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Thread: Raft Purchase...where to begin.

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    Default Raft Purchase...where to begin.

    First off I hafta say, I don't think theres a thread on this board about rafting that I haven't read, but with so many options out there I need some of you experienced guys to point me in the right direction.

    I've been in the woods since I was a kid, been on boats just as long and for the past year I have had this incredible itch to get a raft for doing float fishing/hunting trips and I really don't know what avenue I should take.

    I like the Pro-Pioneer for its size, but I wouldn't be able to really hunt with anyone else, but float fishing would be great. Its payload ability is right up my alley.

    I like the Levitator for its payload ability in sense I could run it myself but also add another person. But its really not that big of a raft size-wise, its mainly a hauler.

    NRS 16' Kodiak. I saw one in person and I liked the frame design, it can haul a nice payload and unlike a round raft your able to really disperse the weight and I really like the ability to add floor boards. You'd have to suspend most loads in a raft anyways, so I like having a sold frame that a cat offers....A cat would really be up my alley, but I guess the restrictions would be the rivers in which it travels due to its draft. I like goin where no one else will, and makin my own trails off the beaten path.

    Biggest thing is I am planning on my future hunting and with this thought including my family and I'm really leaning towards a cat. I like to make every purchase count and I know there's no do it all inflatable so maybe you guys could chime in and offer a few opinions.

    I'm currently planning an '09 float and this purchase would be part of it. I've seen quite a few places the ProPioneer has gone that a cat couldn't due to its draft, but I like space, I like having enough room and versatility that the floor space adds especially for the early season fishing trips with friends and family.

    It does sound like a cat is up my alley. I will say my floating experience is limited to occasional kayak and canoe.

    So lets here it. I've seen lots of good discussion and debate hopefully you guys can help me narrow down my choice.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    How much the boat drafts is primarily an issue of how much weight you put in it. Cats don't draft much if loaded light. The problem comes when you see all that free space on the cat and decide to fill it up. Conventional rafts and the Pro Pioneer draft quite a bit when heavy too, but since they have less space there is less temptation to do so. Still, cats generally do draft more than conventional rafts when equally loaded. To offset that you can get a larger cat though. The 16' NRS River Cat is pretty large at the water line, as is an 18' Aire Leopard. Aire's Cougar (not listed but still sold at AK Raft & Kayak I understand) has four tubes and can pack a very large load. There are some Super Leopards out there that also have four tubes, and they are amazing gear haulers. Also, if a 14' self bailer can't pack enough for you, you can always get a 16'.

    BTW, the Pro Pioneer has such a heavy weight limit for it's small size because it doesn't use it's inflatable floor for self bailing. It will displace water above the top of the floor. But loading it up like that will still cause it to draft quite a bit of water. And if the water gets splashy you have to bail. Also, Soar tends to rate their weight limits higher than most others.

    There are lots of good boat choices out there. They all make compromises, and all have their strong points. It seems that you have researched them enough to make an informed decision, you just have to pick one.

    Break it down. How much empty boat are you willing to tolerate? How much weight do you need to pack? (And are you really willing to row that much weight around?) How shallow do you need it to go when fully loaded? Do you need to use it with a motor? Are you willing to assemble and disassemble a large cat frame?

    Once you answer questions like these you can start eliminating different boat designs and sizes that won't work for you. Then the choices become clearer.

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default Valid Points

    Great info Jim as always. I am sure there will be others as well like Goo, Mike and Brian chipping in which is always appreciated.

    Couple of things to condsider as well as overall use i.e. payload verses weight of the raft etc...

    Most people come into the store and ask similar questions this is our standard response.

    What is will be your primary application for the inflatable i.e. fishing more than fly in hunting? Once that is determined then at least you can establish your first and second needs concerning the purchase.

    What does each manufactures warranty provide? i.e. 5 year limited manufactures defect warranty is not no fault so on and so forth.


    Does the cost equal a reasonable value verses your application and warranty? i.e. if you plan on making a one time investment get the most bang for your buck on the warranty that meets your application needs.

    There are many good boats and cats on the market today each having their pro's and cons. If you ask your-self the above questions IMO it would be a no brainer what type of boat you will purchase but as always I am a little bias on the subject.

    Best of Luck on your pruchase. One thing to keep in mind is a possible increase in 2009 pricing might be wise to purchase soon verses waiting till Spring.

    Blue Moose

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    I'm leaning towards a 16ft cat, I don't mind building in the field, I like the open space they offer and the ability to disperse the load. On the other hand I like how compact the Pro Pioneer is, one would think you can access more areas with it or is my thinking off?

    I'm thinking of it as a major longterm purchase, I'll definitely do some local road system float fishing trips throughout the summer and a major float hunt in the fall. Making a cat more ideal due to its space.

    Part of my decision depends if my partner is willing to buy his own raft so I will know more in the next few weeks.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Default The Debate & Pro P.

    I hope I do not get off subject so if I do or if something is thinking I am sorry not my intent.

    Before I would lean into a direction such a the Pro P. I would addrss application there has been many subject matters concerning this boat it's capabilities and the pro's and cons of it.

    IMO the boat does not meet all your intended applications. The boat IMO is more of a niche boat that meets its intended application i.e. light water, remote fly-ins, and reasonable weight carrying capacity. When you use the three question again IMO the warranty vesres the application does not put it into the mix for your needs verses cost.

    The AIRE Traveler can be made into a Cata-Canoe which has great weight carrying capacity as well as versitility i.e. can be used by it-self and handle a Moose Hunt for the most part depending on the type of water and if you use two can handle IMO two people and two moose as well as have the capability to run a motor however again you have to go back to application and cost two Travelers will run you about the same as a 16ft Cat when framed out and will meet most if not all of your needs.


    We just had a group of renters come off the upper chena which turned into flood stage one in a cata-canoe the other owned a Lev by Soar they each took turns oaring each others boats with weight in heavy water i.e tight corners lots of sweapers, with loaded boats. The owner of the Lev did not want to give back the Cata-Canoe to oar the rest of the trip i.e. less draft with greater manuvering with the Cata-Canoe.

    Again I need to remind you I am some-what Bias concerning the subject.

    Blue Moose


    Lots of options

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    Default

    I have no problem with folks who want to share their thoughts on inflatable even if they are biased or not, that just tells me you own a craft that your happy with and that you find versatile and it meets your needs, nothing wrong with that.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Yeah, I'm biased too. I think we all are. I prefer conventional self bailing rafts for most things, but have driven a cataraft for most of my boating experience.

    I like the Pro Pioneer concept, and I think Soar has executed it well too. Like most inflatables they are capable of doing a lot of different things, but I agree with Blue Moose, they are designed as a niche boat. They are a good choice for fly in trips because of the size, weight and ease of setup, but two guys with gear and one moose will load it down. Two guys, gear and two moose? I know it is rated for it, but it will handle like a pig that way, and it will also draft quite a bit of water that way. If your friend decides to get one too, it becomes a very good option though.

    Also, the Pro P is capable of going in smaller streams than a cataraft. But the usual limitation is in water depth, not water width. It's pretty rare to have enough depth to float in and not have the stream wide enough to get through. A conventional 14' self bailing raft will draft less water than a Pro P with the same load, and so is generally capable of floating in more places. Still, there aren't that many floats that you can't do in a cataraft because of their size.

    I don't know what to think of the Soar Levitator. It's not too large, but can still carry a lot of weight due to the lack of upturned ends. But that design also limits its usefulness in rough water. It looks to me like you're going to get splashed a lot. Being longer it will also turn slower, but this can be an issue with large cats and the Pro P as well. I think the Lev is a good design for slow water and heavy loads, especially on fly in trip. But I've never used one, and this has been discussed before.

    I also like Blue Moose's idea of the cata-canoe. I use two 10' Lynx I IK's this way, and it is a very versatile boat. It also doesn't draft as much as a similarly sized cataraft, as they essentially put 6 tubes in the water. Of course mine is definitely on the smaller side of things, but they offer a way for two guys to go light in a small stream, or joined together as a substantial raft when you want it.

    So many choices. So little money.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    t.

    So many choices. So little money.
    Why can't I carry it all in my pocket? go go gadget!

    I'll be stopping by Ak Raft tomorrow to do some more research on cats. Alot of my hunting will be in Unit 21ish, I think a cat will do fine.

    So far the 2 that come to mind are the Aire Jag. I think its tube design will really help with maneuvering. But is only rated to 1450lbs.

    Anyone know what the NRS Kodiak 16 and 18ft cats have for a recommended load rating?
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Default AR&K Input

    I am sure Brian from Alaska Raft and Kayak will be commenting soon on the capabilities of the 16 and 18ft NRS Cats.

    If a Cat is the way you are leaning then take a hard look at the AIRE Cougar double pantoon style of Cat. Cost is about the same with a greater weight carrying capacity.

    Just food for thought. Either way with the warranty you cannot go wrong IMO.

    Best of Luck in your potential purchase.

    Blue Moose

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    I have had a 16' NRS cat since 2000 and love it although I also enjoy paddling self-bailing rafts. I have used it for whitewater day trips, multi-day wilderness trips with the family, fishing trips (including saltwater), hanging out at the lake and letting my 4-year old swim off of it, etc. It can handle numerous water conditions and when I did have an issue about 5 years ago AK Raft and Kayak hooked me up quick-style allowing me not to miss any time on the water. The ability to easily strap on my 5hp Honda makes it super versatile. Just my thoughts.

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    Wink

    After a stop I made today my choice narrowed down considerably.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    I own a large, twin tube style, low draft cat' and I have this to say for my two cents. If you plan on hauling a lot of weight then you really need to take a close look at water levels on your float. OK, I stated the obvious, but seriously, after spending considerable time on the water, one fact is clear to me. You will get the most bang for buck with a round boat. Less total weight, more flotation per foot, quicker and easier to set up. As far as cats go I do agree that a cougar would probably be the most loadworthy pound for pound. I own a superleopard so I'm familiar with the design. I think I might be fond of the Aire Lion as well. What I find is that with a cat frame it is truly a lot of weight that I could do without for fly-in float hunting. On the other hand I love the boat for family trips in the summer because I can bring absolutely everything. It's all about priorities and sacrifices, just like any boat. My ultimate hunting rig? Two Pro Pioneers with a simple rowing frame to attach them tandem style. Start out as two singles and raft'em up when you get to the big water! The PP's have such a large payload because they have an inflatable floor and they are not self bailing. When is someone going to do the same with a round boat. That inflatable flooor is key to going over rough stuff with a load.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default It's not all about lift...

    Hi folks,

    Thought I'd chime in with some additional info on this--

    MORE THAN LIFT!

    Lotsa talk here about sheer lift, but I think we would be remiss if we overlooked performance, as reflected by hull design. Jim mentioned the Levitator plowing like a barge (my words not his), but the same can be said of the AIRE Lion, the NRS Grizzly, and yes, the PP whether rigged as a cata-canoe or as a single boat. This is because none of these boats offer enough bow rise to plane on the water. Instead, they PUSH the water ahead of themselves, especially when heavily-loaded.

    BOW RISE IS ESSENTIAL

    Granted, these are not whitewater boats, but in my opinion, if you're looking for something that will meet your needs on a variety of types of water in Alaska, you'd do well to consider something with more bow rise, either a round raft with 9"-12" inches of rise, or a cat with a gradual taper such as that found on the AIRE Leopard, Super Leopard, Cougar, or the SOTARs, Maravias, and the like.

    BIG LOAD HAULERS

    In this regard, the largest production load haulers you'll find, without compromising performance on varied water conditions, are the Super Leopard and the Cougar, both double-tube cats by AIRE. I say this without hesitation. But both boats present some challenges if you're planning on running an outboard capable of getting you on step. Not only do you have the issue of spray between the tubes, but you have the additional problem of spray between the tubes of these double-tubers. It's not easy to fix. The twin tubes are held together by a piece of quarter-inch nylon rope, that laces the tubes together. About the only thing we ever found to overcome the problem of water spraying between the tubes was a piece of sheet rubber cut to fit the entire length of the tubes, laced in with the lacing. It does work, but it's a hassle to install.

    SUMMARY

    In short, you want a boat that offers a good payload capacity, but without compromising performance. A flat bow section will get you wet in rough water, and may pitch-pole or stall out in anything approaching Class II-III. I realize most of us stay away from Class III, however I prefer a boat that can handle it if I end up there. I'd rather tackle a short section of Class III if it gets me away from other hunters. This is another consideration, but that's another subject for another day.

    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.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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    All good info Mike. I think that generally, Alaska's market tends to have more than it's fair share of "bargers", i.e., people looking to float the most. Not to detract from your remarks at all but that seems to be a recurring issue time and time again. Let's face it, moose and caribou weigh alot and they live on some pretty small tribs to boot. When the word "hunting" is involved I think it is much more common to encounter shallow water than class lll water and above.
    It's all a trade. Sure the rocker on my boat helps in rougher stuff but I could easily cut almost 4' off of the total length and I wouldn't miss it a bit over 90% of the time that I use it. I could cut 2-1/2' off and never miss it where I use it. That extra length can be a bit of a hindrance in smaller water. We aren't running the Colorado here and the Kenai is really pretty mild in all but a few spots and even then you have to really try to look for rough stuff, it's easily avoidable. If you want to run the upper Mat or parts of the Nenana then that extra rocker is needed, but not for your average sportsman in AK.
    I think it boils down to the same old philosophical problem, one boat won't be perfect everywhere. I like the high load, low draft boats. You like boats more suited to whitewater. In any case it really becomes an individual preference based on where you may use your boat. I will give you this, a rockered boat will travel flat water just as well as a flatter boat but the reverse isn't true in the big water. I will always, however, prefer a boat that plows a little more over a boat that drags more. It's a really good feeling when you float right over something that another boat is stuck aground on.
    When it comes to motors I think trying to put catarafts "on step" is silly (that's where spray becomes a real issue). I say use small kickers, keep the boat flat and make good time. They have made inflatables suited for motors for years, they're called Zodiacs. Cat's don't come close, in my opinion, been there, done that. You know what I used to stop the spray between the tandem tubes on my boat?...A length of pliable rubber hose about 1-1/2" in diameter from AK Rubber in Anchorage, worked perfectly. I'm sure it isn't a secret but just thought I'd throw it out there. Either way I would have to say that I've been on three different "powered" cats and was always left with the feeling that they just aren't designed for that, even heavily modified. I say keep a Cat flat and take advantage of it's narrow profile in the water. An 8 hp motor will push a Leopard really well from what I've witnessed. Hope all of our input helps our man "T" out with his decision.

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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default trying to get a cat on step

    Is like,,,,,,,, ready.


    "Putting lipstick on a pig."..

    We tried for a couple of days to make it work up at skilak. I put a 30hp on a 16 foot NRS cat and played with that.... used tarps, planks, cut and pasted material ... It was an excercise in futility for us..
    Its funny because just looking at the boat,, you think that it would work..
    pour the coals to your motor and you get plenty of water flying around,, I thought,,well I will just hammer this thing and maybe after i get it going about 20 mph, it will stop spraying,, but ... it got worse until I could not see to run the boat..
    finally I took a 20 foot by 16 foot tarp and wrapped it under the entire cat tubes, stretched it tight by tieing off to the frame. brought the tarp up in the front so it would not catch water, and hammered it,, It worked better than anything else we did..
    I basically made a full hull boat out of the cat..
    ......
    I just sold my last cat last week..... so I am cat free..
    donut rafts for me for a while.. i am going in the direction of inflatable personel craft.. for not other reason than that I think it is a new area for me to play in,,and so many cool boats coming out int the past 5 or so years...
    Jim S, has had good success with the making a cat out of two personel inflatables,, and yet gives you the ability to make a cat using those same boats,,
    anyway,, Their are so many options for inflatables now that ,, well you just gotta have more than one or two ......
    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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    Yep. More boats! That's the best answer.

    I put a 30 hp motor on the Cougar for a while. I did get it on step, but it was always a wet boat. Did all kinds of things to reduce the spray, and did get most of it solved, but there was always more coming up somewhere. Besides, cat tubes are not designed to be efficient planing hulls.

    Just reading the above comments, its easy to see that different people make different priorities, and like different boats. It's good that we have the choices to suit our preferred boating styles.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default there IS a way...

    Quote Originally Posted by Alaskacanoe View Post
    ...finally I took a 20 foot by 16 foot tarp and wrapped it under the entire cat tubes...It worked better than anything else we did..
    Max,

    There is a way to make this work, but I need someone with enough $$$ to do the R&D work to pull it off. I guarantee that it would put the traditional sport boat industry on its ear. No question.

    -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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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default R&D

    Mike you have worked on this process for a while..
    Longer than any of my attempts..
    anyway,, we need to find a wealthy guy that wants to make his cat a sport boat too and then you will have the money for the R&D..
    Any takers?
    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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    Old thread but I've finally gotten back to my purchasing efforts. With the house and the wedding, this fall it just didn't pan out. Max usage - float hunts with 1 other persons, 10 days worth of light gear and a moose, maybe a caribou and bear. Minimum weight capacity 1600lbs

    Seriously considering the Aire 156E series or NRS Otter 150.

    Simplistic frame, enough to lock in a cooler and a few seats. As it stands, the Aire is coming out on top due to the warranty.

    Questinos? Comments? Concerns?

    Do you own either?
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

  20. #20
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    Default Otter

    Otter Otter Otter

    Although the Aire is up there on ease of repair the Otter IMO has better retention of air "material properties" in colder weather and folds into a much neater pile of boat.

    I use a 15ft Otter and most times fold an Aire Traveler under my main seat i.e. best of both worlds.

    Last year I had 1800 lbs in the thing and had no trouble running Class II / III sections on the river we were hunting.

    The AIRE handles better again IMO however the Otter ability to fold, with better air retention and lighter weight make it a better choice.

    Just food for thought.

    Also Sent you a PM

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