Just a note singing the praises of AIRE's warranty. If you've read these forums for long, you've heard me sing this song before. But this time it's different, and here's why.
Last winter someone alerted me to an AIRE Super Leopard cataraft that was for sale at a screaming good price on Craig's List. So I took a look and sure enough, a guy out in Wasilla had one he was selling for $2000. Now, keep in mind that the tubes alone used to retail about eight years ago for $3500. I went out and looked at the boat and, sure enough, the guy had the entire boat, PLUS a brand-new frame, three oars, pump, repair kit and all the straps for two grand! I grabbed it.
For those who don't know, the Super Leopard was a very specialized high-capacity cataraft that was originally build for Wild Alaska Rivers Company here in Anchorage. It is not a production boat, and it is rare to find one for sale. It is the only cataraft out there that I would comfortably put two or three hunters, two moose, and all the trimmings for an expedition float hunt on board without reservation. It's the ultimate big load-hauler. It has twin tubes on each side; the outer tubes are larger around than the standard Leopard tube, plus there is an inner sponson on each one, creating a huge amount of lift. The bow and stern are the new smooth taper, making them great performers with outboards of all sizes.
At any rate when I looked the boat, over I noticed that the fabric on the main tubes was pretty scuffed up, like someone went at it with an orbital sander or something. More importantly, it looked like the fabric was severely weathered and starting to become brittle. I checked the serial number and saw that it had over a year left on warranty, so I bit the bullet and bought it, thinking that I might have a warranty claim. Even if AIRE denied the claim I was pretty sure I could at least break even if I decided to sell it later. Anyway I got it home and called Tracey Harmon at Alaska Raft and Kayak, and he told me that they had a couple of other Super Leopards out there with bad fabric that was prematurely weathering. He thought I might have a claim. Must have been a bad batch of material or something, as I have never seen this with their boats before.
At any rate I talked with AIRE about it and they REPLACED BOTH TUBES WITH A BRAND NEW SET! Not only that, they also gave me my choice of fabric colors, since it was a non-production boat and they were going to interrupt their normal production run to build them for me! Talk about standing behind your product! Folks, I have been referring people to AIRE for many years because of the way they take care of their customers, but this was WAY beyond even what I expected. Once again, they have made a believer and a life-long customer out of me.
So despite all the bad news in the paper these days, high prices, runaway inflation, global warming and lousy summer weather in Alaska this year, it's nice to know that there are still companies out there that, though they have become very large indeed, have still not lost sight of their customers. Even if it is one individual living way up north here, on the edge of the earth.
Thanks again, AIRE! You're a class act.
By the way, I found another Super Leopard on Craigs List for $4500, fully-rigged. HERE'S THE LINK, for those interested. It comes with a 30-horse outboard and a trailer. It's yellow, which is very unusual, as all the others I have seen are green with a gray bottom. Yellow is not my favorite color, but it would be great in a rescue situation, where being spotted from the air is very important. With what you're getting, the Craig's List boat looks like a whopping good deal. It would cost you well over $8K to get that setup new.
If someone reminds me later, I'll post a photo of mine. The new tubes are on the way in, and I have Alaska Raft and Kayak building an adjustable transom for it, along with a couple of minor frame modifications. If you want to see a photo of one right now, there's a picture of one on page 112 of my float-hunting book. I took that photo at Wild Alaska's shop a few years ago.