So, partially as a result of that jackass pandemic canceling my kid’s usual summer plans and making his little friends effectively unapproachable, I’ve become sort of obsessed with the idea of getting a canoe. The thinking is it could be something that I could do with him that would get us outside and be an alternative to him making a never-ending series of questionable, strange (but often funny?) TikTok videos. I finally got a canoe this weekend and was delighted to find that, yes, my little Nissan Pao can handle canoe-hauling duties, and, I think, looks good in a canoe hat.
I’m really bad about spending money on myself—I question every decision, and while I’m happy to spend on the rest of my family, I have a bunch of residual guilt from who knows what about my owning anything too nice.
That could go a long way to explaining my car tastes and my hobby of collection obsolete tech, both of which have proven to be on the cheap side of things.
So, even though this was something I wanted to use with my kid, it was still basically my idea, so I felt like I needed to keep it cheap. That led to being suckered into a fraudulent $99 new canoe deal that was too good to be true (the site, https://www.nukaroom.space/, is now gone, but I’m getting my money back from PayPal, since I suspected it may be a scam) but that mistake also gave me a goal: find a $100 canoe.
You’d think this wouldn’t be hard—after all, how complex is a canoe? But canoes are not cheap. Beautiful, hand made wood ones cost more than pretty much any of my cars, and even basic ones tend to be around $500 or more.
Luckily, I found a ratty old but serviceable 12-foot canoe about two hours away from me for the magic $100 price, and it looked like an ideal blank slate boat to play around with.
Part of my canoe criteria was also that it should be able to be transported with my tiny Nissan Pao, which seemed reasonable enough. It has roof rails and, more importantly, just kind of looks like it should have a canoe on top.
Even though I had roof rails, I didn’t have the proper crossbars to hold the canoe. New, actual roof rail crossbars are all around the cost of the canoe or significantly more and really don’t have a look that really meshes with the Pao’s unique aesthetic, along with being wide enough that they would stick out irritatingly from both sides of the car.
So, instead, I just made a pair of shitty yet serviceable ones with some wood and U-bolts:
I even had some leftover gray deck paint that fit the overall palette of the car, so I went that extra two feet and painted them. Probably about $10 in parts total, and not exactly a difficult build.
Even better, they work!
Sure, they flex sort of alarmingly as you drop the canoe on them sideways, when all of the 100 or so pounds of fiberglass canoe is focused on one point of the wood, but when it’s flipped upside down the weight is distributed on two ends and these thin-looking wood planks seem to hold up just fine.
I drove the Pao with its Canoe hat for a trip of around three hours, over a combination of highways and back roads, and while I was a bit nervous at first—mostly due to questioning the integrity of my knots—everything worked just fine!
Speeds even exceeded 100! Well, 100 kph, but still. I was able to keep 65 with no problem, occasionally touching 70, but I didn’t want to push it.
Luckily, a canoe is reasonably streamlined head-on, and while the wind does catch it and want to pull it up, those front lines I tied to my conveniently tube-shaped bumper kept it from attempting to fly, briefly and disastrously, through the air.
From the side, yes, it does catch crosswinds and yes, you do feel it, especially in a car as small and light as the Pao, but it was never anything that felt actually dangerous.
Canoe-hauling can really be done by pretty much anything, even if it’s the sort of thing that people may insist you need an SUV for. You don’t. In fact, I think there are real advantages to hauling a canoe on a small car because the roof you’re hauling it on is a number of feet closer to the ground, and that’s a big plus when you’re wet and uncomfortable and trying to heave it onto your car.
We took the HMS Terror (that seems a good name for a canoe) out on a shakedown run on the Eno River, and it didn’t immediately plunge to the bottom, so I take that as a victory.
It feels weirdly tippy, though, so I may rig up some outriggers/pontoons out of PVC, which seems to be a thing that people do. Plus, doing so will have the added benefit of making the Terror look like it has warp nacelles.
I haven’t taken the canoe off the roof since yesterday, and my kid asked if we could take it out again, so maybe I’ll leave it on and try to knock off early one day this week (shhh, be cool) and take the kook out for another watery adventure.
I promised my wife she could paint the canoe however she wants, though Otto wants a flame job, which I can appreciate.
Also, at some point, I’d like to get some kind of motor for it, because, come on, motors are just fun.
Anyway, the takeaway here is that if you really need more than 53 HP to haul a canoe, you’re doing it wrong.