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Thread: boat length

  1. #1

    Question boat length

    In terms of manueverability, is there any practical differences between a 13' and a 14' raft? Also, load capacities?
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  2. #2
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default yes...

    Yes. Unfortunately, that is all I can tell you. Read up on it quite a bit recently when picking out my first raft. One of the main problems is that the different manufacturers determine the weight carrying capacity in different ways. That is the jist of what I found out. Admittingly, not very helpful. So to a degree, it would matter what raft you bought, the length, diameter of the tubes, etc... Then you have to factor the stated weight carrying capacity in different types of water. Hypothetically, a 1,400 lb capacity will not suffice if you are running a class III/IV river, but maybe that 1,400 lb capacity was factored for I/II rivers. So yet another variable. As for maneuvaribility, I would expect the 13 to be better than the 14 footer. But when you factor in 1,400 lbs in each raft, the 13 will draft deeper, so the 14 may be more responsive. Sorry I have turned your two question into 5. But I bought my first raft last week. I am not exactly the best source for info. If you are lucky, Mike Stahan, Jim Strutz, Bluemoose, or the forums newest rafting expert, GOO, will chime in.
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    If they are designed the same the 13' should turn faster, and the 14' should carry more. They are often not designed the same though, and more often than not, the longer boat is larger in more ways than length. Longer boats often have larger diameter tubes and a higher kick on the ends. They also may have more thwarts, and other features, so they usually make a better choice for rougher water, bigger waves, and heavier loads. That's all just generalities though, and there are lots of exceptions. For instance Aire's Super Puma is 13' and makes a fine whitewater boat.

    Also the 13-14' range is often the cutoff point for added features, so the 14' might have more D rings, and chaffing pads. I think in the NRS Otter series the 14' is self bailing and the 13' is not. That's kind of typical thinking, as the 14' boat is generally considered a full sized raft, and the 13' a small raft. A lot of that is just perception though.

    Personally, I think 14' self bailers are the best compromise for an all around boat. Others disagree, but this has a lot to do with what kind of water you prefer to float.

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    I just rented a 14' NRS Otter last month for a 5 day trip on the Gulkana. With 2 adults, 2 kids, a lab, and enough gear to make camping comfortable, a 14' boat was a little on the small side. I'll be looking for at least a 15' round boat to purchase. A 14' would have been fine if we had packed like it was a backpacking trip.

  5. #5

    Talking thanks!

    It kinda, sorta sounds like the 14' might be the best compromise. Carry a little more; manuverability, not to much difference, so maybe better to err on the larger one, then if one needs a little extra room, it's there. I don't really see doing extreme higher class rivers at this point...but that could change.
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  6. #6
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Input on raft sizes

    Great discussion; here's my .02:

    I don't know your situation, but often folks ask what raft they should purchase. That's really the wrong question, in my opinion. It's sorta like asking which computer you should purchase, that's the wrong question too. Of course most folks would rather purchase a Mac anyway (whether they admit it or not), and figure out the questions later... but the right question is "what do you want to do?" With computers, once you know what you want to do, you look for software that does it, and hardware that will run the software. Naturally, in most cases, the Mac is the perfect choice

    In the case of boats, you need to know what you want the boat to do for you. If you're running whitewater with light loads on short day trips, you could get by with something completely different from what you would need on an extended expedition float hunt for moose with two guys, an outboard and all the trimmings. So that's usually my first question.

    To answer your question directly, these guys pretty much nailed it. But one thing that has not been covered is the issue of interior space. On a round boat it's pretty limited, compared to a cataraft. With the round boat, your load goes IN the boat, but with a cat, the load goes ON the boat. You have a lot more room to spread your stuff around. On the down-side, the cat is more commonly overloaded because most folks look at all that room and tend to fill it up. In a round boat it is common to run out of space before you max out the boat (unless you're packing heavy items like salt for capes and hides, or game meat, or a lot of people).

    Jim mentioned different hull styles. AIRE offers perhaps the best illustration of this, with their R, D, and E series hulls. In the illustration below, you can see that the "R" series, which is the shape of most conventional rafts, has plenty of room in the bow and stern sections. This is where your load generally goes on trips where you have lots of gear. By the way "R" stands for "round", and reflects the shape of the bow and stern sections. The next one, the "D" series (for "diminishing" tube) appears to have less interior room, but actually the opposite is the case, and is one reason for this design. The tubes in the bow and stern are a smaller diameter than the sides of the boat. One reason they did this was to provide more interior space. But because the bow and stern are now smaller, the boat could offer a wetter ride. So they raised the bow and stern a few inches to reduce splash over those smaller tubes. By the way, on the R series, the bow rise is two inches higher in the bow than in the stern. With the "E" series ("E" is for "elliptical"), the bow pinches together into a bullet shape, and you lose some space as a result. The stern is flat on the back, rather than round, giving you slightly reduced space there too. This bow of this boat punches through rough water much better than the D or R series, and the flat stern makes it the best choice of the three for an outboard. The bow rise on this boat is three inches higher than the stern. If I were running an outboard on this boat, I would consider a long shaft, by the way. The stern rise is 10 inches, and the tube diameter another 19.5 inches, so the top of your transom (unless you go with an adjustable transom) is a LONG ways from the surface.

    Sorry for making this sound like an AIRE commercial; they carry all three styles and it makes for a good illustration of the point.

    In summary I would say folks should first figure out what they want to do, then look for a boat that offers the best features for that application. If you're not sure, rent for a while so you can experiment. Some shops will credit your rental fees toward a purchase, if you make a decision within a specified time frame. If your shop doesn't make that offer, you might ask them to consider it. It costs them nothing and they could pick up a sale.

    I know your original question was about length only, but my point is that there are other issues to look at too. To answer the length question straight out, if your loads are within the same proportion to the size of the boat, the 13 will be a bit more nimble. Without a doubt the capacity of the 14 is greater. When it comes to round boats (all of the boats in the illustration below are considered round boats), the 14-footer is by far the most popular for Alaska trips.

    Lots more to say on this, but hopefully this contributes something a little different from the excellent input so far.

    Regards,

    -Mike
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    Blasphemy!


    The part about Macs, that is.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Well-- I never!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    Blasphemy!


    The part about Macs, that is.
    Jim,

    You know it all started with just one little bite of the Apple! C'mon, you know it will make you wise!

    Heh-

    -Mike
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  9. #9

    Thumbs up Hi Mike

    That was good, usable info, for I wasn't thinking about the different shapes or bow and stern heights. Something to add to the equation. I won't be using a motor and mostly be used for 6-8 people on day trips, with some overnighters on occasion. It sounds like the R or D style would work. As far as an extended float hunt with all necessary gear, I don't know of any river here where that would be feasible, so that wouldn't be a factor. Thanks, ciao.
    If you like getting kicked by a mule...then you'll "love" shooting my .458.

  10. #10
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Paddle Rafting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maydog View Post
    That was good, usable info, for I wasn't thinking about the different shapes or bow and stern heights. Something to add to the equation. I won't be using a motor and mostly be used for 6-8 people on day trips, with some overnighters on occasion. It sounds like the R or D style would work. As far as an extended float hunt with all necessary gear, I don't know of any river here where that would be feasible, so that wouldn't be a factor. Thanks, ciao.
    Maydog,

    6-8 people is a lot of folks in a raft, even on day trips. If you're gonna run that many at a time I would most certainly look at a 15-footer. You could run it as an oar boat, or a paddle raft (paddles give everyone something to do and if they know what they're doing, can help you maneuver a boat this size.)

    In terms of recommendations, I would suggest the R series boats, or some similar style. This will give you more flotation. Here are some recommendations:

    Plastic Boats (preferred because of rigidity / performance issues)

    1. AIRE 156R: retail: $4049

    2. SOTAR ST15E: retail: $5552

    Rubber Boats (generally cheaper, better abrasion protection on bottom of tubes)

    3. NRS Otter 150: retail: $3625

    4. Alaska Series 450S/B Self-Bailing: retail: $5050

    Some of these boats are 15' and some are 15.5'. I'd go with the longer boat if it were me. This would also be a reasonable boat for float hunting, though I prefer the 14-footers with a single hunter. I would not recommend two people and two moose in a 15-footer, by the way. Just my opinion.

    Not to sound like a commercial, but I have an entire chapter on boats and accessories, where I go into this in detail in my book, "Float Hunting Alaska's Wild Rivers".

    Hope it helps!

    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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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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  11. #11

    Talking oar rafting

    I was thinking oaring with a couple paddles along. I've had a little experience with both, but I lean toward oars. Now you got me thinking again on the boat length with the 15'. Question again, for manuverability, much difference then between the 15' and 14'? I don't want to have one that's a fight all day long. I will compromise to a point, then some folks just have to stay home and wait for another chance. And no, you aren't sounding commercial...I thought of getting your book before I ever started this endeavor. Now I know I'll have to get it...it comes recommended highly. Thanks, ciao.
    If you like getting kicked by a mule...then you'll "love" shooting my .458.

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    Default GOO

    hey Mike-- as you well know AIRE rafts are make of a much less expensive PVC- with a URETHANE bladder inside to hold air. the SOTAR is made of 100% urethane, which cost about twice as much as PVC, and is 100% welded- just to say a bit of why the SOTAR cost more. MARAVIA also handles well and is a PVC raft coated with liquid urethane. all plastic rafts are not the same- thus reflecting prices.
    GOO

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Thumbs up There you go..

    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    If you are lucky, Mike Stahan, Jim Strutz, Bluemoose, or the forums newest rafting expert, GOO, will chime in.
    There you have it man. Three out of four ain't bad. Jim, Mike, and Goo. Lots of wisdom between those three. Can't go wrong listening to this group. You know how every once in a while you feel like you got a leg up on everyone else. A little secret that nobody else knows. That is how I felt recently when I got the book from Mike and the Sotar from Goo. Happier than a queer in a pecker tree.
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Maydog View Post
    I don't want to have one that's a fight all day long.
    You know how boats are, usually the bigger the better! The extra room is nice even when you don't always need it. I love the 156R. It's a little more work and weight to handle than a 14', but not really a problem once you get used to it. That is unless your in some tight spots or endless bolder gardens (like Lake Creek). Then you will wish your boat was smaller for sure!

  15. #15
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Thanks, Goo!

    Quote Originally Posted by GOO View Post
    hey Mike-- as you well know AIRE rafts are make of a much less expensive PVC- with a URETHANE bladder inside to hold air. the SOTAR is made of 100% urethane, which cost about twice as much as PVC, and is 100% welded- just to say a bit of why the SOTAR cost more. MARAVIA also handles well and is a PVC raft coated with liquid urethane. all plastic rafts are not the same- thus reflecting prices.
    GOO
    Goo,

    Thanks for pointing that out. In terms of the product itself, I believe SOTAR makes a superior boat. They're tough and a lot lighter than AIRE. Obviously this is because of AIRE's inner bladder system.

    I'm not aware of "less expensive" or "more expensive" PVC and would like to learn more about that. I thought the price difference with SOTAR was mostly because of the urethane coating, or, in the case of the Lexatron material, because the whole thing was urethane over a nylon base cloth. That's the way I remembered it anyway, but it's been a while since I checked.

    The two things I like about the inner bladder system AIRE uses are as follows:

    1. Ease of repair. All you have to do is unzip the shell and tape the bladder with urethane tape if you're in a hurry. If you have to, you can either stitch the shell or tape it on the inside until you get a chance to do a permanent patch. As you know, one of the issues with patching is controlling temperature and humidity. You can do that under a tarp on the gravel bar, but in the fall (float hunting season of course) it's pretty hard to control the conditions and you don't get as good a bond on the patch. Of course also by repairing the tubes on the INSIDE of the shell, you don't have the edges of your patch exposed to things that might want to rub the patch off. Naturally if you do a good job patching, the patch isn't coming off anyway, so it's a moot point if conditions allow a good bond.

    2. Warranty. AIRE offers a ten-year, no fault warranty. My only experience with an AIRE warranty claim involved a set of Super Leopard tubes I returned this year. It appeared that they had a bad batch of fabric when they built that boat, and though it had a year left on warranty, the ends of the tubes were prematurely weathering and the fabric was stiff to the point that it would have eventually cracked. I contacted AIRE and they replaced both tubes without question. So now I have a brand-new Super Leopard. I have looked at most of the warranties out there and I don't think anyone is offering something quite that aggressive. Some companies offer five years or more, but most seem to reserve judgment on honoring the claim to the company itself, rather than a true no-fault warranty where no questions are asked. I don't mean that to disparage SOTAR or anyone else, and I would really appreciate anything you or anyone else might have to show that other companies are doing the same. I am about providing the best info I can find, and have been corrected more than once.

    Thanks, Goo! Most appreciated!

    -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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  16. #16
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    Default Thought

    Go 15ft you will not be fighting the boat anymore than you would with a 14ft boat for the most part yes there is a difference however nothing that is going to stand out or that you would notice on most rivers based on your orginal and 2nd post.

    The exception would be if you purchased a boat with less ridged an example would be a 14ft Otter Livery Series verse a 14ft Super Dupa Puma. In this case a Big differnce in preformance and handling. The NRS will bounce more and in this case has a non-bailing floor. The AIRE has a raised inflable floor and is an extremly ridgid boat which in turn gives it better handling, but weights more.

    Suggest you look to the AIRE 15'6 for a great multi purpose boat to meet your needs.

    couple of questions I always ask potential customers:

    Application - what is the intended purpose of your purchase i.e. rafting, white water rating, float hunting, float fishing?

    Warranty - What type of warranty does your boat come with

    Cost vs Warranty - How much bang am I getting for my buck!

    Ease of Repair - how easy is will the boat be to fix in the field

    Needs vs Wants - What do you need verses what do you want :-)

    AIRE, SOTAR or NRS all great boats all with different applications, cost and warranties.

    Best of luck in your choice but if you plan on riding a fair amount of people and oaring as well stick to a 15ft boat and look to a self bailer verses a non- bailer.

    Might want to rent a couple of different models and makes to get a feel for what will fit your application and budget. Remember it's like buying a car lots of options.

    Tight Lines and Best Wishes

    Blue Moose

  17. #17
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default loading rafts

    Everyone loads their storage shed or Garage or the family wagon different than the other guy, and so goes it with rafts.
    I have seen stuff go on rafting trips that take up so much room and don't offer much in return for the space they use. They look like a porcupine coming down the river with all the stuff jutting out of them.
    Over the years you figure out that if you want to park your car in the Garage, you gotta get stuff out of there and organize it so you can not only get the car in there, but find stuff without alot of excercise.
    As far as rafts go for flyout remote trips, My favorite is a 14 foot self bailing boat. I can haul as much as two moose and two guys and gear out in one, on every river I have floated.
    Last count was 28 different remote off the road system Alaska rivers.
    Mike talked about being able to spread stuff out on cat platforms and the room it affords you.
    What are people taking on these float trips that fills up a round raft?
    I can honestly say that even with two moose loaded on tarpolines off the floor of a 14 ft raft and then putting my gear and camp on top, I could still get more stuff strapped on if I needed to.
    Space does not even enter into my mind. There is more usable space than what can be used on a fly in rafting trip.
    This picture is from a recent float where we had 3 people on the raft with all the gear, everything suspended several inch's above the floor and not even rigged that well.


    I guess I am missing something because I have never felt like I needed more boat than the 14 footer for fishing or hunting trips.
    When I pack for a trip, I limit myself to a total weight of 1,200 lbs of people and gear total.
    This way I can get into a 206 on wheels in one trip, or a beaver on floats. Many times there is 3 of us, so figure on 200 lbs per person of weight just in that respect, so you have 600 lbs of people
    you have a raft that weighs 110 lbs lose the thwarts.
    Oars and frame that weigh 65 lbs total
    Now personel gear and camp equipment. and food.
    If any of you doubt the meals I prepare and the quality and quantity for these trips I would invite you to talk to any of the many dozens of folks that have floated with me, if you think I cannot pack enough or good enough menu's for a week long trip. This includes my cook stove, and two 120 qt coolers that I use for the seats. All with the total weight below the 1200 lb mark
    I do it all the time and have never had complaints, rather I get the opposite, I usually get people that are amazed at how it can be done.
    Maybe it just takes lots of trips to figure it out, or just preparing well.
    here are some tricks or techniques I use to save on space and weight.
    I vacum pack with my chamber vac sealer all my extra clothes, and anything else that I can get air out of,including food.
    Never bring along liquids or anykind if at all possible.
    how much toothpaste will you use in a week?
    Think like a guy going sheep hunting about certain things, how much do you really need to carry?
    Get light and get small.
    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

  18. #18
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    Default

    If you are talking about 6-8 people, even without gear, you need a 14-16' boat. 14' for 6 people or 16' for 8.

    I did a trip this spring with 7 people and very minimal gear in a 14' self bailer. Most of our gear was loaded into another boat, so we just had some stuff that fit in between people's feet. No more than 400 lbs, and the other 6 paddlers were all young and way under 200 lbs each. Probably no more than 1600-1700 lbs total weight. We did this as an all paddle powered boat, for which I was glad, as I do not like pushing that much weight around. Anyway, the top of our self bailing floor was 2 inches below water level, and the boat handled like a pig. It was awful. If this had been a 16' boat we would have been just as heavy, but at least we wouldn't have been sinking.

    14' boats are great for up to 6 people and no gear, 4 people and gear, or 2 people, gear, and a moose. Add another person for 15' and two more for 16'. You can always push these limits, but it becomes less fun that way. I prefer at least one less than these limits.

    My problem with buying a larger boat is in saying "no." "No" to others who would want to come along, and "no" to myself for loading so much junk on the thing. If I had any self control I would get a 16' boat and keep it lightly loaded unless needed. They are hardly more effort than a 13' boat if they have the same amount in them. But I can't seem to manage that, so I prefer to buy smaller boats than I really want. It's a feeble effort at gear control, I know, but ya gott do what ya gotta do. Assuming you are more of a man than I am, get a bigger boat.

  19. #19

    Thumbs up more sense

    "Assuming you are more of a man than I am, get a bigger boat." That goes without saying Jim. No, just spewing, but I'm going to look at the 15' - 16' boats. What you guys say makes more sense...how can one argue with experience and knowledge? I will try to rent a couple, then make up my mind using the other criteria also. I've got time, might as well use it. And when it comes to packing gear, I learned to pack exceedingly light with horses, which makes for a more harmonious outcome, and I can see where that would apply to boats as well. Thanks again all, ciao.
    If you like getting kicked by a mule...then you'll "love" shooting my .458.

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