When the Boat Doesn’t Quite Fit the Car

Some projects bring seemingly disparate interests together, like cars, boats and recycling.

After putting it off far too long I recently built roof rails for carrying our canoe on top of the old Subaru wagon. The car’s factory rails are too narrow, so we previously hauled the boat right-side-up, which looks bad and is just plain wrong.

Rails made use of wood that had been lying around for years. I cut it to size with a trim saw.

Since many compact hatchbacks and wagons have the same problem, I am sharing basic details of the “build,” which is so simple that you will ask yourself, like I did, why you didn’t do it sooner.

Everyone knows you are supposed to turn canoes and rowboats upside-down when carrying them on top of a car. But complying is easier said than done, as larger boats are often wider at the gunwales than the span of a car’s factory roof rack. Our 1998 Subaru Impreza wagon’s rails needed to be a few inches longer, so I built wooden extensions to hold the vessel firmly.

Here is how the extensions slip over the car’s stock roof rails.

The wood came from planks of inch-thick barn siding that have been cluttering the garage for years. The pictures show how the total of 10 pieces went together — no master-builder credentials required. Different cars may need slight variations in rail design, but in each case the goal is to support the boat and keep it from sliding off the side of the rack.

I used screws to assemble the rails, which sit atop the existing racks. They won’t move once you tie down the boat.



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