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Thread: Rafting training/coaching needed

  1. #1
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    Default Rafting training/coaching needed

    I have a Pro Pioneer and have found it to be harder to control than I thought it would be when I bought it so I'm looking for some coaching. I've emailed the KCK organization but haven't received a reply so I'm not sure how active they are this time of year. Clearly the rivers aren't open yet so I'm just trying to get a head start on the rafting season. I have floated the Kenai twice with the pro pioneer and never had good control of it either time and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

    If you are an experienced rafter and can take the time to do a little coaching I'd appreciate it. Send me a pm if you're interested. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrift View Post
    I have a Pro Pioneer and have found it to be harder to control than I thought it would be when I bought it so I'm looking for some coaching. I've emailed the KCK organization but haven't received a reply so I'm not sure how active they are this time of year. Clearly the rivers aren't open yet so I'm just trying to get a head start on the rafting season. I have floated the Kenai twice with the pro pioneer and never had good control of it either time and I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

    If you are an experienced rafter and can take the time to do a little coaching I'd appreciate it. Send me a pm if you're interested. Thanks in advance.
    There are two main issues with this boat that translate themselves into performance issues.

    1. The floor is 11" too long. This is a design defect that pulls the bow and stern deeper into the water than the midpoint of the boat. In most cases you probably won't notice it, but it could be an issue.

    2. The bottom of the boat is made of neoprene, which is going to be a problem in really shallow water or in dragging situations. Neoprene grips when it is wet (that's why car tires are made of neoprene, not plastic). So the material itself will resist your efforts to get it to slide over wet rocks.

    From the wording of your post, it doesn't sound like either of these two issues are the problem you are facing. Are you using a rowing setup, or paddles?

    -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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  3. #3

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    Adrift, sideline what Mike has suggested for a moment.

    1. The floor of the Pro Pioneer is NOT 11" too long. The reason for what Mike describes as the bow and stern being lower than the centerpoint of the canoe hull is do to SOAR's tube/floor design combo. The tubes are constructed to attach to the top of the floor, and this gives the boat tubes the flex observed to results in the "warping" at the centerline. Years ago I thought this was and would be a problem, but the boat itself becomes increasingly more stable and evenly drafted once personnel are loaded in the middle. At some point when load is applied, the tubes balance out and the "appearance" of this warping decreases to a point where the tubes appear to be level across the plane. Anyway, we experimented with a shorter floor to see if the warping could be corrected on an empty boat hull....but it doesn't, which suggests that it's the inherent result of having long tubes rest on top of a floor. In other boat designs, the floor being between the tubes gives more snug delivery and holds the tube shape better. With SOAR designs, this warping appearance is noted more pronounced the longer the tubes are.

    2. I agree with Mikes neoprene assessment of the SOAR design.

    3. The best way to provide maneuverability improvement with the Pro Pioneer is to load the bow with at least 100 lbs more than the stern. This forward weight offers better tracking. You'll notice the boat becomes more manageable the more weight you load into the hull.

    I'd try the counter weight approach before getting too frustrated and see what results.

    Larry

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Hi Larry,

    About five years ago, give or take (my memory is horrible), Larry Laba (the owner of SOAR Inflatables and the builder of this boat, for those who do not know), approached me at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show and told me that he had discovered a design flaw in the Pro Pioneer. He told me that the floor was 11" too long, and that he was looking at solutions to the issue. I saw him at the show the next year and asked him about it. He told me that he was still looking into solutions. The third year I ran into him at the show and asked about it again. He smiled and told me that he had decided that the boats are what they are, and that he had decided not to make any design changes. I think this thread is the first time I have said anything about it here in the forums. If the floor issue has been subsequently corrected, then I also stand corrected. Anyway that's where the information came from.

    When the boat first came out, I noticed the arch to the tubes, which forces the bow and stern to sit lower when the boat is empty. I thought the arch was intentionally engineered into the boat's design, in order to mitigate the boat's tendency to flex under a load. For those who don't know, rubber (Hypalon® / CSM, neoprene) tends to stretch, flex, and bounce when compared to plastic (PVC, urethane). This is accentuated with longer, narrow boats such as canoes, because the narrow floor doesn't provide as much support as a wider floor like you have on a traditional self-bailing round boat. As an interesting side note, the ancestor to the Pro Pioneer was a sled-type canoe made by Metzler, a German company that has since gone out of business. Grabner, an Austrian manufacturer, purchased much of their materials, supplies and patterns. The Grabner XR Trekking is nearly identical in design to the SOAR S-16, and that is because the S-16 is a copy of the Grabner boat. And of course, the Pro Pioneer is a modification of the S-16. Some significant differences between the Grabner boat and the SOAR product is in the materials the boats are made of. Grabner's boat is designed for a working pressure of .3 bar (roughly 4.4 psi), whereas the SOAR boats should not be inflated above 3 psi. This is a significant pressure difference and it gives the Grabner boat greater rigidity and better performance. The reason Grabner can handle higher pressure is because they use a high tensile-strength polyester base cloth, which has very low stretch capabilities. I believe SOAR uses a nylon base cloth, which is what most companies are using with rubber fabrics. Nylon is stretchy, which compliments the characteristics of rubber. The top coating on the Grabner boats is EPDM, a synthetic rubber with properties similar to Hypalon®. The inner coating on Grabner's boats is a natural rubber called "Caoutchouc", which is very elastic and air-retentive. By now our reader's eyes are glazing over... people have generally moved away from detailed fabric discussions, which is a shame because the quality of the boat starts with the materials used. Anyway, Grabner's boats and SOAR's boats are made of different materials, and have different performance characteristics as a result.

    I guess my point in mentioning the Grabner boat is to say that they don't have this arch. The could be at least two reasons for this: 1) The material is stronger and does not need an engineered "arch" to overcome flexing issues, or 2) The arch on SOAR's canoes is a design flaw. Based on the information I have from both SOAR and Grabner, I believe both are true.

    Regarding your recommendation to load the boat nose-heavy, I respectfully disagree. While you certainly have many more hours logged in inflatable canoes than I do, it's generally a bad idea to load bow-heavy, especially in shallow water. If anything, you want to be slightly stern heavy. This is because on pool and drop rivers, or on rivers where you run into shallow gravel bars, you want the bow to float over the shallow spot and ground out in the stern. This allows you to push (or drag) the boat through, and keep the bow pointed downstream. When you come off the obstacle, your bow is pointed downriver, which positions you to deal with the next obstacle by back-rowing away from it. If the boat grounds out in the bow (which it will if you are bow-heavy), the current pushes the stern around and the boat ends up either broadside to the current, or backwards. When you push off, you are out of position to deal with the next obstacle, unless you can physically manhandle the boat around to the proper orientation. This is a general navigational principle, and your experiences with canoes may be somewhat different. No offense intended, just an observation.

    Having said all that, I think the issue the OP is experiencing might be more related to experience than anything else. Clearly the SOAR Pro Pioneer has worked for a lot of hunters. But if he's using paddles, it's possible that he's using shorter paddles than what he needs in order to reach over the tubes, or there could be other factors. Personally, I believe the best way to control one of these boats, especially with a heavy load, is with oars.

    For those interested in inflatable canoes, we have a more detailed discussion on our Inflatable Canoes Page elsewhere on the site.

    -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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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    it's generally a bad idea to load bow-heavy, especially in shallow water. If anything, you want to be slightly stern heavy. This is because on pool and drop rivers, or on rivers where you run into shallow gravel bars, you want the bow to float over the shallow spot and ground out in the stern. This allows you to push (or drag) the boat through, and keep the bow pointed downstream. When you come off the obstacle, your bow is pointed downriver, which positions you to deal with the next obstacle by back-rowing away from it.
    Interesting. My first reaction was that the above statement is contrary to my experience, and then I realized that you are talking about inflatable canoes, not traditional rafts, and I don't have experience with inflatable canoes.

    However, I have found that it's quite beneficial to load my raft a little bit nose heavy, as I would much rather spin of a rock that my nose grounds on, rather than slide over the rock and get hung up on my back end. In true whitewater I seek a perfectly balanced load, even a little bit center heavy if I can. But in Class I-III rivers I load my raft slightly nose heavy.

    I can spin my raft 180 degrees with a single stroke (2 if it's heavy), and a raft isn't at much risk of capsizing, so minimizing dragging is more important to me than maintaining proper orientation for handling. I expect that both of those issues are less forgiving in an inflatable canoe.

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    Mike and Larry,

    Thanks for the reply. I use rowing saddles (the multi piece pin together frame) with 7' oars. All my floats in the the Pro Pioneer were in an empty boat, for the most part anyway. I have canoed several rivers and lakes in Alaska so I'm not totally inexperienced but the Pro Pioneer makes me feel like I am.

    I will try the loading suggestion by Larry and continue trying to contact the KCK. But as suggested, more experience with the Pro Pioneer maybe all that in required to solve the control issue. Thanks to all.

    Adrift

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HikerDan View Post
    Interesting. My first reaction was that the above statement is contrary to my experience, and then I realized that you are talking about inflatable canoes, not traditional rafts, and I don't have experience with inflatable canoes.

    However, I have found that it's quite beneficial to load my raft a little bit nose heavy, as I would much rather spin of a rock that my nose grounds on, rather than slide over the rock and get hung up on my back end. In true whitewater I seek a perfectly balanced load, even a little bit center heavy if I can. But in Class I-III rivers I load my raft slightly nose heavy.

    I can spin my raft 180 degrees with a single stroke (2 if it's heavy), and a raft isn't at much risk of capsizing, so minimizing dragging is more important to me than maintaining proper orientation for handling. I expect that both of those issues are less forgiving in an inflatable canoe.
    Yeah, my context is float hunting with heavy loads, so my preferences are different. First, I'm not doing whitewater or bouldery rivers for the most part, so I'm not talking about grounding out on boulders (I wouldn't recommend that). These are rivers that tend to shallow out into gravel bars at the tail end of pools, or rivers with gravel bars protruding out from the banks. In those cases I prefer the bow to float over and for the boat to ground out at the stern, as opposed to letting the current spin me around (or having to manually spin with the oars). The reason for that is that these rivers are sometimes narrow, with hazards just downstream. The few seconds needed to spin the boat back around to avoid the obstacle often create a potentially dangerous situation, especially with the additional time needed with heavy loads.

    Also as I have mentioned elsewhere, I'm not a canoe guy either. This is just a general practice for float hunting with heavier loads.
    -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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