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Thread: Rafting...potentially w/ kids

  1. #1

    Default Rafting...potentially w/ kids

    My wife and I have discussed purchasing a durable raft. We would likely use it for:
    1. Drifting/fishing Kenai and some MatSu rivers
    2. Float hunting
    3. Recreational floats w/ kids (7 & 9 yr old)
    4. If able to mount a motor I would consider conservative excursions into Prince William Sound to nearby state cabins

    I would appreciate any input on name brands to pursue or avoid
    and what style would be best cataraft vs. air floor, self bailing, (standard type of raft)? I know, I know, one raft doesn't do it all! But I really only want to buy one
    Thanks in advance,
    Dean

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    Smile Avon

    Dean:

    You are asking a lot from 1 raft. First letís look at models that offer transom or motor mounts. This will narrow your choices a bunch. Host that offer a motor mount have ridged bottoms which make them worthless as a true raft. The problem with a motor mounted raft is it canít handle much of a motor and still be flexible enough to do what you want a raft to do.

    I would look at Avon as your best option because they are tough and some models offer motor mounts to boot. Donít consider anything under 14 feet or you will be placing your family in danger especially on the sound.

    My best advice is get a good raft and then look to buy a good used Zodiac with a rigid hull.


    Walt
    Northwest Alaska Back Country Rentals
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    Supporting Member AFHunter's Avatar
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    First off; personally I would not take a raft in PWS, especially with my family in it. After hunting in PWS and seeing the way the sound and narrows pick up 3 feet waves from nowhere, a boat is the only way to go for me. I will say I have seen a family of six in a Zodiak going out of the narrows. Obviously my idea of safe and or smart is different than that family.

    The raft I use for float hunting and taking my family on class I and II rivers is my Levitator. I take the 4 kids, wife and the jack russel terrior. Plenty of room.

    My Levitator actually handeled better with a moose in it and two guys with gear. After the trees and junk we hit with the Levitator and came out with not even a scratch, the Lev is awesome. I will be floating the Kenai next summer.

    You can mount a motor on the Lev. Test the Waters in North Pole makes mounts. Granted you are not going to be making speed records with the Lev, I would say the motor setup would be good for lakes and calm water only.

    Good luck with your purchase.

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default Sorry to Say no Great Answer

    1. Drifting/fishing Kenai and some MatSu rivers
    2. Float hunting
    3. Recreational floats w/ kids (7 & 9 yr old)
    4. If able to mount a motor I would consider conservative excursions into Prince William Sound to nearby state cabins

    Well sir that is a lot of options for one boat. To break it down a little what ever inflatable you choose it will be hard pressed to use as a combo that will handle Float Hunting, Drifting the Kenai and MatSu type of rivers and PWS.

    I do not want to sound negative in any way for any reason just a tuff call.

    The Lev by Pristine Ventures has been discussed in length now and again and for its design makes an option I have seen them with up to 4 HPS mounted and they seem to do fine across a lake however I would not assume that would be true for rivers with more broken water than less concerning the motor. TTWS does make a neat frame for it included witht he Motor Mount.
    Most MatSu Rivers I do not think it would make a good float fishing option anything over 14ft is tight at best on the Willow and anything over 12-13ft in length on MT Creek is well let us say not a good idea.

    Recreational floats just about any boat will work on the market for you around 14ft in length unless your taling Cat then 16-18ft for a family of 4.

    If Mike Chimes in he can give you the breakdown on the 18ft Cats and their capabilities concerning motor mounts and options. There are a lot of 18ft AIRE Leopards out bouncing in open water but they are rigged for it and when all is said and done your looking from 7.5K -10K.

    As suggested you may wish to look across the water and look at two boats one Zod style and one hunt / fish vessel round boat and or Cat.

    If have options - AIRE and or NRS best warranty in the business Alaska Raft and Kayak Anchorage, Blue Moose Rafting Sales & Outfitting Fairbanks

    6th Ave Outfitters Anchorage - Alaska Canoe Kenai Alaska Series Boats

    Test The Waters Adventure Sports Fairbanks (I do not know if they still sell Larry's boats) They also use to carry Maravia

    Jim King sales off the internet ZEBEC I think he may have changed that but not sure easy to research on the net.

    STAR inflatable Internet direct sales similar to 6th Ave and Jim's boats

    I know Babble Babble - Sorry! Hope you find what yor looking for if your in Fairbanks stop in and I will give you all the AIRE and NRS data if you would like.

    Blue Moose

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    Default It can be done safely.

    If I was to do exactly what you are talking about I would get a cataraft with low rocker (very little curvature on the tube lenght). I would go with a 16 footer with a 9.9 to 15 horse. It's not fast, in heavy swells it's going to be one wet crappy ride unless you go extremely slow, but in my opinion safe, and it will work well for drift hunting. What it will not do is go up anything swift, and it will be a little bit big on narrow rivers, so some pushing/lifting/swearing will be involed. You could do it with a 14 footer, but as the family grows you will wish you hadn't. There are a variety of frame options to cope with seating the family, and you will be setting it up differently for motoring vs. rowing. I think it would be a good all around boat if you want to go out in the sound on nice days with projected good seas 4 feet or less. Talk around, there are people that do this, I believe it would be a good compromise boat, and with some ingenuity on frame construction would work well in many different situations.

    Chris

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Wow, this is surprising!

    We're all over the map on this one, it seems.

    I'm going to take a completely different approach. I believe you could do most all of this with an 18' AIRE Leopard. Let's look at your list and I'll explain why:

    1. Drifting/fishing Kenai and some MatSu rivers

    I do it all the time in mine. The boat is a dream.

    2. Float hunting

    This is my primary boat for float hunts for two people and one moose.

    3. Recreational floats w/ kids (7 & 9 yr old)

    Rig it up with the right seating options and you're good to go.

    4. If able to mount a motor I would consider conservative excursions into Prince William Sound to nearby state cabins.

    I run an eight-horse on mine, but have run the same sized cat with a 25 and have had no insurmountable problems. I have even seen the same rig with a half-top on it for protection from the rain. I think Chris's point about the blunt bow transition is mostly about load capacity. Those blunt NRS tubes do haul a big load, but with an outboard they generate a lot of splash. I would not try to run one over about 3MPH. The sleek bow transition of the Leopard lends itself very well to outboard applications and I have done it many times. I would have no problem whatsoever taking a power cataraft (or inflatable sportboat, for that matter) on Prince William Sound. As in all things outdoors, you must use common sense and have some boating skills. But a strong case could be made for inflatables on one basis alone: unlike a rigid-hull conventional boat, they don't sink.

    The Lev will do some of the things you want, but come on, guys! The ocean? No way! It's a boat designed for Class I flatwater!

    Hope it helps!

    -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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    Default

    A lot of rafts will do the first three. Although I prefer a boat that you sit *in* for kids. Large cats can qualify to some extent, but I prefer the higher sides of a conventional boat when bringing small kids. But this won't matter much as the kids get a couple more years on them, and you can train them to stay in their seats.

    The last qualification is tough though, and cats are the only thing that works if you buy something that also works for the first three. Problem with powering a cat is the splash from the tubes. Mike's right, the long sleek entry of a modern Leopard is the way to go to reduce it. Still a cataraft makes a poor power boat. The hull design requires more power than otherwise necessary, and it still sprays water everywhere. I used a 30 hp on mine and it would get up and fly when lightly loaded, but everyone got soaked.

    A smaller motor and a slower schedule is probably the way to do it. Safety is not the issue though. They will easily take whatever PWS dishes up. The most I was in with a cat was 5 foot seas, and it rocked us about, but there was never any fear of tipping the boat. All you gotta do is hang on.

    A better idea is to get a different boat for salt water though. No boat does it all.

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    Thumbs up 1 Multi-use/Multi-user Watercraft

    There is only one real answer here...
    - for the following Multi-use/Multi-user applications --- A CatRaft Design!!!

    Please Keep in mind that the finest of watercraft that cater to just about all your applications as mentioned depends on experience, a driver's skills, loads on board, knowing water conditions, and using good judgment.

    1. Drifting/fishing Kenai and some MatSu rivers:

    The CatRaft is a great fit for these requirements. You should go 16'-18', keep it simple to start out, and you get a pretty much hassle-free, do-all watercraft (say around $5000 on the boat, frame, oars, floors, needed accessories like straps, rescue bag etc.) . The safety margins that a Cat will give you and your passengers in the cases of operator error is worth consideration!

    Down-side issues will be that Cats are not as simple to set-up & ther is much more involved with actually getting on water... many folks put their ever-so-portable raft packages on trailers opting to leave time consuming assembly out of the picture. I will also relate that for younger or much older people... a round-raft self-bailer has better true contaiment of passengers, less frame to bang themselves upon, and are easier to get in & out of.


    2. Float hunting

    Many types of rafts are suitable for float hunting... I figure this will be dependent on what, where, when, how, how often, and to what extent your adventures will be/become.

    3. Recreational floats w/ kids (7 & 9 yr old)

    Again... all sorts of choices.... Gotta know, a whole lotta 7-9 year olds are gonna be ready to take the oars in a few years if they are having fun right now and takin' in an ongoing interest. Make the choice of a boat based on watercraft having the potential for all of you to grow into.

    4. If able to mount a motor I would consider conservative excursions into Prince William Sound to nearby state cabins

    This is the Part of the inquiry that lends itself to the most subjective of answers. A.) Because not too many folks "have"/"use" the 1 Multi-use/Multi-user Watercraft. B.) Some people dream the concept, temporarilly pursue the designs, yet often realize they do not really exist when performing to all standards. & C.) Most enjoy relatively few experiences despite often high expenditures into this sort of ever-evolving project.

    In your case - I'm Guessing???
    If for example --- you decide to water taxi or fly-out to a remote fjord, mostly protected waters etc., camping out, and putputtin' around... the round raft can be just fine, just as it is OK to go across many lakes when speed/efficiency is not a big deal.

    However, if performance (w/ more Horse Power), distance, time, personal modifications, and so on are all factors... then the CatRaft is the best choice!!!

    Good time to Buy in the late fall!!!!!!!

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    Default

    I like my 18 ft cat for most of your listed activities, although I've never floated the Kenai or Matsu with it. I did saddle up my 15 HP last summer and headed up the Chena a few miles. I could only get about 1/4 throttle before I got soaked but at 1/4 it cruised fairly well against the slow current. My motor mount hung way too low so I modified it but I havn't tried the 15 since. I used a 4.5 to cross Paxson Lake to the Gulkana and it worked great. I saw a guy at chitina that looked like he had a 30 or so on a 16 or 18 ft cat and was doing very well so it can be done.
    I agree with Brian that your kids will be rowing soon so get a big cat and a fly rod and sit back and enjoy the ride. Also with a cat you can make decking out of plywood, which I've never seen on a round boat. This adds lots of versatility to the craft and is easy to attach or remove depending on your needs. As far as PWS, I'm still not convinced. I've been way out in a 12.5 ft Zodiac but there's a big difference here. Of course if you have lots of time I'm sure the cat will take you there and back.

  10. #10
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default A note on power cats

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    ...Problem with powering a cat is the splash from the tubes. Mike's right, the long sleek entry of a modern Leopard is the way to go to reduce it. Still a cataraft makes a poor power boat. The hull design requires more power than otherwise necessary, and it still sprays water everywhere. I used a 30 hp on mine and it would get up and fly when lightly loaded, but everyone got soaked...
    Jim,

    I agree in part with your assessment, but I don't think it's the tubes' fault. I started working with power cataraft designs about 15 years ago, and from what I've seen, despite all the work that's been done by so many folks, we just have not hit it yet. So far nobody has come up with a really good way of controlling the spray issue, which is, in my view, one of the main problems. I have some ideas of how to do that but it will take someone willing to throw some cash at it to make it work.

    In principle, there's no reason why a cataraft (with the right bow transition) should not outperform a Zodiac-style sportboat. I KNOW it will work; we've just got to keep trying. Someone will hit it right on the money eventually.

    That said, I do know that there are power cats around Alaska right now, some with small outboards like mine, and others with 25 horses on up to some really big ones, and they work. The problem is that most of the ones that really get up on step and scoot are needlessly complicated and each one is different. Alas, no magic bullet yet...

    I'll attach a photo of a really big one so you can see what I mean. The second photo is myself in the lead boat and Steve Wottlin in the trailing boat. He's on a River Cat and I'm on a Cougar (both are AIRE boats, though the River Cat is no longer in production, and both boats are running 25 horses. This was on Skilak Lake a few years ago) It is possible!

    -Mike
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    Default I did not mean blunt nose

    I meant what I said, low rocker. I did not mean one that abrubtly turns up at the end, rocker is curvature over the lenth of the entire tube. I suppose it really only happens in the shorter whitewater play cats, but some moderate lenght cats have rocker too as it adds easier spin ability to the watercraft. Nose transition is something I don't know much about, but if it has a long flat portion and tapers lightly toward the tips I think that would be best. If the tip is at the top of the diameter, rather than the center, this would probably be best ( I think most manufacturers do this anyway, but I haven't researched this area much.) Straigt flat portions of tubes will allow the boat to track better, and wont react as finiky to weight distribution. And listen when I say frame design is key. If you plywood decked the whole boat, and extended the plywood deck out past the sides of the tubes you would reduce splash to allmost nothing, because it would all hit the plywood and deflect downward, but extending it too far foreward could possibly if it put that plywood under the water at a high enough speed the boat could endo, which would be exciting to say the least. Yes, I know it takes a steep wave and some speed to put a large tube of air inder the water, but I have done it with my rib, and it was exciting to say the least. But, with a high thrust 9.9 horse, I bet an 18 foot cat, with a decked top some comfortable seats, a railing, some pole and beer holders and a good tarp support for a rain cover, some provision for throttle and steering (A long handle on the outboard would work for this) would make exactly what it sounds like, a slow going party barge, or as I like to say, a boose cruise. With more motor, you would have a fairly fast, dry boat, but with the high center of gravity you would be wise to remember that at high speeds tight turns would not be advised.

    Chris
    Check these guys out, it could give you an idea of what these are cabable of.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPXu2cn8I9A

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    Chris, that is some amazingly fun video. What a hoot! I notice they had a secondary shape to the bottom of the tubes to create more of a traditional catamaran hull design. This could be a fun and relatively safe sport if they required jet units on the ends of those outboards. As it is I think I'd be concerned about getting propped. Ouch!

    I partially did what you suggested and decked my cat with a sheet of plywood, but only on the front. Then I laid a tarp down down the middle section, right under the frame. It mostly worked, but I still got some spray around the out sides, behind the plywood deck. I was trying to come up with a lightweight solution that would allow me to still treat the boat like a raft with a simple conversion back & forth.

    Like Mike, I think this is still very possible to do, but I mostly ran out of interest, and took up whitewater in a more serious way. Now my biggest outboard is 2.5 hp.

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    Default 16 - 18' cataraft

    I was in the same position as you; the wife and two daughters, 8 and 11 years old and I love to hunt and fish. I went with a 16' AIRE Jag. As stated already, it's all a compromise.

    1. Drift fishing. I've been out with mine twice this year in the Pacific Northwest with the wife and my girls and really had a great time. Floated the Gulkana and Keni in Alaska this summer on a 18' AIRE with 2 to 4 adults and had a great time. On the Keni we had a 25 HP outboard and it was really wet. If it was up to me I wouldn't mess with an outboard on a raft, but that's me. If I had to have a outboard I would limit it to a 10 HP, just enough to make it upstream in moderate current or to get across when needed.

    2. Float Hunting. I would go with a 16 or 18' here again. I figure two guys, gear, and one moose is the limit with a 16' and if you up it to two moose and two hunters you need to go to an 18'. My brother-in-law lives in Anchorage and owns an 18' AIRE and he loves to hunt as much or more than I so that increases my options.

    3. Rec/Fun Floats with Family and Friends. I use my 16' here too. This Labor Day I took my family (Wife and daughters, 8 and 11 years old) on the Clark Fork River in Montana. I set up folding seats (Action style) for wife and my two daughters. We spent three days, two nights on the river and had a blast. The only thing I'm planning to change is to add cargo modules to get the dry bags off the floor. Seats for the kids is critical in my opinion, they need a safe spot when it gets rough.

    4. PWS (ocean) I've never been in the ocean in a cataraft, but I've spent quite a bit of time on big water. If venturing out very far I would want a bigger boat, but if you stay close and pick your areas wisely I would think a 16-18' raft would be fine. A couple times on Washington's coast I wished I had a raft! The smaller hard-side boats don't do well in larger waves. Rafts tend to flex, or ride the waves while they just roll right over the sides on smaller alum or glass boats. I would limit a cataraft to 10 HP. Anything more, unless you spend a lot of money and time just makes for a very wet ride. NRS makes a transom mount for the smaller outboards that is simple and works good form what I've seen. No it isn't tilted 15 degrees, but with the smaller motors it isn't necessary.

    http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp?pfid=1235%20C

    Woody

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    Default

    [QUOTE=Jim Strutz;160231]Chris, that is some amazingly fun video. What a hoot! I notice they had a secondary shape to the bottom of the tubes to create more of a traditional catamaran hull design. This could be a fun and relatively safe sport if they required jet units on the ends of those outboards. As it is I think I'd be concerned about getting propped. Ouch!

    Yeah, it looks like some fun.. I did notice that they plane on a keel-like structure on the bottom of the tubes, it would be fun. I hear ya on the whitewater, I have been thinking about selling the boat (cry) and getting a kayak and a new raft as my old NRS is about done for. Maybe I'll just be a miser for a year and pay off the boat, that way I can have it all eventually. And like most of us, probably find that I have less and less time to use them all.. Oh well, it's all for the good times.

  15. #15
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Thanks for the video!

    Thanks for posting the YouTube link! Years ago there was a race with boats that were called "Super Ducks" down in southern California. While we were working on this a friend of mine went down there to film the boats in action. These were essentially identical boats to the ones in the video, each with a two-man team if I remember correctly, and the object was to launch off the beach, and make a run out offshore around a pylon and back. All of the boats were equipped with a jet if I remember correctly, because the intent was to use them for surf rescue purposes. I believe they were using a Pump Jet (a retrofitted outboard). Not to get sidetracked, but the pump jet is/was a pretty amazing piece of technology that has for some reason dropped off the radar lately. It was developed in Florida, where it was touted as superior to prop motors because it didn't injure manatees. I think it was snapped up by the military because it's a safer rig for launching SEAL teams through the surf. It is also supposed to track better and offer better fuel economy. It can be retrofitted to anything that uses a prop; you just replace the entire lower unit.

    At any rate the boats in the video are equpped with twin keels for the purpose of preventing them from skidding on tight turns. This is one of the problems with inflatable cats and large outboards; the tubes are rounded and don't corner very well. A second problem is also illustrated in the video; because the floor is elevated above the water, it tends to catch the wind and wants to flip the boat over. That's why there are two people in the boat; essentially the second guy is nothing more than moving ballast. You can see him moving around in the boat, to the inside edge on the corners, and forward on long straightaways. But these boats are little sports cars, compared to what most folks are looking for in a hunting or fishing rig. I'm not too worried about the skidding issue, or the issue of the bow coming over. The main obstacle in this area is the water that squirts up between the edge of the floor and the tubes. We tried what Chris suggested; bringing the floor up against the tubes. But it didn't work, for two reasons. First, there are concerns that the edge of the floor will wear through the tube fabric. Second, no matter how hard you butt the floor up against the tubes, the hydraulic pressure under the boat is too great and will force water up through the seam and you'll get two rooster tails coming up through there.

    It will happen. We're just not there yet.

    -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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    "...no matter how hard you butt the floor up against the tubes, the hydraulic pressure under the boat is too great and will force water up through the seam..."

    Just wondering out loud here. What about gluing a strip along the inside edge of the tubes, sort of like what is done on a lace-in floor? Make it 6 inches wide, and have the floor sit on top of it. Not sure how to attach though, any holes would create spaces for little jets of water to stream through.

  17. #17
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Attachment means...

    Jim,

    The most effective method we used was a rubber flange secured to the bottom of the floor, which sort of "bent" down along the point of contact with the tubes. We used the rubber flange with both wooden floors, UMHW plastic floors, and custom-welded aluminum floors. None of the results were completely satisfactory. It worked for the most part, but didn't make for a very portable setup that could be easily loaded into an airplane.

    There are many things I'd like to see in this sort of system, and for my purposes it absolutely MUST fit into an aircraft, and it MUST be easily assembled by those of us with more than two thumbs.

    -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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