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Thread: Advice on a raft to purchase

  1. #1
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    Default Advice on a raft to purchase

    I am going to buy a raft but am not sure what I want. I have been looking at the Soar Levitator and the NRS-E150. Not set on those two but they are what I am looking at.

    Here is my uses I plan to do with it.

    Float the Kenai in spring for Rainbows then switch to the valley streams like the Willow for Kings and Rainbows and maybe the Gulkana. Then I plan on using this on fly out hunts for moose and or Caribou. Then when I get back I will be back on the Kenai for Rainbows in the fall.

    For all my fishing it will be my wife and I and our 2 boys and probably my Newfoundland dog.

    On hunts it will be me and one other person.

    I know the Levitator has the flat bottom but in some ways I really like that and I like the load hauling capabilities it has. I don't know if I can get a frame for this raft for fishing or not but assume so. Like I said still researching all this. If anyone knows then let me know.

    I am open to any and all opinions on this.

    Thanks
    Sam

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    Member H_I_L_L_B_I_L_L_Y's Avatar
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    Cool

    Ive heard good first hand info on that raft and would bet you could get more info at www.pristineventures.com than on this site. Its been bashed on here! Good luck. Hillbilly

  3. #3
    Member cusackla's Avatar
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    Default Soar Levitator

    I have one! I love it. I have a Moose, Two Caribou, 10 days of gear, myself and another hunter in mine and we were floating in what seemed like three inches of water. I know that Larry's arch enemy (We All Know Who He Is) will get on here and slam it, just because Larry is prettier and sells more books than he does.........roflmao!
    But! For the record. I love mine! I bought it for the same reason you are buying it and it is awesome! PM me and I will send you fully loaded pic.s, Jeff over at Alaska Raft and K. can and will build a frame for anything

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Reply to Sam

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for posting the question here. I'm on my way out to King Salmon right now, but will get back to you in a few days. Uh... that should give other folks plenty of time to express my opinion for me!

    Best regards,

    -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.
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  5. #5
    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Soar Levitator

    Soar Levitator for hunting for sure. This raft will float on a wet rock. Two guys two moose no problem. Might be better rigs for fishing. The bow and stern have no rocker and will splash a little water in rough conditions. However I was simply amazed at how well it will float a heavy load. Just my 2 cents. We are taking two on our hunt this year.

    Steve


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    Default Where can you buy one?

    in Anchorage? & how much would one go for?

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default Interesting

    Well I have yet to have the pleasure of riding in Larry's boat however I did spend some time chatting last weekend with a couple of people who had rented them and had the chance to watch them go over rocks etc. Boat seem to do fine, although it flexed like an SOB. Seemed a little bulky in certain location on the River i.e. Upper Gulkana.

    I do not know if you have room for that bad boy going down the Willow, and without tracking and all the mess on the Kenai if I would be attempting to row it in traffic down there in that boat but I am sure with stick time you could handle it.

    For its design and intended purpose remote locaitons, carrying capacity and weight a great option. For fishing out of and tight waters I would look in a different direction.

    TTW rents them might want to drive before you buy on both sides of the house.

    Best of Luck!

  8. #8
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Round boats and design differences

    Sam,

    Well, I'm back in the saddle again and thought I'd toss in some ideas with everyone else's. I thought about posting a chart comparing the various designs in terms of carrying capacity, performance, price, tube diameter, rocker, etc, etc. But this information is readily available online and I suspect that if you really want that sort of thing you will find it. Perhaps a more relevant part I can play in this is to give you some pros and cons to consider and leave it at that. You are an experienced Alaska hunter and you seem to have a pretty good idea of what you want, but are wanting some confirmation and perhaps a few additional things to consider, so here goes.

    LOAD CAPACITY

    Inflatable boat manufacturers are all over the map on this one, for a variety of reasons. For starters, you need a lighter load if you're doing whitewater than you can get by with on Class I flatwater. Then there's good old marketing, "my boat carries more than the competition, so you should buy mine". For a consumer, it's hard to know what to go by. Right now there are three different catarafts (by different manufacturers) that are exactly the same length, weight, design, and tube diameter, yet there is a difference in posted carrying capacity of over 700 lbs!

    Some time ago I ran into perhaps the best formula out there to calculate buoyancy for an inflatable boat. It was put together I think by the Canadian Coast Guard. I thought it might be useful but the more I thought about it the more I realized that we really need a sliding scale. There are times when I absolutely require the lightest load- usually because of shallow water encountered during the fall hunting season. On other rivers anything will work, because the river is deep and slow. I've had over a ton on my Leopard cataraft before, but I wouldn't recommend doing that in most cases. The point is, every situation is different. I would look for "functional" load capacity- something you are comfortable with on the rivers you float. Of course, this is a subjective term that doesn't help the new folks much. Those are the guys we want to help stay out of trouble, so with them I usually use conservative numbers.

    FOOTPRINT / BEAM

    Another consideration is the length to width ratio of the boat. There are generally-accepted standards among manufacturers as to the proper ratio to make the boat stable in situations where broaching could occur. For the uninitiated, broaching is when the boat drifts sideways against an obstacle in fast water. Depending on a variety of factors, the boat may want to flip over, where it can become pinned against the obstacle or wrapped around it. This tendancy is greater with narrower boats than with wide boats. An extreme example would be a canoe compared to a skiff. A canoe is, because of its narrow beam, more likely to overturn than a skiff with a wide beam. The same principle is true with inflatable boats.

    An example of a standard-width round boat would be the E-150 you mentioned in your post. The boat is 15 feet long and 7 feet wide. Another would be the E-142, which is 14 feet long and 6'6" wide. These are standard, run-of-the-mill length to width ratios that you will see with other similar boats by AIRE, Maravia, SOTAR, Achilles, etc.

    Then there are the narrow-profile rafts. I don't know the ancient history on this but some of the best examples I know of are the AIRE Puma series and the Maravia Spider. The largest Puma is 14' long but only 5' 11" wide, and the Spider is 13 feet by 5'9". These are specialty boats intended for light loads- usually two people and fishing gear. In fact, AIRE advertises the Puma series as an inflatable drift boat. They are great with a very light load, but if you're heavy and there's a risk of broaching / wrapping, you should consider a standard width. I know some guys who overturned a heavy Puma on a fall hunt on the Swift River and nearly drowned when the boat ended up pinned in a logjam. The boat was too top-heavy because there just wasn't enough room inside for all the gear, and the boat was just too narrow for the conditions.

    Of course a big advantage of a narrow boat is that you can hunt smaller streams that a standard-width boat would not be able to get through. This is one of the reasons folks are sometimes using inflatable canoes for hunting. But this scares me because some of these guys (I've talked to a number of them) have very limited river experience in Alaska (let alone float hunting experience), and I worry that we may read about them in the paper some day. Some are taking serious chances and don't realize how dangerous this can be.

    By the way, there are some narrow-width catarafts out there too, but this involves custom framing. My frame has an 18" removable section on every crossbar, specifically for narrow streams. I use the same tubes, but can vary the stance of the boat by adjusting the frame width. But this is another discussion for another time. Some guides are using them on narrow rivers.

    ROCKER / KICK

    Just as with length to width ratios, there are generally accepted standards for rocker, or kick. For the newbies out there, "kick" is the degree of bow and stern rise the boat has. Some manufacturers measure kick from the floor to the midpoint of the bow or stern tube, others measure from the floor to the bottom of the bow or stern tube. At least one company makes a boat with a shallower kick in the stern than in the bow, but this boat is intended for a different purpose. For most float hunting, you want at least 6-9 inches of bow and stern rise, as measured from the floor to the bottom of the tube. If you're dealing with any whitewater over Class II, I would want a little more rocker than that. The purpose of rocker is to assist the boat in navigating rough water- which could be regular whitewater, or simply wind-driven waves. Boats with a shallower rocker will create more splash. This contributes to a wetter ride for passengers, meat, and gear. It is accentuated if you have a heavy load, because the water cannot push the boat up very easily; the waves slap against the bow and you get wind-driven spray and a lot more resistance when rowing. Boats with a higher rocker give you a drier ride, as a rule. But really high bow rises act as a sail in headwinds and you get blown around a lot. So you have to find a balance.

    Another reason for having some rocker to your boat is safety. If you end up in whitewater, a boat with plenty of rocker will slide down the face of a wave, through the trough at the bottom, and gravity / the current will push it up the face of the oncoming wave. This is what they are designed to do. But a boat with shallow rocker may not fare so well. In a worst-case scenario, the bow will bury itself in the face of the wave, stalling the boat in the trough. At that point, the oncoming wave will either fill the boat up with water, turn the boat sideways and capsize it, or quickly flip it end-over-end. This is called pitch-poling.

    There is only one raft that I know of that has no rocker at all. The floor is totally flat from bow to stern. It's the Lev. Let's talk about that boat for a minute.

    THE LEV

    This is a very unique boat in many ways. I already mentioned the totally flat floor. One of the things you must consider with this boat is whether you ever plan to use it for hunting in rivers with whitewater or wind-driven waves. If you are, I would consider the lack of rocker to be a negative feature. If you are planning to hunt only slow, Class I water with no wind issues, the rocker issue is not a problem. On the positive side, by getting the entire floor of the boat, bow and stern included, in contact with the water, your load capacity increases dramatically. The same thing would happen with the E-150 you mentioned, or any other round boat out there; it's just a matter of physics. But this is the boat's secret when it comes to sheer load-bearing ability. A second consideration is the relatively narrow beam of the boat. For comparison, the E-150 we've been discussing is 7 feet wide. But the Lev is only 5' 8" wide. I would consider this a narrow-profile boat, with all the benefits and downsides of a narrow boat, as listed above.

    Another unique feature of this boat is the urethane bottom. Urethane is a plastic material used by SOTAR, Maravia, and AIRE. It is arguably the toughest material out there and is, in my opinion, one of the best materials for inflatable boat bottoms. It does tend to gouge, as all plastics do, but it's relatively slick when wet, and is tough stuff. It's also very expensive. The fact that it is being used on Hypalon tubes makes this boat fairly unusual. This is not the first boat to use urethane coating on Hypalon, but some manufacturers have had problems getting the two materials to properly adhere to each other. Because this boat is a relatively new arrival on the market, only time will tell how successful this manufacturer has been in making it work. Looks good so far, and I have heard no reports of delamination and such. If it works for the long haul, my hat is off to them for doing an excellent job in an area where the industry has struggled.

    A final consideration is just a question I have about the boat. I have noticed that it is very light for its size. Normally raft fabric is rated not only by the size of the threads in the base cloth (expressed in denier- a French word indicating the weight, in grams, of 9,000 meters of thread), but also by the weight per square yard of finished fabric. I like the latter measurement because it tells me how thick the coatings are (inside and out) on the base cloth. Obviously thicker coatings weigh more, but they wear longer too. The manufacturer of the Lev gives the denier of the Hypalon material as 1200, but gives no stats on the overall weight of the coatings. Without this information, I can only speculate that the two reasons the boat weighs so much less (it's 100# shipping weight versus the E-150's 160#) is because the boat uses less material on the floor (obviously, since the floor is narrower), and because the fabric weight is comparatively light. But I don't think the additional width alone of the E-150 would cause a gain of 60 lbs. Another reason might be because the E-150 has a heavier floor (double layer where the floor fabric wraps over the tube fabric). That is a lot more fabric, so perhaps this is where the additional weight is coming from. I would like to see the numbers on the Lev though, just to compare the two boats more completely. The E-150's fabric is 48 ounces and 1670 denier on both the tube fabric and the bottom fabric. The Lev's base cloth is lighter than the E-150 by 410 denier, but if the coatings were lighter too, this might explain the weight reduction more fully.

    IN CONCLUSION

    In making this decision you are faced with the same process we all have to go through in purchasing a boat for float hunting. It's the same process I recommend when people ask me what computer they should buy. Really that's the wrong question. A better question is to ask what you plan to do. Then you go out and find software that does what you want to do, and your final consideration is the hardware you need to run the programs. Same with inflatable boats. Decide what you want do do first. You have said it's for float hunting. But Alaska has over 365,000 miles of rivers to float. What kind of rivers do you plan to float? Do you anticipate rough water? Do you want a boat that will last your lifetime, or are you only here a short while and moving on? Will you carry huge loads or go light? Will you run an outboard? Will the boat be used for solo hunts, or with one partner? Two partners? Three? Will you haul an ATV with you (yes, you can do this with a large cataraft and the right floor)? These are some of the questions I would ask before I made a decision. Of course you know that no single boat will do all of this, and so you have to compromise in a way that hits the biggest part of your target.

    Well, hopefully I haven't bored you with too much that you already know, and have given you some things to consider. I should mention that the length and content are not for your benefit only, but for others with similar questions.

    Thanks again for posting the question here; I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

    Best of luck with whatever you decide!

    Regards,

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 07-10-2007 at 23:34.
    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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  9. #9

    Default

    figure what is most important and go from there.

    Have you ever thought about a zodiac. I used to row a 17footer down the upper kenai and canyon. Not a great raft but when going accross skilak this boat was awesome. But i wouldn't want to get in anything over easy class 3 with one.

    There are also multiple ways of rowing a boat down a river. r2 is one way. basically the rowers are sitting right next to one another in the middle section of the boat. the gear is in the bow and stern. another way is canoe style, where the gear is in the middle and the rowers are in the bow or stearn. This is one way of saving room and not having to have a frame. I wouldn't use these methods above class 2 with a heavy load. But in most flyout tundra rivers, this shouldn't be a concern.

    i took my post from the other spot and put it here also.

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    Default

    I have thought about a Zodiac. I have one but its not really what I am after. The majority of my time will be used for fishing with the family. Thats the easy part though as the streams I float are easy. I am no experienced white water guy. And don't know if I ever will want to be. I can deal with small streams with sweepers and log jams and stuff like that but who knows where I will end up.

    I could be out flying some day and discover the Holy land for moose or caribou and all of a sudden I am on a river with all kinds of types of water.

    Hunting is my passion but in reality fishing is what it will be used the most for as the season is so long. It's the one month I will hunt with it that will matter.

    You will never catch me running the six mile but there has been thoughts of learning the Matanuska. That obviously would take some experience before I did it but I could see myself doing it in ten years from now.

    The reason I picked the 150 is the width thinking of comfort for a family and the rocker it has for the Kenai. The Lev would kick butt on all the valley streams as they are small especially above the parks.

    Thanks for the insight Mike. I am still at a loss. Does anyone here have a 150 or can they tell me what they like and don't like about it.

    I know I won't get a cat though. Thats one thing I do know.

    By the time I get done filming the Pimp My Raft episode this wont be cheap so I want to make the right decision. I wouldn't mind being able to put a motor on it either.

    I was on the little willow a couple weeks ago and a guy came by in a 16ft Cat raft with a 40 horse jet and was smoking down the river. That was intruiging but I still say no to the cat.

  11. #11
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default A couple more things-

    Quote Originally Posted by 375ultramag View Post
    I have thought about a Zodiac. I have one but its not really what I am after. The majority of my time will be used for fishing with the family. Thats the easy part though as the streams I float are easy. I am no experienced white water guy. And don't know if I ever will want to be. I can deal with small streams with sweepers and log jams and stuff like that but who knows where I will end up.

    I could be out flying some day and discover the Holy land for moose or caribou and all of a sudden I am on a river with all kinds of types of water.

    Hunting is my passion but in reality fishing is what it will be used the most for as the season is so long. It's the one month I will hunt with it that will matter.

    You will never catch me running the six mile but there has been thoughts of learning the Matanuska. That obviously would take some experience before I did it but I could see myself doing it in ten years from now.

    The reason I picked the 150 is the width thinking of comfort for a family and the rocker it has for the Kenai. The Lev would kick butt on all the valley streams as they are small especially above the parks.

    Thanks for the insight Mike. I am still at a loss. Does anyone here have a 150 or can they tell me what they like and don't like about it.

    I know I won't get a cat though. Thats one thing I do know.

    By the time I get done filming the Pimp My Raft episode this wont be cheap so I want to make the right decision. I wouldn't mind being able to put a motor on it either.

    I was on the little willow a couple weeks ago and a guy came by in a 16ft Cat raft with a 40 horse jet and was smoking down the river. That was intruiging but I still say no to the cat.
    Sam,

    I've been down the Willow a time or three as well. I've taken my 18' cat down it many times, but it's a bit too much boat for that river, in my view. I guess I feel the same way about the 15-footer you're talking about as well. I dunno how old those boys of yours are, but if either of them could be trained on the sticks, maybe you could look at a pair of 13-footers? This would give you some options for hunting too. Tough call.

    Hearing you talk, I think you'd probably be happy with the 15' boat though. You know, if you want to save a bunch of weight you could look at a used SOTAR. They're really tough boats and very light. They don't roll worth a darn though, because that plastic just doesn't fold as nice as rubber. Still, a great boat. Forget a new one, it will cost you over 5k.

    Best of luck!

    -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

  12. #12

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    the best all around size i have been around is the 14 foot.

    However i too want a 15 foot boat, small enough to get around and big enough to handle big water or haul.

    Check out nrs.com lots of different frames and yes they have fishing frames for rafts.


    Will this boat be on a trailer or getting blown up everytime you use it?

    Do you want you frame to hold 2 dry boxes and a cooler or just a cooler and dry box? Which type of oar locks do you want?

    also have you looked at purchasing a boat used? end of season there might be some rental boats or an outfitter is getting rid of some boats. You never know.

  13. #13
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    Default

    I'm another 14' self bailer fan. They are a good all around boat. small enough to enjoy the rowing and large enough to haul things in. But for more people & gear a larger boat is required. I've rowed 16 footers and 18 footers, and even a 21 foot behemoth, and for some loads and rivers they are all the perfect boat, but I didn't like rowing any of them. Way to heavy. Of course, you don't have to put so much stuff in them, but you always do. Or at least I do. No self discipline, I guess.

    I've done self contained multi-day floats in 10' IK's, but do you think I can do that if I'm driving a 15' boat? No way. I'll figure out the space available and fill'er up every time. Then I'll be kicking myself for having too much boat to push. Actually, it's just too much gear to push.

    It's not the boat. It's not even the gear. It's me.

    You may have heard the one about pant sizes; "My actual waist size is 36", but 38" feels so good, I buy 40"." Well the same sort of truism works for boat sizes too but in reverse; 14' is my perfect size, but rowing a 13' is so much fun I think I'll buy a 12'.

  14. #14
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default

    [quote=idahokayaker;121180]...Do you want you frame to hold 2 dry boxes and a cooler or just a cooler and dry box? ...quote]

    Idaho,

    A lot of folks up here are not using dry boxes like they do in your neck of the woods- or at least the folks doing flyout trips. The problem is that the boxes aren't very airplane friendly. I've hauled them a time or three, but the corners can punch through airplane fabric (the outer skin of the a/c) and such, and some of them are hard to fit through the door. Most of us are just using a smaller cooler in the 48-qt size and using regular fish-on seats with backrests for seating (instead of the boxes with pads on top). On my boats I use both the low back and the high-back tractor seats with drain holes for my rowing stations and wouldn't dream of using even a cooler for a seat. I like that back rest!

    I think we have sort of scavenged what works in the Lower 48 and have modified it to work up here. This is mostly true with those of us who fly out for fishing or hunting. We just can't do the bulk like you guys can.

    That said, a lot of us trailer our boats all summer if we're fishing the roadside rivers like the Kenai, the Gulkana, Willow Creek, etc. and some use the larger containers for that.

    Anyway, thought I'd mention it since you mentioned the dry boxes.

    Regards,

    -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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  15. #15

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    Michael

    I hear you on the dry boxes. It does all depend on the plane size. in idaho when we fly out we have big airstrips so we don't use the cubs or super cubs. usaully 207's or bigger and the boxes are not an issue there. Heck we can fly out hardshell kayaks no problem.

    But i also know of some big planes in ak also. been on a few. The gruman goose's would most defiantly hold all that gear.

    What we used for "dry boxes" when i was living up there was milk crates with a garbage bag in it. 20mm rocket boxes work exceptionaly well for dry boxes also. I have seen catarafts with 2 2x4's going accross the back with 6 rocket boxes. Very easy to do and easy to pack in a plane also. But that also depends on the plane.

    there is no right way, just what works for you. And what limitations the plane has. lol

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