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Thread: Nor Cal transplant -- Cataraft Question for Alaskans

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    Default Nor Cal transplant -- Cataraft Question for Alaskans

    This is my first posting in this forum...I have read many threads, to include many on this site, answering some of the questions of cataraft preferences and what I found is my very deliemma - which brand to choose - NRS or AIRE. I am mostly going to be drift fishing with this cat with maybe an occasional moose hunt here and there. I thought I was ready to spring on a NRS Kodiak 16' when I read many of the Alaskans in this forum sing the praises of AIRE rafts. I cut my rafting teeth on the American and Feather Rivers in Nor Cal and have even guided on those same rivers. I have mostly used NRS, AVON, and SOTAR. My buddies in Cali are telling me SOTAR and hypalon all the way. But those guys have never been here in Alaska. Grant it - SOTAR makes great rafts but at a cost. This is also not my first time here in Alaska - we moved back East to PA in 2006 (not smart) and I fought tooth and nail to get back up here and Alaska is where my family and I will grow roots so I am looking to buy a set-up that will be with me for years to come! I will mostly use for dead drifting the Kenai and maybe a few other rivers so the Kodiak, even with it's lack of rockers, will serve me fine. I also like the Orca material (really Hypalon under a different manufactuer). But the more I read the more I am leaning toward a - gasp - PVC AIRE Lion 16'. I love the no-fault 10 year warranty, really don't mind the zippers, and the stiffness of PVC doesn't warrant much worry.

    I have read that many folks will tell you you can't go wrong with either company...so why am I second guessing the NRS Cat?. What am I missing? Need some help here!

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    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    I've been using Aire cats up here for almost 20 years now and have owned 5 over that time frame. I think NRS makes great stuff, but I prefer Aire tubes. I really like the whole bladder concept with the ease of quick repairs in the field if need be. I have never punched a hole in one, but had a buddy of mine get his chewed on by a bear and was able to repair it fairly quickly and well enough to get down the river. I saw a NRS cat totally split open right down the side from tip to tip when the guy's using it tried to pick it up while it was still loaded down. This was when they were done with their float, so it wasn't a huge issue. Had it been on a remote river, I'm sure that it would have really sucked. The cat I'm using now is a '96 Leopard. It's been all over the state and has been used very hard without any issues what so ever.

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    Why do some of us like Dodge pickup trucks? Or Ford? Or Chevy? All carry the same amount of wood. All pull a raft trailor.
    Why do some of us like Ruger, or Kimber, or Winchester, or (choking noises) Remington? All kill critters dead. None kill critters more dead than the others.

    Why do some of us like AIRE rafts, or NRS, or SOTAR, or whatever? I'm not sure why.

    But I now own six AIRE boats. Three round rafts. Two catarafts. One canoe.
    I like the ease of repair in the field. Although I have only experienced one small "foreign object" slice, and one four-puncture-wound bear-bite.
    I like the ten year no fault warrenty. If something is defective, AIRE will fix or replace it. If a bear tears it to heck, AIRE will replace it. If your rafting buddy gets drunk and shoots it ten times, AIRE will fix or replace it faster than you will find a new rafting buddy.

    I quess I prefer AIRE watercrafts.

    Yo, KodiakJack, welcome to the forums with your first, your #1 post.
    ( A lot of information in the archives on this.....)

    AlaskaTrue/Dennis

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    I think Dennis is right; it's mostly a matter of personal preference. And I agree that you can't go wrong with either company. I also think Sotar's Urethane is the better material than either of the others, but it does come at a cost. That said, there are differences in the way rubber/Hypalon/Orca behaves compared to plastic/PVC/Urethane. The plastic boat is usually stiffer, which I prefer, but some others don't. Plastic boats flex less and are easier to walk on. I think you'll find plastic will slide off wet rocks easier too.

    Sometimes a zipper/bladder tube is easier to fix and sometimes it's not. There is something to be said for a boat you can just slap a on patch, or even Tear-Aid, and be done with it. If you get a mess of glacial silt in an old Aire zipper it gets real hard to make it work. More than once I have wished for a single fabric layer to fix. But if the hole is substantial, the Aire is generally easier to get fixed enough to get back home. I have royally shredded mine and patched it up so you can hardly tell it was ever torn. You can usually fix almost any non-blladder boat as well, but it's not as easy, and you will always be able to see the patches.

    They all have amazingly good warranties. Especially compared to most products you buy today. But it's hard to fault Aire's 10 year, no fault warranty. Pretty rare thing you're going to need it on any of them though. I shredded mine long after the 10 years were expired.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Another consideration that may or may not be significant to you concerning the NRS Grizzly cats- the boats are constructed with really blunt bow and stern sections. This gives you a lot more lift, but at the expense of performance. If you decide to run an outboard at some point (a growing trend with Alaska cataraft users), the bow on the NRS cats is going to push water and splash a lot. The blunt bow makes it somewhat harder to row because it tends to plow like a barge.

    Alternatively, the gradual tube transition with the AIRE, Maravia and SOTAR boats slice through the water more effectively, with minimal splashing. They perform much better under power.



    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    Another consideration that may or may not be significant to you concerning the NRS Grizzly cats- the boats are constructed with really blunt bow and stern sections. This gives you a lot more lift, but at the expense of performance. If you decide to run an outboard at some point (a growing trend with Alaska cataraft users), the bow on the NRS cats is going to push water and splash a lot. The blunt bow makes it somewhat harder to row because it tends to plow like a barge.

    Alternatively, the gradual tube transition with the AIRE, Maravia and SOTAR boats slice through the water more effectively, with minimal splashing. They perform much better under power.



    -Mike
    Good (pardon the pun) point Mike. I never thought about that, but it does make sense.

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    Troutbum, Jim, Michael, ATA - thanks for the input...it was timely and on point (this time, pun intended) No more second guessing...Looks like this Kodiak will be taming a Lion this Spring! The two big things were the rocker examples - for outboards, I will likely want a 9.9 at some point to to scoot across Skilak Lake. The other turner for me was reading most of the other threads on this forum - many by some of you guys - talking set-ups and rafts going with AIRE. Lastly, I know too well how hypalon feels in the water and while rubber is good for some water applications, PVC stiffness will likely be more suitable for what I want to do. Botom line - all the top tier companies make great products but the fact alone that I had second thoughts on the NRS gave me pause enough to write...with the amount of experience on this forum I truly value each of your opinions. Thanks again for the welcome and I hope to contribute to this board in the future in some way. Hope to see you on the Mat-su and Kenai P. rivers this Spring, Summer, and Fall.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KodiakJack View Post
    Troutbum, Jim, Michael, ATA - thanks for the input...it was timely and on point (this time, pun intended) No more second guessing...Looks like this Kodiak will be taming a Lion this Spring! The two big things were the rocker examples - for outboards, I will likely want a 9.9 at some point to to scoot across Skilak Lake. The other turner for me was reading most of the other threads on this forum - many by some of you guys - talking set-ups and rafts going with AIRE. Lastly, I know too well how hypalon feels in the water and while rubber is good for some water applications, PVC stiffness will likely be more suitable for what I want to do. Botom line - all the top tier companies make great products but the fact alone that I had second thoughts on the NRS gave me pause enough to write...with the amount of experience on this forum I truly value each of your opinions. Thanks again for the welcome and I hope to contribute to this board in the future in some way. Hope to see you on the Mat-su and Kenai P. rivers this Spring, Summer, and Fall.

    You mentioned taming a "Lion" this spring. If that means you're looking at the AIRE Lion, you need to understand that the Lion is modeled after the NRS Grizzly Cat, and has the same fat tubes and blunt bow. If you're looking for the smoother rocker, don't get the Lion. Get the Leopard.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Thanks Mike - right you are...the Leopard looks like sports car compared to the Lion but the difference in rise between the Kodiak and Lion rocker is five inches (27" to 32")...seems to me that while drifting the Kenai I would want a balance of drifting fast (Leopard) or drift-plowing slow(er) (Kodiak) - wouldn't the lion give me the middle? The Kodiak bow/stern rise is almost non-existant. Driftin too fast requires more oar and blade time to slow through fishing holes correct? With that said, I do like the Leopard and the super leopard...Looks like I might be joining the multi-boat club someday! Maybe a rental test drive run is in the cards.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KodiakJack View Post
    Thanks Mike - right you are...the Leopard looks like sports car compared to the Lion but the difference in rise between the Kodiak and Lion rocker is five inches (27" to 32")...seems to me that while drifting the Kenai I would want a balance of drifting fast (Leopard) or drift-plowing slow(er) (Kodiak) - wouldn't the lion give me the middle? The Kodiak bow/stern rise is almost non-existant. Driftin too fast requires more oar and blade time to slow through fishing holes correct? With that said, I do like the Leopard and the super leopard...Looks like I might be joining the multi-boat club someday! Maybe a rental test drive run is in the cards.
    You're confusing rocker with tube diameter. The tip of the AIRE Lion tubes is farther from the water than the NRS Grizzly cat, because the Lion's tubes are larger around. The real issue here is the shape of the bow and stern curve. It's pretty much the same deal with both boats, and they will plow and wallow with heavy loads. No question about it.

    I have floated the upper and middle Kenai many times, and it makes little difference which boat you use, because most of the time you're running with a very light load. You'll really notice the difference when you try to motor across Skilak Lake, and especially when you rig it up for a remote float hunt.

    As to the question of slowing down to drift through fishing holes, most of the time I find myself parked at a nice gravel bar, fishing from shore. If you want to back-troll, get a drift boat.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Check out the SOTAR SL tapered stern for easy back rowing. As I am sure you know, being from N.CA. they build the boats one at a time, in Merlin Or., and can make the rocker and and tube diameter how ever you like. And of course they are urethane and do have an inside bladder without zippers. sotar.com

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    A contrast of note between AIRE Cats and the NRS Cats we have encountered on a river that we do every year which has a portage over dwarf birch...the AIRE Cats we have will slide over the birch fairly easily while the NRS Cats with their fabric will not. We have to totally unload the NRS Cats and carry them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sitipaw View Post
    A contrast of note between AIRE Cats and the NRS Cats we have encountered on a river that we do every year which has a portage over dwarf birch...the AIRE Cats we have will slide over the birch fairly easily while the NRS Cats with their fabric will not. We have to totally unload the NRS Cats and carry them.
    I can think of two reasons why that is happening:

    1. The NRS fabric is Hypalon, a rubber compound that is not as slick as PVC, which is what AIRE uses.

    2. AIRE boats take a higher pressure than NRS's Hypalon boats. This allows the boat to slide over obstacles without the material contouring to the obstacle as easily.

    It all adds up to less friction with the PVC material.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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