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Canoe racks are used to transport canoes on a vehicle without damaging either the vehicle or the boat. The specific designs of such racks can vary depending on the type of vehicle, the location at which the canoe will be secured to the vehicle, and how many boats must be transported. Canoe racks designed to mount on the roof of a car are perhaps the most common, though specially designed racks for pickup trucks are also popular, as are trailers designed to haul several boats at once.
In many cases, a car owner may choose to simply mount the canoe on the factory roof rack bars. These makeshift canoe racks are not the best choice for securing the boat, but they are effective, especially if the car owner is on a tight budget. The canoe is placed on the flat roof rack bars with the hull facing upward; straps are then routed over the hull and secured at either side using a ratcheting system or simply by tying off knots at secure points on the bar. Sometimes the car owner may tie the bow and stern of the boat to the front and rear of the vehicle for added security and stability.
Specially designed canoe racks will often position the boat similarly, but the canoe's sides will rest in cradles to protect both the boat and the racks. Foam blocks are slid in place between the boat and the roof racks; if the car owner does not want to purchase such foam blocks, he or she can simply place rags between the roof rack bars and the canoe itself.
When transporting several boats, trailer canoe racks are the most effective choice. These trailers are towed behind a vehicle, meaning the boats themselves are not mounted to the car at all. They are instead secured into slots or on racks, usually several boats high, and towed on a wheeled trailer. This trailer must be street-legal; in most places, this means the trailer must be equipped with brake lights and a license plate, and the trailer itself must be built so it is straight and strong. A crooked trailer or one that is built improperly can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. A hitch mount on the vehicle is used to secure the trailer, and chains are run between the trailer and the vehicle as a back-up security system.
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