The Project – Part One

For months now (maybe even a year) – I have been contemplating a project.  For many, this project may not seem like much, but for a fella like me (livin’ a life of “chaos in paradise”), this has been quite the undertaking.

It all started  when the END OF ONE ERA ushered in the BEGNING OF A NEW ERA.  Then, a vehicle upgrade (well, actually a “downgrade” in size), and an pending vacation trip made the project even more of a necessity!

cartopping the canoeIt all started (in earnest) in the fall of 2013.

I had been “car-topping” my canoe for transportation to and from my paddling adventures, but getting the canoe up on top of the car (or van) and back down has proven to be a little more of a hassle (and scratch/dent inducing) endeavor than I had envisioned.  Then, I up(down)graded my vehicle from a 2000 Saturn SL1 to a 2005 Toyota Corolla.  The vehicles are comparable in length, but the roofline is noticeably shorter, and thus, even less stable to “cartop” than the Saturn.  (I suppose I could “make it work” if I had to, but between the scratch/dent issue and the shorter roofline, I elected not to risk it.)

What I did was start researching alternate methods of transporting the canoe.  I started looking at trailers that would haul canoes.

There are many different options available.  If money was no object, I could have had a readymade trailer delivered within a week – but, money IS an object.  So, it was back to the drawing board.  What became pretty apparent to me was that MANY people (particularly kayakers, but many canoers too) BUILD their OWN trailer – and in typical “Father of Five” fashion, I became ferociously obsessed with researching these trailers and the idea of building my own.

I think I identified (and visited) every website that documented the building, modifying, customizing, or rebuilding of a trailer for use as a canoe hauler.

To help me organize the ideas I stumbled upon, I turned to another online resource I had previously ignored… Pinterest.  I created something called a “pin-board” to collect the ideas I liked best.  (If you are interested, feel free to visit my “Canoe Trailer Pin-Board”  by following the link.).

The basic design (and sort of “foundation” for my project) looked something like the photo on the right.

(Thank to Jack from for permission to use photo)

My “ideal” canoe trailer would have the following features…
· It would be inexpensive
· It would be small and lightweight (but long enough to haul a 17’ canoe)
· It would need to have the ability to carry gear (either in the canoe or in/on the trailer)
· It would need to have the ability to use it for other purposes (aka – “convertible”)
· It would need to be storable
· To make it storable, I needed it to (easily) break down or fold up
· To make it usable, I needed it to (easily) be set up or unfold out of storage

Immediately, the Harbor Freight trailers became the obvious solution.  They have four models to choose from.  A “lightweight” and a “heavy duty” in a 40x48 “stick” trailer or a 48x96 “fold up” trailer.  Regardless of the deck size, I wanted to go with the heavier duty trailer.  The lightweight trailers have an 8” wheel and the heavy duty trailers have a 12” wheel.  The larger wheel is more suited for longer hauls.   

After several months (most of the LONG Minnesota winter of 2013-2014) and several discussions with / input from my good buddy “Backside of Forty” (of which mostly centered around the 40x48 vs 48x96 debate) I found myself more often than not drifting towards the 40x48 option.  Honestly, neither was the ideal solution.  It ultimately came down to price, size, and convertibility.

Once I felt as if I exhausted all “research” possibilities, I took the ideas I liked best, and combined them into a “hybrid” trailer.  I drew out (to scale) what I thought the trailer would look like.    
Convertable Canoe Trailer Convertable Canoe Trailer

As you can see, I chose the 40x48 stick trailer.  I would build it with two length options – one extraordinarily long (for the canoe) and one that is much more typical.   

I planned on keeping the trailer deck 40x48.  This way I can…
  • Build rails for the small trailer.
  • Build a storage box to fit a 40x48 floor. 
  • Buy and install (with the option to remove) a car top carrier. 
  • Build an “oversized” deck (that would rest three feet out the front on the tongue, and hang over the rear of the trailer by 1 foot) giving me the equivalent of a 48x96 flatbed (and could even build rails for a 48x96 trailer too!).
This would allow me to…

  • Use the trailer to haul JUST the canoe, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul the canoe AND a storage box / cartop carrier, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul a storage box / cartop carrier WITHOUT the canoe, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul as EITHER a 40x48 or 48x96 inch flatbed WITHOUT
    the canoe or the storage box / cartop carrier.

I can also remove all “accessories” (tongue, storage boxes, canoe framework, and rails), and be left with a very small, short and narrow trailer that can lean up against my garage wall, and snug between the studs.  The tongue(s) / rails / oversized flatbed could all be hung on the garage wall.

Yup.  This plan suited my needs!!  So, with all my plans in place, I began saving my “allowance”. 
It would only be a matter of time before I started!! 

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