Finding the Right Cataraft
I hate to start another thread on this topic but I think I've gone through literally every cataraft specific post in this forum and still have some questions. I am going to buy a cataraft this year and would like a little help narrowing down my options. I have a 1 man pontoon that I have a decent amount of experience on but I have only been a passenger in a full size cat twice. The raft will be used mostly for floating the upper Kenai but I would like something capable of more challenging water and possibly float hunting. I am not looking to do class v water and the float hunting capability is not a deal breaker. The majority of the time it would me and 1 other person, possibly with 2 medium dogs on occasion. I usually have many visitors from the lower 48 every year so the added capability of 4 passengers plus myself is high on the wishlist. Based on everything I've read I am leaning towards an Aire Jaguarundi or Leopard, though I am open to other options if they suit my needs. I would like to keep the price at $4000 or less(I already have a motor and trailer) so obviously I'll be in the used market. Since I have a million specific questions I'll list them to make it easier.
Is a Jaguarundi or a smaller cat capable of day trips with 5 people on occasion?
If a smaller cat (by smaller I mean 14-16') is set up for 2-3 people, is throwing a couple extra bodies in and having them sit on coolers/tubes safe and comfortable enough for short easy floats like the upper Kenai?
How much of a pain is launching/recovering a larger cat like a Leopard/Jag on your own or with only the help of a not-so-rugged lady?
If I'm using a larger cat for 1-2 people and maybe 1-2 dogs the majority of the time am I going to regret not going smaller?
I plan to get a 10 hp short shaft motor that I would like to use for multiple craft. Is a short shaft OK to use on a cat?
If I were to consider a round boat, how do they do motoring moderate distance like Kenai to Skilak launch.
Would 2 dogs in a round boat be a bad idea with their claws being in constant contact with the floor? Would they stay relatively dry in a self-bailer?
What are some important things to consider when buying used? How old is too old?
Sorry for so many questions and thanks in advance for any advice.
I have a Jag and we do the Kenai often in the summer. We also have a round boat (Levitator) for when we take larger groups and when I go float hunting. The jag should do fine for your intended purpose. We've had 5+ people on it down the Kenai to Skilak. We also take our dogs down it and their claws are no issue--I've had a hard floor and a trampoline floor and with the tramp their feet do get wet and they don't necessarily like it, but they are so happy to be on the boat and seeing the river that they get over it pretty quickly. It would be a pain to launch with one person, but I think it could be done if you back the trailer partially into the water and if you had some come-alongs or ratchet straps I'm sure you could pull it back onto the trailer without too much trouble. I have a short shaft-2.5 HP that we use for crossing Skilak and while it isn't fast (takes about an hour to the upper boat launch) it is pretty convenient at ~30 lbs. We only have two seats in ours but people are fine sitting on coolers or tubes. The tubes aren't comfortable though and need to use seat cushions because the frame sits on top of the tubes. If you are looking for used, I wouldn't limit myself to Jag. Pretty much any Cat from 14-18' would do what you are looking to do--IMO. I'd just look for a good deal on Craigslist. I doubt you will regret getting one--we love it and have been doing the Kenai ~10 times per summer for the last 5 years. Have fun!
I bought an Aire 12' round boat used a few years ago. It was probably over 15 years old when I bought it, with faded fabric and a few repair patches. But the tubes were in great shape and held air no problem. Any issues with valves on an old boat can be easily fixed by replacing the valve. The only problem with this old boat is the zippers were too corroded, silted up, or whatever. If buying a used Aire you want to make sure you can move the zippers. That would be my major concern. I've only owned Aire so no advice on other used boats.
Thanks for the info fellas.
As far as your motor is concerned that depends on your frame configuration, I would talk to the guys at AK raft and kayak. My lion takes a long shaft, but it also had 28" tubes, so sits higher than the jags and others do.
Also if you are using a motor, take into consideration where your frame is sitting, a ten horse injected (kenai legal two stroke) can be pretty light, but even a 10 horse four stroke can make a large raft tilt back a bit without offsetting weight on the front, or the frame moved forward.
If you are planning on doing anything remote, I would definitely go with AIRE tubes, as they are easier to patch and stitch on the fly. I like the NRS tubes for their low maintenance and the fact they don't collect moisture inside, but you cant open them up to fix them so easily.
I've seen jags take 5 and 6 people. Looks pretty **** crowded, but so does my 16' lion. The lion is heavy, I got a smoking deal on mine, but I think the jag is the better all around cat. If you want to pack it with people, do not go under 16'. People and gear can become and issue quick. But 18' is a hell of a lot of boat, and with any cat... if you can fit it, it's going to end up on the raft. So save your back and and don't do the 18'.
From what I hear the jag is just right for you. Too bad this thread wasn't here a month ago... a guy down here is Seward sold a jag with a trailer for 3K...