied to the bow of the canoe and hooked to the front anchor points. They’re small enough to see around and the buckles don’t hammer dents in the car hood. Anchored to the left and the right, the straps keep the bow from drifting sideways.
The two tie-downs in the back both connect to the same anchor point in the center of the rear of the car under the bumper. These are stronger ratchet tie-downs, because I never got enough slack out the rig with anything else. One tie-down hooks to either side of the rear seat posts where they actually connect to the boat, not where they connect to the seat (I didn’t want to yank the seat off the boat). I did that by tying a loop of nylon rope around the stanchions and hooking the ratchet tie down to both strands of the loop.
The second ratchet strap runs from the stern of the boat to that same anchor point under the rear bumper. Why are two rear straps needed? I will explain by describing the procedure.
Attach all the straps but don’t tighten them. Position the boat carefully and take up some slack in all the tie-downs. Then start by tightening the front straps — just snug, not racked all the way down. Go to the ratchet strap that connects to the seat stanchions and put some tension of that. This pulls the boat a little towards the rear of the car and keeps it from drifting to front or back. Last, ratchet down the stern of the boat to eliminate up and down movement. You’ll have to go through all these steps several times to get enough tension on the rig. Done right, the boat will sit there through anything. If you notice any slop while you’re driving this rig somewhere, stop and check for problems. If there’s slack in anything, fix it.
That’s how I matched my Bear Creek Mirage to my Hyundai Accent, and it’s worked rather well. Police have never stopped me and criticized my ideas, but in spite of that I will not urge other people to do this. In fact, if you do this, you do this at your own risk because I advise you to find better solutions. The bow of the boat does reduce visibility up front. In city driving it could block your view of important signs and signals. I recommend that if you plan to cartop a boat anywhere, you get a car with rain gutters so you can hook a standard canoe carrier like the Malone Big Foot Pro Universal Car Rack Canoe Carrier with Bow and Stern Lines to it. Foam block rigs, even though legal, are only marginal systems. What I came up is probably far better than most people would work with, and I wouldn’t drive anywhere with less security than this.
Buying a trailer like the Malone MicroSport Sports Trailer for Kayaks, Canoes and Bikes for a canoe may seem excessive, but it is another viable option and even if you drive a tiny import a good welder can figure out a way to hook up a bumper hitch somewhere. I know a fellow in Missouri who welded steel plates to the bottom of the trunk area and used that as a base for a tow hitch. Just make sure whoever modifies your car knows what they’re doing. This isn’t a job for a shade-tree mechanic.
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