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Thread: Serious Issue for Float Hunters on Fly-Out Hunts!

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Serious Issue for Float Hunters on Fly-Out Hunts!

    I just received a forwarded email from one of my hunters, from yet another air charter that is refusing to haul standard rafting gear aboard their aircraft. He provided them with a list of three boats offered by a low-end manufacturer who specializes in cheaper, light-weight boats that have no long-standing track record on Alaska's wilderness rivers, suggesting those boats as alternatives.

    This is the third air service I have encountered in the last year that is clamping down on this issue; the problem is growing. We have been carrying industry-standard gear into the field for decades; why is it now becoming an issue?

    SUMMARY OF THE PROBLEM

    1. Some air services are now dictating what passengers can take aboard the aircraft, even if the loads are well within weight limits and no other safety issues exist.

    2. The boats being recommended are not acceptable for float hunting for moose, either because A) they don't provide enough lift, B) there are concerns related to the quality and performance of the products.

    SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM

    Here is a short list of the four situations I know about, with four different air services:

    1. A well-known air service in western Alaska is supplying boats and camping gear for float hunters, and is STRONGLY suggesting that hunters use their gear exclusively. They are providing 14' self-bailing NRS Otters. One boat per pair of moose hunters, usually without a frame or oars (canoe paddles instead). Will they be the next to insist that we cannot bring our own gear?

    2. A well-known south-central Alaska air service is now INSISTING that hunters use the boats supplied by the air service, and REFUSES to transport anyone using their own equipment. They are supplying NRS Otter self-bailers; one boat per pair of moose hunters. Rowing frame and oars included.

    3. A Fairbanks-based operator REFUSES to carry customer's boats as of this year, and strongly recommends three boats that have been pitched to him by a local retailer. The boats he is recommending are the PR-49 packraft, the Wilderness X-Stream canoe, and the Maxxon Legend.

    4. An older operator based in the interior is providing 14' non-bailers (NRS Otters) on the basis of one boat per pair of moose hunters. No frame or oars (just canoe paddles).

    WHAT’S THE ISSUE WITH THESE BOATS?

    If we use a two-person moose hunt as our benchmark for this discussion, then we are dealing with the following rough numbers:

    Weight of hunters: 400#
    Weight of camp, food and personal gear: 300#
    Weight of meat and trophies: 1400#

    TOTAL PAYLOAD: 2100#

    We could shave a little weight by trimming our gear weight, but that's our smallest number. We're not going to lose much there. There's not a lot we can do about the weight of a moose, so I guess the only other thing we can do is only send skinny hunters to the field?

    1. NRS 14' Otter Livery (non bailer): NRS doesn't post capacities for any of their boats anymore (long story you can read about on our inflatable boats page). But a similar-sized boat from AIRE posts a capacity of about 1,496 lbs. AIRE is known to be conservative with their capacities, but it would be safe to say that this boat would have a similar capacity. The AIRE rig is their 143R, a self-bailer. You could push the limits on the non-bailer by overloading it (and it would carry more than the bailer that way), but you can scratch the shallow rivers off the list, along with those that require quick maneuvering to avoid hazards. The bottom line is that this boat is not adequate for the load we quoted in our example.

    2. NRS Otter 142SB (Self-Bailer): Capacity is the same as the AIRE boat we quoted. Again, this boat will not do the job. I carried an entire moose, two empty packs and two people in a 12' Otter self-bailer once (just down and across a slough on a drop camp hunt), and we had four inches of water over the floor inside the boat. A hunter contacted me just yesterday on this issue and last fall they had one moose, two hunters and gear aboard this boat (the Otter 142SB), and water was almost flooding the floor. No way could they have hauled two moose in that boat.

    3. PR-49 Packraft: At the risk of incurring the wrath of the packraft crowd, packrafts are not adequate as a primary boat for moose hunting. The material is thin and the boat is highly susceptible to catastrophic tube failure in shallow water or if it encounters sharp rocks, tree limbs, sweepers or beaver punji-sticks. It also does not have the carrying capacity you need. Even if we put two of these boats on the water, we would still be over the load limits.

    4. Maxxon Wilderness X-Stream Canoe: Although this boat posts a load capacity of 1,800 lbs., I believe this number is way too high for this boat. When compared to the AIRE Traveler, this boat is only 18" longer, the tube diameter is 2" larger and the inside width is 5" narrower. The Traveler posts a capacity of 750 lbs. I cannot see how the X-Stream can carry over twice the load of the Traveler without grossly overloading it. This boat cannot safely carry the load posted in our example. We're still 300# over their stated limit. The hunt could be conducted with two of these boats, but I would want rowing setups on each one. The weight of this boat is 72 lbs. without rigging, so we are looking at 144 lbs. for two of them. You could put a 15' NRS Otter SB out there instead, and it would weigh less (131 lbs. without rigging).

    5. Maxxon Legend Canoe. This boat is new on the market, and on general principle I don’t recommend brand-new products anyway, unless produced by a company with a stellar reputation (longevity in the Alaska market, low failure rate, stable, consistent product line, top-quality materials and workmanship, etc.) But I'm concerned about the size of this boat as well. Stated capacity is 1,250 lbs., but as we saw in the previous example, these numbers are vastly overstated for safe operations on many Alaska rivers. What if we used two of these boats? One man, half the gear load and a moose with cape and antlers is going to put you at 1,050 or thereabouts. That's 200# short of a stated max load on this boat. There are certainly lakes and rivers where you could make this work, but taken as a generic recommendation for Alaska rivers, there is no way I would put one of my hunters in this boat, given the loads we are looking at in our example.

    Finally, while I have a lot of faith in the quality of the materials and workmanship in the NRS boats (they've been out there for a long time with a proven track record), I cannot say the same for Maxxon. The material is PVC, which tends to gouge and scratch on abrasive rocks. Therefore most reputable companies using PVC are going with thicker fabric, to avoid fabric failure in the field. AIRE uses PVC, and I trust their fabric implicitly because it has proven itself in Alaska for decades. It’s thicker, which gives it the abrasion protection you need, in order to avoid wearing through to the base cloth layer. They also use a heaver base cloth, which helps prevent simple punctures from becoming longitudinal tears. Maxxon does not have that track record yet. I think both of the Maxxon boats would be vastly improved with a spray-coating of urethane; arguably the most abrasion-resistant material on the boat market.

    I realize these comments might raise some hackles here, because of product loyalty. I have no dog in this fight, nor am I bashing anyone. I am simply pointing out concerns I have on behalf of my moose hunters who need reliable boats with enough lift to do the job on a variety of Alaska river systems. As such, I am open to your words of correction if I am in error on any of this.

    BUSH PLANE CAPACITIES

    I have posted a list of the common Bush planes used in Alaska, together with the relevant stats on each, AT THIS LINK. This should give you a rough idea of what an airplane can haul, however each aircraft is configured differently and rated separately in terms of carrying capacity (two Beavers on floats don't necessarily carry the same load). So you still need to work with the air service on how much weight you can carry. But when I get a pilot who flies a DeHavilland Beaver telling my hunters that the total payload in that aircraft is two hunters and 100 lbs. each, we have a problem. The average Beaver will haul over 1,000 lbs. of passengers and gear. I have been doing this for over 25 years, and I know what most of these aircraft will carry.

    BOATS FOR FLOAT HUNTS

    I have also posted charts on the various types of inflatables, including the dimensions of the boats, current retail price, and estimated load capacity. Keep in mind that there are no industry standards for calculating raft capacity, so manufacturers are making these numbers up. Some are better at it than others, and are posting what I believe to be VERY conservative numbers. AIRE and Northwest River Supplies, along with SOTAR fall into this category. And there is at least one that is grossly overstating the capacity of their boats. I believe the Maxxon boats listed on our pages fall into that category; it is my understanding that they calculate capacity based on how much weight it takes to push the tubes down into the water to the midpoint (the boat is halfway submerged). Brother, if you do that in the field, you are simply asking for trouble. 1) you lose most of your ability to move the boat around obstacles, 2) you are at serious risk of swamping. At a minimum, you will get splash-over and your game meat will get wet. Here is a list of the various pages, for each type of boat:

    CATARAFTS PAGE

    ROUND BOATS PAGE

    CANOES PAGE

    PACKRAFTS PAGE

    I don't know what we can do to turn this situation around, but perhaps if the word gets out that hunters have had enough, and will seek out operators that will allow them to choose their own equipment, that might be a start.

    YOUR PART

    In a way, float hunters have themselves to blame for this problem. We push the weight limits offered by the charters, forcing them to weigh up all our gear to avoid going above maximum standards. Often this happens simply because hunters have no experience in Alaska, therefore they don't know what works and what doesn't. They end up relying on other people for their information and sometimes they get bad info.

    We need to be diligent to avoid over-packing. When an air service gives you a weight limit, be sure you are at or under that limit. If they give you a list of prohibited items that you cannot carry in the cabin of the aircraft (bear spray, etc.), don't try to sneak anything aboard. They are interested in the safety of their crew, their passengers and their equipment.

    CONCLUSIONS

    Folks, we need to take a stand on this issue. As long as there is not a safety issue, there should be no problem with an air service transporting whatever hunters are carrying. There is no reason I can see that we should allow an air service to dictate what equipment we are using in the field, as long as we are within the limits of safety and have met the DOT / FAA regulatory requirements.

    Working with an air service is a team effort, involving the air service, the pilot, and the passengers. When one of these entities over-reaches themselves without justification, that's when we have a problem. Let's work together to help educate each other and the commercial service providers on this issue. Let's quit forcing the air services to plan our hunts for us simply because we have not done our homework. Let's help our air services focus on their core mission of providing safe transportation to and from the field at an acceptable price, by doing our part in locating our own hunting areas, packing appropriately, and not pushing the limits.

    I hope we can get this issue resolved soon. Meanwhile, this is just a heads-up to float hunters out there.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Interesting information Mike. Is this strictly for Hunters, or are these outfits making it a blanket policy?

    We're getting our itineraries ready for the 2015 season, and haven't heard any intel about this.

    I'd speculate on the Western AK outfit, and just a guess, that they're used to giving clients the Goose....

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post
    Interesting information Mike. Is this strictly for Hunters, or are these outfits making it a blanket policy?

    I don't do much with the fly-out fishing, but honestly I think that's a contributing factor. As you know, it's pretty easy to pull off a float fishing trip with two guys in a 14' NRS OtterSB. It's a bit sluggish, but it works. I think the charters are trying to get by with using the same equipment for hunters. Of course there are two issues with this; 1) hunters pack heavier gear and 2) fishermen don't haul 700# of moose meat and trophies in their boats.

    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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    interesting trend. Since you mentioned it, and I just happen to be researching new areas, I ran that by a couple carriers. One out of Fairbanks, and another out west...bot long time basic Alaska pilots. It was refreshing to hear them laugh, and say, you can take what ever you want within the weight limits... and once they've gotten the idea you are reasonably capable of getting yourself out.

    Also interesting is the boats, and set ups these outfits that do make you take their gear are offering..

    A 14 foot round boat with canoe paddles? That would be fun.

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    If the float hunters are floor loading their boats vs. supporting the weight from the frame and the main tubes the floor will surely flood. Keep the weight off the floors and I would guess a 14' SB would easily support two hunters, gear, camp and a moose. Two moose is simply too much. My meat is supported by a cargo sling http://www.nrs.com/product/1805/nrs-raft-cargo-platform.

    I have not had a moose in my 15' SB but I cannot imagine it would not easily haul one out. Isn't a 14' roundboat the most common raft that has been used for flyout hunts for decades now? I've seen several videos of Pristine Ventures products floating down rivers with a moose and hunter onboard without issue.

    Mike, doesn't supplying equipment push the air taxis into "outfitter" status vs. just simply supplying transportation? Maybe they are licesened as both.....not that it really matters. I'd prefer to bring my own trusted gear vs. renting. As a resident that is easier than for a non-resident who has to take what they get.

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    Seems like if the air charter is making you use their equipment and something goes wrong and it is proven that it is inadequate for the job it would create some liability that they wouldn't want to take on?

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Birdstrike View Post
    If the float hunters are floor loading their boats vs. supporting the weight from the frame and the main tubes the floor will surely flood. Keep the weight off the floors and I would guess a 14' SB would easily support two hunters, gear, camp and a moose. Two moose is simply too much. My meat is supported by a cargo sling http://www.nrs.com/product/1805/nrs-raft-cargo-platform.

    I have not had a moose in my 15' SB but I cannot imagine it would not easily haul one out. Isn't a 14' roundboat the most common raft that has been used for flyout hunts for decades now? I've seen several videos of Pristine Ventures products floating down rivers with a moose and hunter onboard without issue.

    Mike, doesn't supplying equipment push the air taxis into "outfitter" status vs. just simply supplying transportation? Maybe they are licesened as both.....not that it really matters. I'd prefer to bring my own trusted gear vs. renting. As a resident that is easier than for a non-resident who has to take what they get.
    You are correct regarding the need to support the load off the floor, and that's what I recommend for my hunters. The only boats on the market where you are forced into floor loading could possibly be the canoe-style boats. It's a catch-22 there, because if you suspend the load you raise the center of gravity and can reach a tipping point with those narrow boats. If you load on the floor you create serious meat care issues, because of the swill of muddy river water that runs around the meat bags, and the fact that you push the floor deeper into the water, which creates an impact problem with the riverbed. That's one of the reasons I do not favor inflatable canoes as primary boats for moose hunting.

    I have resisted this small-boat trend ever since it started just a handful of years ago, primarily because of safety and meat care issues. But some guys are making it "work". It's no mystery at all. They are either getting the meat wet, dragging the floors off their boats or loading too high and risking the tipping issue. It's simple physics, in the end.

    The real way to get to the bottom of what boats will carry which kinds of loads is to do a simple load test. I guess the time is upon us to do that. I would like to get some guys together this coming spring, when the ice goes out, and do that. We don't need every boat under the sun for that test. All we need are the basic configurations of round boats, catarafts and canoes. We load them down with bags of gravel and measure displacement at 1", 2", 3" and so on. We chart that all out and post it here on the site, so hunters can figure for themselves how much displacement is appropriate for the river they are floating. That would take all the speculation and guesswork out of it, in my mind, along with the ambiguity of manufacturer-posted raft capacities. In my float hunting book I documented a variance of over 500# on comparable-sized 16' catarafts made by Maravia, AIRE, and SOTAR. In our Round Boats Page I documented a difference of 680# between the AIRE 160 DoubleD (2,320#) and the Maxxon Levitator, (3,000#), and the Maxxon is a smaller boat! In this thread and in our Inflatable Canoes Page I documented a difference of a whopping 1,050# between the AIRE Traveler (750#) and the Maxxon Pioneer X-Stream (1,800#). These boats are being measured with different yardsticks. Clearly there is a need to clear out the smoke, post real displacement numbers, and let the hunters decide for themselves what they are comfortable carrying, given the river they are floating. I can't call that shot for anyone, and the manufacturers shouldn't be either.

    If anyone here is interested in participating in a load test this spring, shoot me a note and let's make it happen. I would prefer to do it on a flat calm lake in the Anchorage or Wasilla area. We will also need someone to help wrangle the boats together. Together we will come up with a list of what we need, and I think I can get the folks at Alaska Raft and Kayak to help out with the boat supply.

    As I said earlier, I do not stand to gain anything by the outcome of the testing, as I am not a boat seller or rental outfit. I do have an interest, however, in providing accurate information for hunters.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kodiak kid View Post
    Seems like if the air charter is making you use their equipment and something goes wrong and it is proven that it is inadequate for the job it would create some liability that they wouldn't want to take on?
    It's not that simple. How would you attach a figure to a boat that had six inches of water flowing over the floor for your float hunt? If the hunters made it down the river to the take-out on time, then they completed their objective, right? The real issue is the boat's performance on the water. Unfortunately we are educating a whole new crop of float hunters who don't know any more than what they are told by people they trust.

    I am all for innovation. 100% behind it. And I realize that innovation comes with a high price tag. But to pass off any boat as the end-all, do-all is not right, and that's essentially what my hunters were told today. They were offered an opportunity to rent one of three boats, all of which present serious problems in the context for which they would be used.

    -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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    You have to forgive me because I'm pretty green at float hunting. Only one float under my belt and it didn't go very smooth as you know. I suspect that one of the air charters you are talking about is the one I had used. But if a air charter sends a two person group out with two canoe paddles and they harvest two moose and get in trouble with a sweeper because they couldn't maneuver the boat I can see there would be some liability with the air charter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kodiak kid View Post
    You have to forgive me because I'm pretty green at float hunting. Only one float under my belt and it didn't go very smooth as you know. I suspect that one of the air charters you are talking about is the one I had used. But if a air charter sends a two person group out with two canoe paddles and they harvest two moose and get in trouble with a sweeper because they couldn't maneuver the boat I can see there would be some liability with the air charter.
    Most Taxis have a pretty rock solid liability waiver. Not disagreeing with you one bit, but having dealt with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in regards to different outfits, successful lawsuits against air taxis are about as common as a pigeon toed yeti......
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    I do know that the air charter that I used wants to sell a two person trip but they only want one person to shoot a moose. They won't come out and say it but with all the complaining the pilot/co-owner was doing about all the success the group that floated that same river the year before was doing gave me that impression. Maybe they are under sizing the boats to discourage multiple harvests?

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    Yep, maybe my ideas are far fetched. thanks for the response.

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    Mike, I have to chime in on this one because you're wrong on so many levels it's scary.

    First get your facts right:

    Air charters (the same ones you are dealing with call me when your guys show up with 150-lbs per person and rafts that weigh twice to three times what our groups use). They have legitimate concerns because guys who bring barges also bring cases of beer or soda and everything but the sink for a 10-day hunt. When an air charter has been servicing hunters for over 20 years and they bring up a growing problem, they have to deal with it with common sense. When my hunters come back fully successful and rave about the boats they used in less-than-ideal water character...they listen and compare stories they get from your groups. In every case your groups are heavier and less successful because of the gear they use and the prep that went in to their hunts.

    So, it's not really about us putting our foots down and complaining, it's about complying to their need to reduce aircraft loads, reduce damage to the aircraft, reduce fuel usage for heavier flights, and compromising bulk with heavy rafts with robust frame components. It really boils down to what guys like you and me can do as professionals who are paid to help hunters prepare for today's Alaska...not what Alaska was 20 years ago...they are not the same environments with the same concerns.

    Second: Your comments about rafts

    3. PR-49 Packraft: At the risk of incurring the wrath of the packraft crowd, packrafts are not adequate as a primary boat for moose hunting. The material is thin and the boat is highly susceptible to catastrophic tube failure in shallow water or if it encounters sharp rocks, tree limbs, sweepers or beaver punji-sticks. It also does not have the carrying capacity you need. Even if we put two of these boats on the water, we would still be over the load limits.

    My RETORT: One of the main reasons we created the PR-49 is to improve hauling capacity and safety margins for weight-restricted hunters. Have we moose hunted effectively with the PR-49? Of course we have. The concept behind packraft hunting is as much about fun and performance as it is about access to remote rivers and self-restricted hunting mentality. If two guys went remote for moose in PR-49, they would limit themselves to one moose split between two boats. But it is uncommon for "average bulls" to weigh 700-lbs each...more like 500-600-lbs with 700 lbs being the exception. But, if your hunters shaved their weights down by 50%, that would accommodate the extra 75-100 of moose meat on a small boat.

    4. Maxxon Wilderness X-Stream Canoe: Although this boat posts a load capacity of 1,800 lbs., I believe this number is way too high for this boat. When compared to the AIRE Traveler, this boat is only 18" longer, the tube diameter is 2" larger and the inside width is 5" narrower. The Traveler posts a capacity of 750 lbs. I cannot see how the X-Stream can carry over twice the load of the Traveler without grossly overloading it. This boat cannot safely carry the load posted in our example. We're still 300# over their stated limit. The hunt could be conducted with two of these boats, but I would want rowing setups on each one. The weight of this boat is 72 lbs. without rigging, so we are looking at 144 lbs. for two of them. You could put a 15' NRS Otter SB out there instead, and it would weigh less (131 lbs. without rigging).

    My RETORT: First thing's first...The Pioneer X-stream is produced by a factory that makes Maxxon boats for Evergoing Products. Our boats, including the Legend, Pioneer X-stream, and the Levitator ARE NOT Maxxon boats, they are Pristine Ventures boats. Get that straight in your head and speak only about which you are knowledgeable. I have proven my reputation and focus on safety, performance, and customer relations...and our products are what they are based on that reputation.

    As for your claims about the Pioneer X-stream: They are unfounded, period, since you have not stepped foot in one on the river, nor have you rowed or paddled one with or without a load. You compared the X-stream to the Traveller, which is ridiculous. The Traveller's floor design is why the boat is only rated to 750-lbs. Most of the hull is filled with floor depth, which robs the hunter valuable stowage space for lower center of gravity and total weight. Don't make assumptions based on pencils and calculators. Get in one, load it down, and then come back to the table with accurate data.

    5. Maxxon Legend Canoe. This boat is new on the market, and on general principle I don’t recommend brand-new products anyway, unless produced by a company with a stellar reputation (longevity in the Alaska market, low failure rate, stable, consistent product line, top-quality materials and workmanship, etc.) But I'm concerned about the size of this boat as well. Stated capacity is 1,250 lbs., but as we saw in the previous example, these numbers are vastly overstated for safe operations on many Alaska rivers. What if we used two of these boats? One man, half the gear load and a moose with cape and antlers is going to put you at 1,050 or thereabouts. That's 200# short of a stated max load on this boat. There are certainly lakes and rivers where you could make this work, but taken as a generic recommendation for Alaska rivers, there is no way I would put one of my hunters in this boat, given the loads we are looking at in our example.

    My RETORT: The Legend is OUR new design (not Maxxon), which I have hunted with and modified to perfection. It has a stated capacity of 1250-lbs, with the average hunter load with moose is about 1050-lbs (roughly 80% of its max capacity) for a heavy bull and gear plus one guy. If the boat has a max capacity of 1250-lbs, then 1050-lbs in the boat on a mild river character is totally doable. Guys who use this boat will learn that they cannot pack 150-lbs per person and be legit for hauling moose out, so they restrict their pack weights and get it done. If they get the river conditions are too low to accommodate full capacity, then hunters must learn to self restrict harvest goals and split one moose between two boats. That's common sense and conservation all wrapped into one decision.

    Instead of attempting to rant about "changes" air charters are highly suggesting, perhaps a smarter approach would be to change your old-school conservative thinking from inside the box and step outside and see what your leaders are doing effectively. Air charters you are dealing with are not being "pitched by a local retailer" which I surmise you were talking about me since I'm the only dealer the buy our rafts from...they are seeing the results of how operations improve without heavy and unnecessary bulk and weight with traditional raft designs.

    I guess what I'm encouraging is for you to be less critical of how everyone is thinking and doing, and focus on ways you can bend a little to learn a lot, which in the end makes you a more valuable resource vs the king on a self-imagined throne of boat knowledge.

    Larry

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    Mike, I applaud your efforts to "get the bottom of weight capacity ratings on inflatables." You tried this once a couple of years after I designed the Pro Pioneer (then made by SOAR). The load and paddle test you arranged did little to get to the bottom of anything. Why would we expect another similar load test would result with any new and useful data?

    The difficulty in your "load test" idea will be realized when you start loading your inflatables on flat water and note each designs submerged hull depth. To see that depth is one thing, but to negotiate moving current around bends and sweepers is altogether a different test.

    In my mind, it seems you might be the proverbial tail wagging the dog on this topic. What seems most valuable with determining (and teaching) watercraft capacities is understanding the complexities of what a specific design does for all factors in play.

    Some of the most critical factors include:

    1. The difference between one flight or two flights to get your group to the field, based on whether you take one large wad of raft or one or two smaller wads. We have proven the benefits of designing smaller, lighter boats for this first priority. One of your comments suggested a 16' AIRE over two Pioneer X-streams, when you neglect to consider which types of aircraft can accommodate a 130-lb rolled wad of one raft. That size raft would consumer more than 50% of the inside of a Helio Courier, and forget about a Super Cub. But a Pioneer X-stream can fit inside a Cub, and two can easily fit inside any large capacity aircraft...or the load can be split between two flights of 4 guys are going IN. Simply, the size of the inflatable wad rolled and stowed matters a great deal.

    2. What's the best load for any inflatable? Only as much weight as the boat can float over the given river character that it is maneuvered. A Pioneer X-stream may state an 1800-lb capacity, but that says nothing for what the hunters will actually be able to physically move downstream if conditions are sour at the time of their float. Same is true with any watercraft and its max capacity. Weight lmitations are decided by river character, but in my experience most remote rivers that are navigable must provide at least 6" depth for any watercraft to be considered effective float hunting rigs. The question then comes down to how much can you get in boat #1, boat #2, or boat #3 and still provide a draft of less than 6" as a general rule of thumb?

    3. How does the boat maneuver when loaded to 50% and 70% of its max capacity? If you loaded a Traveller with 750-lbs, could you maneuver it on moving water in shallow conditions or would it be easily flipped? Can the Pioneer X-stream, being more narrow and only 18" longer hold and maneuver more weight (more than double the volume)? Yes. Why? Floor and hull design, period.

    4. How much does the boat weigh and does that make it "better" or "more suitable" for float hunting? Just because AIRE uses 45-60-oz PVC coatings on their boats doesn't mean they were designed for Float Hunting Alaska. Just because our designs are coated with fewer ounces of PVC doesn't make them less ideal as float hunting rigs. The real question here is compromise. To lesson the pack weight and bulk of a rolled boat, we use PVC that has less bulk and coatings. This allows us extreme flexibility with designs that are specifically suited for Alaska's demands (i.e., load haulers, bush logistics, shipping rates, and performance).

    Your load test #2 will be totally useless and a complete waste of time for generating real usable data if you perform this test on a lake. The real benefit of load tests are done in the field by common users without preconceived self-righteous goals of being right on the topic. Listen and learn from people who actually do what it is that you wish to test. Believe not what you hear, not what you read, but only what you see.

    Good luck, count me out.

  15. #15
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    Mike, I have to chime in on this one because you're wrong on so many levels it's scary.
    Hello Larry,

    Thanks for weighing in on this. I was trying to keep your name and the name of your company out of this; the thread is not about names and such, it’s about changes in the charter industry and our right to push back when their recommendations don’t meet the needs of some float hunters.

    Your advice to stick within air charter load standards is well-taken. This is one of the first things I advise my hunters on when they’re shopping for a charter. In fact, I’m adamant about it, and have been teaching that to hunters for over 25 years. I even spilled some ink on this issue in my float hunting book. It’s vital that hunters ask about the maximum load allowances, that they weigh up every item in the load, and that they accurately report the real numbers to the air charter operator and pilot. Therefore (as far as I know) my hunters are showing up well within load limits, as stated by the air service.

    AN AIR CHARTER STORY

    I only know of one gear weight issue any of my hunters had. It involved an air service in Fairbanks, and it was the charter operator’s fault. The operator gave them a maximum load of 750 lbs. The hunt involved two hunters with moose and caribou tags, so they had a boat that would handle the weight of two moose and two caribou, along with the gear (the boat was an AIRE Super Leopard, one of the few big load-haulers out there). This, combined with their personal gear, food, salt and community gear, easily met the load limits. When they arrived at the air service, they discovered that the person they’d worked with for two years had retired that summer and another person was now in charge. They were not informed of the change. The “new guy” went ballistic when he saw the load, and immediately told them to lose 250 lbs. out of the load. We later determined that the “new guy” had re-allocated the aircraft that would be used on their trip, and the smaller plane he planned to use could not accommodate the load. The air charter created the situation by 1) changing the aircraft to be used, 2) failing to communicate between the former pilot and the new one, and 3) failing to communicate with the hunters.

    As a side note, the “new guy” also redirected their entire hunt to a lower stretch of the river devoid of both moose and caribou (this happened in the plane on the way to the drop-off). He told them that the upper river was too shallow for floating that year, so he had to drop them lower on the river. They didn’t push back, and as a result their hunt was a bust. They didn’t see anything. In fact, they encountered some locals lower on the river who were amazed that they were hunting there, because there was no game in that area. They did observe the operator fly over them the next day, on his way to drop off another party of floaters in the upper river where my hunters were supposed to go. My hunters ran into this party in Fairbanks after the hunt, a party of four who filled their moose and caribou tags in the (supposedly unfloatable) upper river. I called the operator after hearing back from my hunters and discovered that in the confusion of transitioning over to the “new guy”, they double-booked the drop point, and that’s why they redirected my group to a dead zone. I have used this operator since then, but I tell my hunters about this incident and suggest they get it all in writing, to avoid misunderstandings. They run a good operation, they just had a bad year during that transition.

    THE CORE ISSUE

    The issue here has nothing to do with packing appropriately or being over-loaded. The issue is that some charter operators are changing their load limits and pushing certain boats that are not going to work for some groups. That charter operator I mentioned in the previous paragraph gave my hunters a load limit of 750 lbs. to go to a certain river. The operator I mentioned in the original post is also flying out of Fairbanks to the same place, but with a 100 lb. limit per hunter. That’s a huge difference.

    In terms of loads and aircraft, it should be fairly simple. The charter gives a limit to the hunters and they stick within that limit. I don’t care if they bring a grand piano; if it fits through the door without damaging the aircraft, and it’s within limits, it shouldn’t be an issue. To be conservative, I am also very careful to advise my hunters not to bring bulky items or items with sharp corners that could damage aircraft fabric and such (aluminum dry boxes, for example). We pack in small, softer packages that load easily in the aircraft, and each piece is weighed and marked on a tally sheet, so the pilot knows exactly what he’s getting. We go way farther on this than anyone else I know.

    ABOUT THE BOATS

    Thanks for the clarification on the manufacturer! As I said in the first post, I could be incorrect on some things and I welcome any correction of my facts. It’s in my best interest to provide accurate information.

    In reading through your post, looking for errors I may have made, I see only two that you are pointing out:

    1. The manufacturer of the Legend and the Pioneer X-Stream. I said they were made by Maxxon, and you are saying that they are made by the same factory that makes Maxxon. Okay. My mistake. My information concerning the manufacturer came from Mark Cohen, the owner of Alaska Raft and Kayak, who is one of your distributors. I will note the difference, and appreciate the clarification.

    Are your boats using the same fabric Maxxon uses, and if not, what is the difference between yours and theirs? My issue is primarily about workmanship and materials. If the same company makes Maxxon and your boats, and that company is using the same processes and materials, then it’s reasonable to have the same concerns about your stuff as I would have about Maxxon. But you know the details and I don’t. What am I not seeing? I'm not being snarky here, I am just trying to understand.

    2. The comparison between the Pioneer X-Stream and the Traveler. I was careful to point out the differences between the two boats in my post, and my comments allowed for those differences. I don’t see an issue here. My point is, that regardless of the differences between the two boats, there’s no way that the X-Stream will carry twice the load as the Traveler. I believe that’s because of the way you and AIRE are calculating capacity. AIRE takes a very conservative approach on all their boats, and you have told me in the past that you calculate capacity based upon what it takes to submerge the boat to the midpoint of the tubes. I think that’s the crux of the issue.

    You pointed out the thickness of the Traveler’s floor, and made some points concerning the resulting loss of interior space. Those are valid points if we’re talking about interior space, but I was talking about sheer weight, not bulk. If we loaded each boat with gold bricks, I would still have questions about the huge difference between the posted load capacities of these boats.

    That said, interior space is certainly a concern for float hunters, and your boats do a great job of creating interior space, as do Jim King’s “Alaska Series” canoes. High sides give you the ability to haul bulky items without things falling out of the boat. No doubt about that.

    ON LIMITING HUNTER HARVESTS

    Regarding the issue of forcing hunters to limit their harvest by their choice of boats, I have mixed thoughts on that. It’s one thing for hunters to know going in that they are only going to take one animal between them (and I have groups that are willing to do that). It’s another matter entirely to have them thinking that their boats will hold everything they have tags for, and then they realize after they’re in the field there’s no way they can do that. I talked with a guy earlier this week who had that experience with one of the charter operators I mentioned in my first post (not one of my groups). He was VERY upset at the operator, as they had the chance to take a second moose but had to pass because the boat couldn’t do it (the boat was an NRS OtterSB 14’). Many of these folks are spending between 5-6K on a self-guided hunt up here, and they want to harvest game. I try to put them on rivers where this is possible. We plan all our hunts with enough lift to reasonably float everything they intend to harvest. I would never plan a hunt on the assumption that a group would unintentionally come out of the field filling only half (or less) of their tags. Regardless of the prospect of filling all their tags, I have to assume they will, or we risk hunters being forced to pass up game they would like to harvest.

    It’s not at all about conservation. If we force a harvest limit on our hunters by giving them boats that cannot reasonably haul the animals for which they have tags, we cannot pass that off as some sort of conservation ethic. If that were true, we would simply advise them to either stay home, or to leave the guns home and just bring a camera. Our harvest limits are set by ADF&G, and are based upon the sustained yield principle. Therefore if two hunters are allowed to purchase two moose tags, we can safely assume that their harvest of two moose fits within the conservation guidelines set by the state. Self-limiting a harvest beyond that standard falls within the personal standards of the individual hunter. I will not force my hunters to limit themselves on-the-fly in the field, based on last-minute surprises concerning the carrying capacity of their boats.

    SUMMARY

    The primary issue here involves air charters restricting hunters to loads that are not reasonable for some hunts and, in some cases, restricting hunters to using only certain specific boats. This inappropriately takes choices out of the customer’s hands, and will push those customers to competing carriers. I suppose that’s okay as long as those particular charters are happy to turn business away. In some instances, I think that’s exactly what is happening; the charters are as busy as they want to be. But when that changes (and it always does, either as game populations change or whatever), these same charters will be hungry again, and will be looking for the customers they are now pushing away.

    As I said in my first post, working with an air service is a team effort. Their purpose is to provide safe transportation of people and gear from point A to point B and back, at a price customers are willing to pay. Our job is to pack per their limits (and be willing to pay the going rate for supplemental loads if necessary) and pay our bill. It’s pretty simple, really. While most operators continue to operate this way, a handful are breaking away from the herd. The market will take care of that.

    -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

  16. #16

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    Mike, about your boats comment:

    What if you learned that our original Levitator was made by the same factory which makes Hyside's rafts. I guess you'd surmise that even though SOAR and Hyside used the same factory with same types of seams and I-beam floors they should be touted as being Hyside and not SOAR, or the other way around? Not.

    What if you learned that NRS used the same factory in mexico that made another brand of hypalon raft, would you still inform the public that the non-NRS boat made with similar processes and material is indeed an NRS raft? No sir.

    I don't need to describe anything about what makes our designs different than Maxxon, do your own research before referencing false information about this or anything else you hear around the water cooler. They are not the same boat and have nothing is common with each other except that the same factories in two countries actually our make our boats and theirs. If customers have issues with our boats, which is extremely rare or you'd hear about it on this and other forums...Pristine Ventures takes care of the problem, not the factory nor Maxxon. I've not written a single check to Maxxon for anything related to our products.

    As for your comment about weight capacities and the difference between the Traveller and the X-stream: You'll find the greatest difference being the floor design. The AIRE model has a laced in floor to be self bailing. Load it down with weight above 600-lbs and you'll see water fill the hull over the floor. Same comparison with the X-stream with the bail holes closed, and you get zero water in the hull, period. Huge and dramatic difference in flotation and weight hauling capacity. Why? Hulls filled with water sink deeper than ones without water, since water has significant weight itself (roughly 8.6-lbs per gallon of river water without mud or silt). The two boats with the one small design difference makes the X-stream a boat outside the class of the AIRE models. And that's only one small design feature that ruins your argument.

    Good luck, Mike.

  17. #17
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    Mike, I applaud your efforts to "get the bottom of weight capacity ratings on inflatables." You tried this once a couple of years after I designed the Pro Pioneer (then made by SOAR). The load and paddle test you arranged did little to get to the bottom of anything. Why would we expect another similar load test would result with any new and useful data? ...The real benefit of load tests are done in the field by common users without preconceived self-righteous goals of being right on the topic. Listen and learn from people who actually do what it is that you wish to test...
    Hi Larry,

    It appears you and I were typing at the same time this morning...

    The purposes of the canoe test were to assess the following:

    1. Primary and secondary stability.
    2. Wet ride.
    3. Eddy turns.
    4. Upstream and downstream ferry.
    5. Tracking.
    6. Hull flex.

    We used four of Alaska's top canoeists, who developed the test criteria based on their experiences with canoes across the state of Alaska. These people were:

    Jack Mosby. At that time Jack was canoeing about 1,000 miles a year in various places around Alaska. Though he is well past 70 years old, he remains active in canoeing today. I can think of nobody who can speak to the aforementioned criteria more authoritatively than Jack.

    Rich Crain. Rich was at that time a whitewater canoe instructor working with KCK (Knik Canoers and Kayakers). He is well-known in whitewater circles in Alaska and has a lot of on-the-water canoe experience here.

    Pat and Heather Fleming. Pat and Heather were our tandem canoeists (each of the boats were tested with both solo and tandem paddlers). They are also whitewater canoe instructors with KCK and are highly respected in this field.

    The test results were fairly comprehensive, though they received some criticism from people who were apparently expecting us to go on a hunt and load the boats with ten days worth of gear, along with moose meat and trophies. It was not that kind of test.

    There were a number of things we didn't test, such as how much bulk could be loaded in the boats, fabric integrity, overall boat quality, how well they drag over wet rocks, how well they load into different aircraft types, and a host of other things of interest to float hunters. Frankly, such a test becomes highly subjective and very difficult to assess. Imagine having six boats on a float hunt, shooting a moose, and experimenting with all six boats as you float down the river. At the end, each of the boats would have been tested differently, because of the changing character of the river. Such a test, though not a bad idea in itself, would be good to conduct. But the canoe test was never intended to be such a test.

    The test I am proposing is MUCH simpler. It's intended to test for only one factor: Displacement.

    Is displacement the only factor to consider when choosing an inflatable boat for a float hunt? Of course not! But it is important. We need to know how much weight it takes to push the hull down into the water 1", 2", 4" and so on. Hunters will want to take this number into consideration along with the other factors in order to make an informed choice. It would be the absolute height of folly for anyone to assume that this is the final deciding factor when choosing a boat for float hunting.

    (I think we're getting way off topic)

    -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
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  18. #18
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Hi Larry,

    I think we are getting off-track here. The primary purpose of this discussion is the air charter restrictions I am seeing with a handful of operators. The recommended boats is peripheral to that and my objection is that hunters are being forced to use equipment that may not work for their hunt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    Mike, about your boats comment:

    What if you learned that our original Levitator was made by the same factory which makes Hyside's rafts. I guess you'd surmise that even though SOAR and Hyside used the same factory with same types of seams and I-beam floors they should be touted as being Hyside and not SOAR, or the other way around? Not.

    I don't need to describe anything about what makes our designs different than Maxxon, do your own research...
    I'm not making any assumptions at all. I asked you for clarification on the materials and workmanship. That's a perfectly logical question, given that you said your boats were made by the same company. Without clarification, there is no clarity. Not all companies provide the specifications on their materials, and many do. Honestly, most hunters have no idea what makes one fabric superior to another. In the end, it only matters if the materials are sub-standard for long-term, rugged use in Alaska. I know of only two ways of assessing that: 1) go with a fabric that has a proven track record, or 2) produce a product, sell it in Alaska, and get feedback from hunters over several years.

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Bartlett View Post
    As for your comment about weight capacities and the difference between the Traveller and the X-stream: You'll find the greatest difference being the floor design. The AIRE model has a laced in floor to be self bailing. Load it down with weight above 600-lbs and you'll see water fill the hull over the floor. Same comparison with the X-stream with the bail holes closed, and you get zero water in the hull, period. Huge and dramatic difference in flotation and weight hauling capacity. Why? Hulls filled with water sink deeper than ones without water, since water has significant weight itself (roughly 8.6-lbs per gallon of river water without mud or silt). The two boats with the one small design difference makes the X-stream a boat outside the class of the AIRE models.
    Yes, anyone with a basic knowledge of displacement is aware that a non-bailer can carry more weight than a self-bailer. That's academic. The issue has to do with how much displacement is acceptable, given the river involved. There are some rivers that will give you all sorts of trouble with heavy loads, whereas an identical load on a deep, slow Class I river (or a lake) will be manageable. That's a given, and if we have any disagreement on that issue, it's not because I have not clearly communicated it. I teach it in my seminars and have written about it here in the forums, and in our pages on Inflatable Boats.

    A minor point, but the Traveler's floor is not laced in. It's sewn in, and there are four self-draining openings. Parenthetically, there's a way to plug those that works okay, though it doesn't prevent seepage completely.

    As I said, we are getting off track. I am sorry if any of my comments got you riled. That was not my intention (in fact I tried to avoid that by not mentioning you or your company in the first place).

    -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

  19. #19
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    There are plenty of options out there for hunters to shop around and if they don't like what a transporter is offering they can go to a different one, you said it yourself Mike and I quote "This inappropriately takes choices out of the customer’s hands, and will push those customers to competing carriers." So let them got to a competing carrier, what's the big deal?
    I once held the yardstick of anothers perfection, I threw it down and carved my own................

  20. #20

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    Interesting discussion point about a boat big enough to haul everything everyone in the party has a tag for vs. the boat you need to access skinny water where the critters live and people are scarce. All about managing expectations going in I guess. This year we are opting for b above - there are 4 of us but we know we are only going to take a moose or two between all of us. We solved it by having the guys who are the shooters foot the lion share of the cost. Hopefully we come across some caribou or something for the other two.

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