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Thread: SOAR Levitator Discussion

  1. #1
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Exclamation SOAR Levitator Discussion

    Hi folks,

    I've been watching some of the earlier discussion of the SOAR Levitator, and I thought a new thread focused just on this boat would warrant our time.

    I don't know how I missed it, but when someone recently posted that the Levitator has no rocker (bow or stern rise) I about fell off my chair. To my knowledge, no other reputable manufacturer does this (you will find a few pool toys out there that have flat floors). For the uninitiated, "rocker" is the degree to which the bow and stern sections of a round boat rise above the bottom of the boat. Some manufacturers measure rocker from the floor to the top of the tubes. In this case, to determine how much actual bow rise you have, you have to deduct the tube diameter from their stats. In other cases they measure from the floor to the midpoint of the tube and others measure from the floor to the bottom of the tube. Ultimately, you want a floor-to-tube span of at least 7.5 inches. Boats with higher rocker are designed for whitewater, but may be more useful for float hunters because we usually carry bigger loads. Bigger loads cause the boat to sink deeper in the water, and a higher rocker will help keep water out of your boat if you have any wave action.

    In the case of the Levitator, I have been reading reports from hunters who generally like the boat (these are first-time boat buyers as a rule), but their stuff is getting wet from splashing over the bow or stern. Of course it is; the boat is totally flat! Other hunters are not having this experience, which leads me to the conclusion that they are floating flat Class I water or are running very light loads.

    There is no question that the Levitator offers greater floatation than other round boats of the same length. This is because more of the floor is touching the water, which gives you greater displacement. But put that boat in rough water and you could have some real problems with the bow punching through waves instead of pushing the boat up over them like it's supposed to.

    In thinking about this issue, I've come to the conclusion that this boat was designed primarily as a big load hauler on flat Class I rivers with limited opportunity for wind-driven waves. That would certainly be the ideal conditions for this rig, but would seriously limit your options if you plan to hunt or fish other areas of the state. I would not want to take one on an expedition trip on the Alagnak, the Chilikadrotna, the upper Nushagak, the South Fork of the Kuskokwim or any other river with anything over Class II. You'd probably be all right on some stretches of the Noatak (depending on water levels), most of the Innoko, some of the streams coming out of the south side of the Brooks Range, and parts of the Unalakleet (except the lower end where you run into a lot of wind-driven waves).

    I'm attaching a picture of a Northwest River Supplies E-140 bailer with nine inches of kick, so you can see what I'm saying. As I said, the Levitator is flat. This is a serious question relating to the versatility / utility of this boat for expedition trips in Alaska.

    Finally, I'm not interested in bashing anyone on this question. I realize that there are folks reading this forum who bought this boat, perhaps on the recommendation of someone or because it meets their needs. But as a float hunter, a guide specializing in float hunting, and as someone who has been providing information to float hunters for many years, I am concerned about this question and am looking for supporting or contrasting comments on the issue.

    What's your take?

    -Mike
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    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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  2. #2
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default rapids

    Mike I looked at the website for the levitator and was surprised to see the raft going down a white water chute. It had plenty of water coming on board the craft, and one guy only in the boat on the oars.
    In an earlier post the hunters that purchased this boat did say that indeed water did breech over the tubes and did get meat and gear wet, but they adjusted the load and stopped that from happening.
    That would possibly suggest that they put most of the load in the back of the raft so the front would ride high. This would of course make the raft heavy on the back end and make for difficult times in head winds, and then you would loose your advantage of the surface area spreading the wealth of weight from stem to stern.
    If anyone has one of these new boats, I would be interested in testing it on the Kenai river this next season. We could load it with 100 lb sandbags to represent meat loads and send the raft down short sections of the kenai. We could at the same time load other rafts with exact same loads and measure how deep they all draw.
    The Kenai has mostly flat water but moves along pretty good in certain areas, so we could see how they all perform on mostly flat, but possibly windy conditions and short sections of faster water rivers .
    Like Mike said many rivers are class one,but most have some chop or the opportunity for wind..
    Good idea. I like it when people act on ideas and try to make a better craft. The boat is light weight and has huge tubes, and looks well built.
    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

  3. #3

    Default

    I used a Levitator on my moose hunt and we did have some water splash over the front of the boat BUT, that was our fault for not properly loading it (can you say tired?). After readjusting the load the following day we never had a problem with water splahing into the boat. Alaskacanoe, i saw that video too but in my opinion, ANY boat going through that chute would have water going in it. Mike, you say this boat is only designed for class I and II water, let me ask you this, how many float hunters are going to float class III and IV waters with a full load of moose meat or 2-3 caribou? Certainly not me and certainly not many of my friends, save 1 or 2. Personally, I like the Levitator, if I were to buy a boat specifically for float hunting this is the boat I would buy. Keep your class III and IV waters, I'm not floating any of my gear or meat in that kind of water. By the way, what is the weight limitation on that raft you posted?

  4. #4
    Member AKMarmot's Avatar
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    Default ok

    Akcanoe,
    I'll play. I have taken mine down the kenai & not had problems but never with 100# sand bags. I would be open to tests & experiments for comparison reasons.
    It will have to be a weekend when I'm not fishing though

    As a side note, I looked at the E140 during my selection. It cost more, weighed more, & was rated at a lower weight hauling capacity. The thing is there is not a perfect boat out there for every situation. Its like wanting a power boat that you can take up the shallow rivers & turn around & have it perform well out in the salt as well. There will areas where different models excel & trade offs where they lack certain features.
    The end user must try & pick what they thing they will be using the craft for the most & select accordingly. Of course personal preference & a few other factors will weigh in also.
    The alternative is to have enough $$ to by a cat & few different round boats & be able to use the one based on your adventure at that time. However I don't know to many people that fall into the last category.
    Last edited by AKMarmot; 10-12-2006 at 10:16.

  5. #5

    Default Different strokes

    I just watched the video streamer on the Levitator at http://www.pristineventures.com/prod...tingBoats.html

    There is mention that this boat was designed for wilderness travel, yet performs excellently in whitewater situations.

    Features that attract me to the Levitator are:

    1. low bow rise means lower profile means less wind drag
    2. tremendous payload (30% more than NRS E140)
    3. narrow design for remote channels
    4. drag pretection coating on the bottom
    5. more d-rings than any other raft out there
    6. handles everywhere around this raft
    7. lighter weight to pack in (45 lbs lighter than E140)
    8. smaller package when stowed
    9. 5-year warranty
    10. photos and video to prove the raft's performance in Class I-Class V
    11. have you seen the customer feedback and photos from those trips?

    Those are just a few reasons why the Levitator seems like an intelligent and well-proven (albeit different) design. I'm not scared of different, I'm intrigued by it. To break away from standard thought is bold. It's genius if it works.

  6. #6
    Member jeff p's Avatar
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    Default Pristine Ventures

    Has a lot of info & first hand kowledge of this boat Mike perhaps this question is best posed over there? As you know most read both sites I believe you would have a better responce there. The one with the most "time in the saddle" posts on there & I believe that would benifit us all the most, getting input from casual users as well as those that are more experianced. Great topic & your reasoning sure makes sense to me but I have never used one.

    regards jeff

  7. #7
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default Looks like a good boat.

    I am always looking for new ideas and designs to get the job done.
    let me know next spring when you are going to be on the Kenai, and I would love to come look it over. I am always looking for new ideas for my rental fleet.
    Thanks
    Max
    p.s.
    do you have the saddle oars? or a regular rowing frame?
    thanks
    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

  8. #8
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Whitewater issues

    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    I used a Levitator on my moose hunt and we did have some water splash over the front of the boat BUT, that was our fault for not properly loading it (can you say tired?). After readjusting the load the following day we never had a problem with water splahing into the boat. Alaskacanoe, i saw that video too but in my opinion, ANY boat going through that chute would have water going in it. Mike, you say this boat is only designed for class I and II water, let me ask you this, how many float hunters are going to float class III and IV waters with a full load of moose meat or 2-3 caribou? Certainly not me and certainly not many of my friends, save 1 or 2. Personally, I like the Levitator, if I were to buy a boat specifically for float hunting this is the boat I would buy. Keep your class III and IV waters, I'm not floating any of my gear or meat in that kind of water. By the way, what is the weight limitation on that raft you posted?
    Thanks for writing in on this; your experiences with this boat are certainly worth noting.

    You make a good point about whitewater, and though I don't generally recommend anything above a Class II for float hunting, the ratings of many of our most popular float hunting rivers fluctuate upwards of Class III frequently and some even contain stretches of Class IV. I would not recommend such rivers to beginner float hunters and would caution even intermediate folks to be very careful in such places; especially with heavy loads. Here's a sampling of some popular float hunting rivers that contain Class III and Class IV water at normal levels;

    Aniak River
    Chandler River
    Charley River
    Gulkana River (upper)
    Kisaralik River
    Kobuk River
    Kongakut River
    Kuskokwim River (South Fork, including the Hartman)
    Lake Creek
    Melozitna River
    Mulchatna River

    I've even been float hunting on the Noatak when it was running a strong Class III in the canyon section. You would not want a flat-floor boat in that situation, let me tell you. Big haystack waves that a flat boat would just try to punch through. Especially with 1,000# of meat, gear and guys aboard.

    Your other question about the weight rating of the NRS E-143 reinforces what I said earlier. NRS doesn't post the carrying capacities of their boats, because such numbers have little value if they don't know how experienced you are, what kinds of loads you are carrying and what kind of water you're running. Believe me, when I wrote my book on this I tried HARD to get firm numbers from them and they wouldn't give them. Really, how could you ever calculate a number like that and have it become any sort of industry standard anyway? As soon as the number is posted, another manufacturer will post a larger number for marketing advantage and the unwise among us would buy their boat on that basis. Manufacturers can (and do) put any number they like on these boats, because there is no standard in the industry.

    Perhaps we could come up with a standard and apply it to all boats. Some years ago I ran across a formula used by the Canadian Coast Guard for calculating buoyancy of inflatable boats. It was rather complicated because it took into account the tube diameter (a real math problem with diminishing tubes like the ones AIRE has on some of their boats, and with tapered tubes like you find on catarafts, etc). Also how do you figure this number with non bailers? Theoretically you could see how many cinder blocks, or sand bags it took to completely sink the boat, but that's not realistic either because the bailers would be full of water as soon as the top of the floor was level with the river (water would come in the bailer holes). But the conventional wrap boats would displace water until it came over the top of the tubes. It's a tough nut to crack.

    In short, I would say the same thing about the E-143 that I would about any other bailer that size, in terms of meaningful load capacity for hunters. Two guys, a light camp, and a moose is about the limit. Even with that, you're probably gonna run out of room before you overload the boat. This is where the greater length of the Levitator comes into play, and is one reason for the larger capacity of that boat. The other reason is what I said earlier; there is more floor touching the water because there is no kick at either end. This latter issue is a negative though, on rough water.

    Getting back to your story though. What did you do to balance your load once you started having trouble? Did you suspend your load off the floor?

    Thanks for your expertise on this! You've used the boat and can offer some useful insights on this.

    Regards,

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 10-13-2006 at 07:14.
    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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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  9. #9

    Default

    The meat was suspended off the floor for the entire time the meat was in the boat. We had loaded the meat the first day by splitting it evenly front and back, which ended up being a mistake. We put a front shoulder and hindquarter , bag of trim (60-70 lbs), and bag of backstraps/tenderloins in front and the same in the back less the bs/tenderloins plus I rode on the bow with some gear stowed under the cargo straps, to heavy for the front is what we discovered. So we moved both hindquarters and bs/tenderloin bag to the back, put both front shoulders up front and a bag of trim front and back. We also readjusted the cargo platforms so they were a tad lower and this fixed the splashing problem. We also put a tarp over the front load of meat just in case but it never got wet. You have to really experiment with loads to get it right and trust me when I say I am no expert but I learn quickly and I learned a ton on this float. The boat dragged bottom about 6-7 times but never hung up and that was in about 4 inches of moving water. We did hit some class II but it was still pretty easy getting through it. If I were to buy a boat strictly for hauling heavy loads, like a float hunt, this is the boat I would buy. I don't really have any interest in doing expedition floats on class 3 and 4 waters but If I were to float the Kenai in a raft that NRS looks like it would work out great. Hopefully this answers your questions.

  10. #10
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    The meat was suspended off the floor for the entire time the meat was in the boat. We had loaded the meat the first day by splitting it evenly front and back, which ended up being a mistake. We put a front shoulder and hindquarter , bag of trim (60-70 lbs), and bag of backstraps/tenderloins in front and the same in the back less the bs/tenderloins plus I rode on the bow with some gear stowed under the cargo straps, to heavy for the front is what we discovered. So we moved both hindquarters and bs/tenderloin bag to the back, put both front shoulders up front and a bag of trim front and back. We also readjusted the cargo platforms so they were a tad lower and this fixed the splashing problem. We also put a tarp over the front load of meat just in case but it never got wet. You have to really experiment with loads to get it right and trust me when I say I am no expert but I learn quickly and I learned a ton on this float. The boat dragged bottom about 6-7 times but never hung up and that was in about 4 inches of moving water. We did hit some class II but it was still pretty easy getting through it. If I were to buy a boat strictly for hauling heavy loads, like a float hunt, this is the boat I would buy. I don't really have any interest in doing expedition floats on class 3 and 4 waters but If I were to float the Kenai in a raft that NRS looks like it would work out great. Hopefully this answers your questions.
    Hey, do you have any photos of the loading process? With the greater length, the Levitator would allow a better distribution of weight than a conventional bailer. What I'm looking for are photos of someone actually putting meat in the boat.

    Thanks again!

    -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

  11. #11

    Default Loaded Levitator

    Sorry Mike, I don't have any pictures of us loading the boat but I do have one of it loaded the day I shot the bull. Its not the best but here it is.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12

    Default Float Hunting Alaska DVD

    this site sells a DVD titled Float Hunting Alaska Volume I, which shows verious shots of cargo netting used to suspend meat. Around the Chapter of Day 8 or 9, Bartlett is shown loading heavy quarters into the Levitator.

    Why not review the DVD for yourself, or ask Bartlett to clarify his position on your critique. Does his opinion not matter in this case? Seems like a logical thing to do if you publically state your disbeliefs about a given topic, especially if a "thorough" review is intended here.

  13. #13

    Default

    BoDean, I think most of us know that that will never happen, there's to much bad blood between a few users of this site and Larry's. Thats too bad because it would make for some good info and we would all become a little more knowledgeable about inflatibles and thier proper use.

  14. #14
    Member jeff p's Avatar
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    Thumbs down rafts

    why even bring it up then for petes sake, why cant people just get along? agree to disagree if thats the case. Mike you are a smart guy you must have know trying to point out what you beleive to be shortcomings of this product is going to stir this kind of responce. Leave the pot stirring to martentrapper thats his job! Either that or just get along kids!
    I give up jef

  15. #15

    Thumbs down Stir the pot

    Nobody is stirring anything, if you don't haven't anything to say about the Levitator then don't post. Mike started this post looking for info, I gave it to him, simple enough. The designer of the Levitator has been banned from this site, for what reason I don't know I wasn't around at the time, so he cannot come to posts like this to add his input and knowledge of the product. If you would have read his first post and the posts added thereafter you would see that Mike did not think before he wrote, no big deal, we all do it from time to time. Seriously though, you should really drop the "stirring the pot" crap, your worse than a bunch of school kids.

  16. #16
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default The Levitator DVD and PV info

    Guys,

    This is not a battle between two, three, or four people, or a turf war over who writes on what forums. It's an attempt at an honest product review.

    Some of the comments made so far are based on the false assumption that I have not seen the DVD or talked to Larry about this boat. In fact I own the DVD and have viewed it several times, have viewed the product demo video repeatedly and have spoken to Mr. Bartlett about this boat on several occasions. What precipitated this discussion was the recent revelation that the boat has no rocker in the bow and stern; a fact which had escaped my earlier notice.

    To clarify, I am looking for user reports and experiences on this boat in rough water. The manufacturer makes the following claims about this boat:

    1. Superior performance in whitewater.

    2. Other designs (presumably those by NRS, AIRE, Hyside, Maravia, etc.) are "marginal for wilderness travel" and "obsolete".

    These are huge claims, coming from a complete newcomer in the business. If we took all the names and personal conenctions out of this discussion and I told you that someone came up with a completely unconventional design that beats the socks off of decades of boat design, and that the design came from someone with less than ten years' experience, you would rightly dispute that claim until you had more information. That doesn't mean the claims are false (stranger things have happened and there's some pretty smart folks out there). But it does fly in the face of conventional wisdom. It does call into question the integrity of the products made by other companies, some of whom have considerable experience in this field and a lifetime manufacturing inflatable boats for expedition use.

    Folks, nobody learns how to do this stuff overnight. Nobody. It takes years of experience to really know what works and what doesn't. Will the urethane bottom delaminate in a few years? ONLY time will tell. Will the lighter tube material hold up to hard use over many years? No way to know until it's been out there a while. Does the boat tend to pitchpole if it slams into a breaking wave or hits an obstacle head-on? (rockered boats usually don't) Is the lack of rocker a real plus, or a minus? Will the boat really carry 1.5 tons of weight as advertised? Many questions about this boat remain unanswered, and will have to remain so until it's been around longer.

    A side note- As to my not posting on other forums, that's a personal choice I've made, though I have received numerous invites to come over to the PV Corral and play. I've barely got time for this forum, especially lately. Besides, I like the way folks here can express themselves without making it personal, abusing each other, or calling each other names.

    So, to get this back on track, let me clarify that this is just a product review, nothing more. I want to learn more about this boat, especially from people who are using it. Both good and bad.

    Thanks!

    -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

  17. #17

    Default

    I used the boat and posted my thoughts, i did my part. Thank you.

  18. #18
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    Default Bussiness as usual

    Another Michael Strahan drive by.

  19. #19
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default More Levitator questions

    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    I used the boat and posted my thoughts, i did my part. Thank you.
    Hunter,

    I've seen the photos of folks using cargo netting to support loads in this boat; is that what you did too? If so, would a regular round boat cargo net work in this situation as well? I know of two sizes that are designed for this purpose and am curious if anyone has used them (I don't know the inside dimensions of this boat off the top of my head).

    Second, did you notice any flexing of the boat, or did it seem pretty solid? Rubber tends to flex and bounce more than plastic, and I'm curious about the effect this might have on a boat with this length to width ratio.

    Finally, have you used other inflatables, and if so, how would you compare them to the Levitator in terms of overall performance, stiffness and overall ruggedness?

    Thanks again for your input on this, and for posting the photo. 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.
    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

  20. #20
    Member cusackla's Avatar
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    Default Boat Load

    Here is mine loaded! I have not tried any serious water with it, but than again I bought it to HAUL LOADs and most of the rivers I hunt are not serious white water! I packed a NRS Otter Self Bailer and for the type of hunting I do I perfer the weight and width of the SOAR over the NRS.
    Louis

    P.S. Just in case I added a serious white water picture. U might notice that I don't have any meat loaded except mine :-)
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