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Thread: Experience with Alaska Series rafts

  1. #1
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    Default Experience with Alaska Series rafts

    Hello

    Would be curious for any feed back on Alaska Series rafts. I'm considering the 14 foot self bailing model.

    Thanks very much.

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    Thumbs up Alaska Series rafts

    Quote Originally Posted by rcr View Post
    Hello

    Would be curious for any feed back on Alaska Series rafts. I'm considering the 14 foot self bailing model.

    Thanks very much.
    Hi RCR
    I just ordered the 13 foot self bailer "Kenai Drifter". After going with a good friend of mine who has one for the past two years on floats on western Alaska rivers. I decided I needed to order mine. They are very well built and have a five year warrenty on them and Jim King has a good reutation on quality. I was impressed with the construction of the entire raft but, in perticular the bottom of the pontoons, which has an exrta layer of material for warding off rocks etc.
    I don't think we could have over loaded it. It comes with 24" pontoons and carries a lot of stuff. We had all our equipment (tents, screened in room, camping gear and fishing gear etc etc) plus some gear from another guy who was in a one man raft.
    I also like the weight, 95 plus pounds. It loads onto most planes easy.
    Anyway, I came back from this last trip and I put one on order.

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    Default

    I heard some of the early ones occasionally had some bad seams where the fabric was glued or welded together with wrinkles, and sometimes this created leaks. I remember looking at some of the seams and thinking they didn't look very reliable. But the ones I've seen in the last few years have all looked good.

    Several years ago I rafted for a couple seasons with a friend that had a 14' SB. We took it down the Talkeetna River, and Sixmile Creek several times without an incident while on the water. We did pop a hole in it once when we pushed it over a cliff to get down to the river quick, but I don't think that was the fault of the boat. I've punched holes in my Aire doing the same kind of things.

    I think they are a good low cost boat. There are better boats out there, but you have to pay a lot more for them. Some of the local rafting companies have used them at times, but in general they beat the snot out of a boat so they generally prefer higher end stuff to start with. But for most of us, I think they are a good buy, and Jim puts a lot of thought into the extra features that should work well for Alaskan waters.


    Here's a picture of Ted's 14' SB Alaska Series doing Sixmile Creek's infamous Staircase sideways. I really didn't think he was going to make it.
    http://paddling.jimstrutz.com/images...es/TedSide.jpg

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    Default

    They are made by Zebec in Korea, and are essentially the same raft sold by Star our of North Carolina, and now 6th Avenue Outfitters in downtown Anchorage is selling their own line (each dealer has slight differences in their boats)... 6th Ave is offering a 10 year warranty tho.

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    Default

    I understand there are actually several manufacturing plants for these. I suspect they are all related in some way, and perhaps all owned by Zebek. Not sure how that works, but you're right they are essentially the same craft with numerous design changes.

    But the devil is in the details. Before buying one I would look for these details. Things like how many D rings and where they are placed, where the floor wrap extends to, rubbing strafes in key areas, handle type and placement, etc. Also there is considerable difference in tubing; diameter, rise, taper, pointy ends, etc., as well as floor placement and type.

    For judging most of this you don't need to be an expert, just look at the details and find what you think you will like. If you have specific questions about some of these, post a question back here and someone will undoubtedly give you an earful of opinion.

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    Default I have one

    I have one of Jim's boats and I LOVE IT.

  7. #7

    Default zebec

    Where are you guys getting your information that all these different boats are made by zebec? I' ve searched on the internet and I've got to admit all the boats look similar but the part I don't get is why they would let 2 dealers compete in the same city the size of anchorage. I know Jim King and 6th ave post on here from time to time so maybe they can explain the differences if any in their boats. And why then would one dealer offer a 10 year warranty and the other 5.

    And then what about those cheap knockoffs you can get for $1500 on ebay. They look exactly like the zebec boats too. Are you saying I can get the same quality boat for $1500 on ebay that I would pay $3000 for locally. Because I gotta say the fabric they advertise sounds the same on all these boats.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BearMan View Post
    Where are you guys getting your information that all these different boats are made by zebec?
    I've talked to the dealers, its not exactly a secret... I ask a lot of questions and have experience with Star going back 10+years. 6th Ave will show you a Zebec catalog. I've looked at all three boats, their construction, design and materials... Jim's right, there are some slight differences, from size's to features, but they are all very similar craft.

    Additionally, the two different lines of "Bug" boats (inflated and uniflated floors) are a pretty distinctive design, its not a coincidence that all three dealers sell these styles.


    Quote Originally Posted by BearMan View Post
    I' ve searched on the internet and I've got to admit all the boats look similar but the part I don't get is why they would let 2 dealers compete in the same city the size of anchorage.
    Zebec is a big mfg'er with lots of different products ranging far beyond WW rafts... Everything from water park and pool toys to rigid hull inflatables for coast guard type duty. They sell to the dealers... Local competition is not their problem... I dont see why they would care.



    Quote Originally Posted by BearMan View Post
    And why then would one dealer offer a 10 year warranty and the other 5.
    The dealers are offering the warranty.. not the mfg'er afaik.

    Quote Originally Posted by BearMan View Post
    And then what about those cheap knockoffs you can get for $1500 on ebay. They look exactly like the zebec boats too. Are you saying I can get the same quality boat for $1500 on ebay that I would pay $3000 for locally. Because I gotta say the fabric they advertise sounds the same on all these boats.
    Probably not. For instance the "Saturn" line of boats have showed up on ebay an from some dealers but is not made by zebec afaik. The design & features are quite different. Cant speak to their materials or construction. There is some review of them on boatertalk.com in the raft section.

  9. #9
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    Default 15' star superbug

    i own a 15' star sb, among 2 other float rafts.

    i love it but would take my cataraft //16' aire lion tubes, custom frame and floor// any day of the week over it. we just got back from a 11 day float hunt and although it preformed well the cat is just sooo much more comfortable. i just decided to bring ithe sb because of the protection the bottom of the tubes has; we expected to do a lot of dragging with the raft loaded. the raft is rated at about 2600 lbs but in easy water and balanced will handle 2 people gear and 2 moose from experience. you're welcome to do the math but you'll find that comes out to a bit more than 2600 lbs.

    my next statement i'm sure will get a lot static but i believe that given care almost anything will work. its just some rafts are more comfortable, easier to row, skinnier, wider, bigger, float higher, etc. and i think load capability from the manufacturer should be taken into account but is relative to load balancing, river conditions, and experience.

    as an example; during our hunt i also brought a small 12' fish hunter from sevylor for an emergency raft in case of trouble. only 40lbs and a very cheap raft but still rated for 900lbs. my partner //very little experience// convinced me to tow the sevylor inflated behind our sb with a large moose aboard. although i felt the little raft preformed very well and one of us could have probably managed paddling from aboard it with the moose for the whole trip. i would never consider it as a primary raft and with the small denier fabric we managed to near sink it when i carelessly tried to drag it accross a sweeper with limbs like ice picks.

    i've done a little math on water displacement and found most rafts, especially with large tubes, are capable of quite a bit of weight. although when you start doing the math be aware you certainly wouldn't want to load a raft till the tubes have only an inch or so above water.

    for my two bits i'd pay more attention to fabric, ease of repair/adding more equipment like d-rings, and construction quality. which is directly relates to a very old cliche; you get what you pay for. i'd seriously consider not buy anything under 2k unless you expect very little for it.

    i don't want to change your mind if you have an alaska raft in mind but i'm a junkie for inflatables and doing the research i believe my 4th raft will be one of the pro pioneers for some solo hunting trips and i might just sell my 15' superbug.

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    Default

    SBIINC, a Superbug is one with a raised floor, like the AK Series Kenai Drifter I think. They look very interesting, but I think I would prefer a regular self bailer with the floor that goes all the way to the bottom. The Dirfter/Bug series acts more like a cat in some ways, and tends to draft more water. A regular SB should float higher and use less water to do it. They each have their place.

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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default your right on track

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    SBIINC, a Superbug is one with a raised floor, like the AK Series Kenai Drifter I think. They look very interesting, but I think I would prefer a regular self bailer with the floor that goes all the way to the bottom. The Dirfter/Bug series acts more like a cat in some ways, and tends to draft more water. A regular SB should float higher and use less water to do it. They each have their place.

    Jim is right, they all have their place...
    The Kenai drifter has the huge 26 inch tubes and the raised floor...
    Its my #1 rental raft this season for our guests on the Kenai.
    but I take a regular self bailer in the 14 foot size on my moose hunts.
    I want maximum displacement when loading a raft over 1000 lbs,,
    when you get 2,600 lbs on the craft you are begging for more displacement,,lol
    As far as the Zebec and 6th ave boats being the same as Alaska series ???
    I can promise you that unless my research is flawed,,, their is huge difference in the materials they are made from.. and also the Adhesive used in the makeup....... In my years of rafting I have found that Enviroment has the most destructive powers on inflatables.....
    UV protectant is very important in maintaining a boats life and looks,,, and the Adhesive is also just as important or more important ,, as cheaper glues will dry and you loose your boat eventually to seam leaks and seam failure..
    I had brand new cataraft a few years ago setting out with the other boats in my rental fleet.. in just a season I noticed the glossy sheen leave the tubes and a Oxidation look was overcoming the exposed to sunlight areas of this boat... "wipe it down with the recomended protectant" was the dealers advice...
    It looked several years old in just a few months due to the lack of UV protectant.. I called the manufacture and they told me that "the boat was not designed to sit out in the sun day after day."..
    Well I have one boat of a different brand that has set out for 8 seasons now with little UV breakdown,,, .. that little boat never ever leaked, or suffered damage to require a patch of any kind..... It was just the best boat in our fleet for taking a beating and kept on rowing...lol
    sometimes you just don't know how its going to hold up unless you see one that has been around for a while..
    I asked the old Avon rep years ago why the rafts were almost alway made with that gray color, and he said that gray does not show the dusty look as bad as colors like red, blue etc... now some manufactures spend the extra for the materials that can handle years of sunshine,,
    The exciting thing is that Inflatable companies are working hard to develop better boats all the time,, and for this reason we are all reaping the rewards....
    You are in luck,,, lots of good boats and boat manufactures out their for sure....
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    SBIINC, a Superbug is one with a raised floor, like the AK Series Kenai Drifter I think. They look very interesting, but I think I would prefer a regular self bailer with the floor that goes all the way to the bottom. The Dirfter/Bug series acts more like a cat in some ways, and tends to draft more water. A regular SB should float higher and use less water to do it. They each have their place.

    Keep in mind, there are two different "designs" for the bug series style boats... Inflated and uninflated floors..

    The original Bug, first sold by Star back in 98-99 does not have an inflated floor, and the floor is raised 12-14 inches up the tubes. (6th ave sells a similar design, Ak Series does not afaik)

    A few years later, the inflated floors style came alone (like the Kenai Drifter), and the floors are only raised 6-8 inches.... (all three dealers sell this design)

    I've rowed both boats down Lions Head and they perform different, the former more like a cat, the later more like a traditional raft...




    Quote Originally Posted by Alaskacanoe View Post
    As far as the Zebec and 6th ave boats being the same as Alaska series ???
    .........their is huge difference in the materials they are made from.. and also the Adhesive used in the makeup.......

    I've compared samples of the 3 weights of PVC material all three brands use side-by-side and they are exactly the same unless there is something different at a molecular level......
    I can't speak to the glue, as you cant tell by looking at it...





    Just imo, the glued PVC boats are not as "bad" as they are generally made out to be. If you care for your gear, they will last a long time.

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    Member wjackson's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Alaska Serirs Rafts

    rcr

    Thought I would weigh in my opinion on the Alaska Series Rafts. I owne the Kenai Drifter in the 16' and I cant say enuff good about it. I absolutely love it. I am not the most gentle guy on my equipment, I buy it to use not look at and my boat sits out in the sun 24/7 and you'd never know it. I've bounced it off many root wads, and rocks and drug it across lots of gravel and it looks as good today as the day it was new. I air it up in the spring and dont have to add any air to it untill the ambient air temp drops, like this time of year. So I have never had seam/glue leaks.

    Dont let any one scare you away from one of these boats. There may be a better quality boat but I cant find one. Plus the great service and knowledge You will get from Jim King or his dealers like Ak Canoe make it that much more appealing too me!!!

    Good luck with your decision. Hope this helps. I know I agonized over the same thing for 2 years before I bought mine.

  14. #14

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    I have a 14' KD. Bought it new from Jim this year. Love it. Wish now I hadn't waited so long to get rid of my cat.

    You should talk with Jim whether you buy his boat or not. He's a great guy with lots of experience and loads of info on boats, rivers, and boating.

    See you on the water.

  15. #15

    Default Thank you for the invite so I can add to this topic

    Quote Originally Posted by BearMan View Post
    Where are you guys getting your information that all these different boats are made by zebec? I' ve searched on the internet and I've got to admit all the boats look similar but the part I don't get is why they would let 2 dealers compete in the same city the size of anchorage. I know Jim King and 6th ave post on here from time to time so maybe they can explain the differences if any in their boats. And why then would one dealer offer a 10 year warranty and the other 5.

    And then what about those cheap knockoffs you can get for $1500 on ebay. They look exactly like the zebec boats too. Are you saying I can get the same quality boat for $1500 on ebay that I would pay $3000 for locally. Because I gotta say the fabric they advertise sounds the same on all these boats.
    There have been a lot of questions raised in this Thread and Iíve started fallowing it a couple days ago. Iím glad ďBearManĒ sent out the invite.

    Give everyone a bit of back ground and answer some of the questions that have been raised.

    The first question the answer is Yes, Zebec does make my Alaska Series Boats. But they donít make all the boats on EBay

    Iíve been customer of the Zebec factory dating back to 1993.
    1996 Star had signed a 30 year exclusive right for the continental USA to market river rafts built by the Zebec factory. And In Alaska Gary King sporting goods had the rights for both river rafts and sport boats. Zebec was the name brand on the first GK sports boats.

    In 1999 GK sports imported the first Alaska Series brand boats. This shipment contained both Zebec and Alaska Series branded boats. Every Alaska Series boat was built to my specifications and had design modifications introduced to the factory by me.

    Those were what I call the Pre Clifton Days!!

    In 2000 The Zebec factory changed from using Korean formulated glues to using USA made Clifton glues. Zebec has the exclusive import rights to Clifton glues into Korea. No other Korean boat factories use Clifton glues unless they buy the glue from Zebec. You could say, Zebec found out the hard way, about the short falls of the glues formulated in the orient. There were actually 2 problems. The first one was the glues had a temperature release point of around 150^F. The second problem is with the gas that PVC puts out when it gets warm and a chemical reaction this gas has with the Asian glues. Over time the chemical reaction causes the glue to plasticize and turn to crystals. Both problems cause the glued seams fail from heat and time.

    Star got the brunt of those problems because they are based in N.C. where the summers get pretty hot and they had lots of pre Clifton boats in use that started showing glued seam failures. This hurt Star in many key markets around the country. Because of the Pre Clifton Days, Starís reputation is still suffering and they have been viewed by many in this forum as a second class raft because of the problems Star had in the Pre-Clifton days. Once a reputation has been tarnished public forgiveness is a long road to travel. Clifton glue has a 200^F release point and a 20 year track record of not plasticizing.
    In the year 2000 when the Zebec factory switched to using Clifton glues all the seam problems went away.
    Because of the luck of timing there were very few Pre-Clifton Alaska Series boats sold.

    Since 1993 the Zebec factory has grown from a small factory with about 30 employees to one of the largest inflatable boat producer in Korea. This didnít happen by accident! Itís because they make a Dam good boat! With top quality workmanship, glues, fabric and hardware. They are willing to help develop new ideas and designs for specific markets. The Zebec factory has a very high quality control standard. Even though Zebec builds boats for many different brand names, each brand has its own specifications and design features.
    My Alaska Series boats are the heaviest duty boats that come out of the Zebec factory. Even in the early years I up graded the specifications on my Alaska Series boats adding better components, extra layers of fabric, more handles and D-rings. Many times the Zebec factory thought my specifications were over kill and beyond what their other customers required. But time has proven the durability of these higher standards.


    In 2001, I started marketing and selling the Alaska Series brand on my own. My business plan was pretty simple.
    I am the direct importer of a quality inflatable boat. This is a huge cost savings for my customers.
    I evaluated all the costly overhead issues inherent in retail and cut those costs from my overhead. This is also a huge cost savings

    Being a direct importer with very low business overhead I am able to offer top quality inflatable boats at the very lowest prices youíll find anywhere.

    The long term wisdom of having 2 direct importers competing in a small market like Alaska seems questionable. But in the short term this has created a price war between 2 direct inflatable boat importers. This means Anchorage has the best inflatable boat values in the country!

    There are lots of differences between the Alaska Series boats, Star and 6th Ave boats. When you compare model per model I think youíll find where the Alaska Series boats have added features and has a lower price.

    As for the Warrantees, Apparently all the dealers are fixing boats for free now days. This is a great customer service that costs the dealers both time and labor. This additional Dealer expense has to be built into the price of their products.
    I chose to build it into the extra reinforcements in my boats.
    The boats Iíve repaired honoring my 5 year no fault warrantee have been mostly Non boating related punctures. Iíve done free repairs on bear bites, knife punctures, boats covered with barnacles, boats run over with studded tires, boats that have blown off the trailers and dragged down the road.. All fixed for free!!
    Even with the Non boating related repairs I tend to repair less than a dozen boats a season.
    The best Warrantee is the one you never have to use!
    I only service my Alaska Series brand so the in season turnaround time in my shop is generally the time it takes the glues to cure.

    I hope this answers some of the questions in this thread.

    Good Boating

    Jim King
    Alaska Series Inflatable Boats,
    Commercial quality at Wholesale prices
    River Rafts, Catarafts, Inflatable Kayaks, Inflatable Canoes, Inflatable Sport Boats, Inflatable Jet Boats, Tenders and Dinghies. WWW.alaskaseries.com
    (907) 248-2900

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    Default Just ordered an Alaska Series last month

    after looking and talking to other raft owners and dealers for the past 18 months. I've done a very discriminating price breakdown between the Alaska series and 6th Avenues rafts. For the 14' white water raft (or Kenai Drifter, as Jim King calls his, and the one I ordered), Jim King has the better buy. Probably more importantly, Jim has extensive knowledge which he is willing to share whether you buy his boat or not. For example: 6th Ave has transom mount eyelets glued on to their white water rafts, and will sell you a transom for an additional $80.00 and never explain to you there are no motors that can reach reach the water from that height. The height from the top of the back end of the raft to the water is something like 33-34 inches. And, if I'm not mistaken, the transom sits up a bit higher than that, once it is attached. To the best of my knowledge, the longest motor shaft made is 25 inches. So, on this raft, the propeller will be well out of the water.

    BuckeyeJoe

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    Default Alaskan Outfitters reply

    I think this photo speaks for itself. These motors ( in particular Tohatsu long shafts pictured ) measured 26" from the top of the motor mount to the center of the propeller. Mark Mandigo and Leroy of the famed "Leroys pancake palace" were kind enough to provide this photo on this subject. We have many customers that have had no problems what so ever using outboards motors on our rafts. I applaud BuckeyeJoe doing his homework and buying a product that will bring him many years of enjoyment. In my defense i have to state that we do not use "bait and switch" sales tactics that BuckeyeJoe insinuates here. We are happy to share ANY knowledge we have with ANY customer and are the first to admit it when we are wrong. We stand behind all of the products we sell and our 10 year warranty is a testament to that. The reason that BuckeyeJoe got the great value on the raft that he ordered is because he has two local dealers to go to and our goal of bringing a quality product to market at a fair and competitive price. As Jim King stated "Anchorage has the best inflatable boat values in the country!" Prices on Alaska Series rafts have dropped cosiderably since we entered the market. There are still companies that will use only one dealer for their product statewide and their products are sold at a premium but alaskan rafting customers are now starting to receive the benefit of a competitive market. Speaking of price, our base price may be more or less than the Alaska Series base price but they have accessories that come with an extra charge where they come as a standard feature on our rafts at no extra cost. Bring us your best deal on paper so we can compare apples to apples and i am confident that i can challenge "the better buy".

    Thank you for your ear,
    Brian Williams
    Alaskan Outfitters Inflatable Boats
    A Division of 6th Avenue Outfitters
    907/800-276-0233

    P.S. Did i mention that Carlisle 9.5' 2 pc Heavy Duty Oar Shafts are on sale for 25% off to anyone that mentions this post from the Outdoors Directory !!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  18. #18
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Question for Alaskan Outfitters

    Brian,

    I started to reply to your comments, but realized it might hijack this thread. I didn't want to do that so I started another thread focused just on your boats. I would be very interested in hearing more about your product line, and what you folks are up to.

    I appreciate you answering some of the questions that came up; people need this information straight from the source. But the photo doesn't really address the issue Buckeye mentioned, because you cannot see how much of the outboard reaches the water. I cannot believe anyone would make a transom that prevented the motor from reaching the water, but some pretty silly mistakes have been made by boat manufacturers over the years...

    Anyway, could you post a photo showing your current transom setup from the back of the boat, so we can see it in action? This would clear up the whole issue.

    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.
    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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    Default In response to Brian

    i am not insinuating "bait and switch sales tactics" or anything of the kind. I may have been a bit over zelous in my reply to rcr's question, but the fact I am raising is that "IF" the kick on the back end of a 14' raft (which is the only model I've compared) is anything greater than 26 inches and "IF" the transom sits up any higher than that, then there is no way that the propeller on a 26" shaft can be in the water.

    The Alaskan Outfitter 14' white water self bailer and the Alaska Series Kenai Drifter 14' self bailer are very similar in design with the exception of amenities, as I understand them. I do know that the Kenai Drifter has over 33 inches of bow kick, and since, as I have already stated, the two are "very similar in design", I am assuming that the bow kick is very close to the same on both rafts mentioned. I have not seen a published bow kick for the Alaskan Outfitter. I would like for Brian to specifically address the height of the bow kick on his 14 footer and explain exactly how it is the 26" shaft motor propells that raft.

    As for the price, I simply did an apples to apples comparison of the two on the advertised sales prices. I challenge anyone who is planning to buy a raft to do their own homework and not rely soley on the advice of others.

    I want to state for the record Brian and Co. at 6th Ave. are all very courteous folks, and I in no way was insinuating anything to the contrary in my previous post. They have always answered all my questions with detail.

    Regards,
    BuckeyeJoe

  20. #20
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Something to consider

    Quote Originally Posted by BuckeyeJoe View Post
    ..."IF" the kick on the back end of a 14' raft ... is anything greater than 26 inches and "IF" the transom sits up any higher than that, then there is no way that the propeller on a 26" shaft can be in the water...
    Buckeye,

    What you are saying is not completely accurate. Are you aware of the adjustable transoms? I have used them, and some can be adjusted so the top of the actual transom is actually lower than the attachment point to the boat. This is one way of making a transom work on a round boat with a high bow and stern rise. On those types of setups the operator usually needs an extended tiller handle as well.

    Of course, an outboard on a round boat is very inefficient anyway. If you're running anything over about four horses, you're better off with a cataraft with a transom designed for a larger outboard. Naturally the cataraft has none of the limitations you mentioned, concerning bow and stern rise. They are ideally-suited for outboards.

    -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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