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Thread: What size boat for Prince Wiliam Sound...

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    Default What size boat for Prince Wiliam Sound...

    I have never owned a boat, and have little experience with them. Here's what I am interested in; boating in Prince William Sound. Ideally, I would like to use it to get to and from glaciers for camping, possibly glass and stalk hunting, fishing, and maybe the occasional navigation up rivers.
    I currently own a old RV that is not large enough to pull a trailer and i have no storage where I live. Can I safely get away with a collapsable boat such as a zodiac 16 footer? Or if I valued my life (which I do) do I need something rigid? If so, what size is safe?
    I would be putting in at Valdez or Whittier for the most part and traveling over to bays that have glaciers in them. Obviously there's a concern over entering the ice field.
    What is the smallest, reasonable craft for these purposes? what about horsepower needs?
    Thank you

  2. #2
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    Default opinions

    You're gonna get 38 opinions on this. I have used a 16' Zodiac in PWS and Cook Inlet 20 or 30 times, and it did great... until we got into some nasty stuff, as in breaking 8 footers. The BOAT did fine, but it knocked my wife around a lot, and there is not much to hold onto in Zodiac. We graduated to a 21' RHIB, and I ain't lookin' back. It is my opinion that a RHIB is the safest thing around, P, EOS, but they are not cheap and the deck room is smaller than an aluminum boat, naturally. My main consideration was coming home, so I went w/ the RHIB. If you go w/ an aluminum/glass "normal" boat, I would not get caught dead out there w/ out a 24' or up. A 16 footer will work most of the time, likely, if you don't go far, etc, but sooner or later you're going to run into stink. If you can't afford a large enough boat, do your best to bite the bullet and get hauled around by someone w/ one; a buddy, charter, etc. Good luck; this is always a grinding decision w/ no easy answer.

  3. #3

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    There are lots of 24 foot boats running around PWS. Quite a few C-Dory 22 footers manage quite well out there. I used to go out in a 17 foot Arima with 90 Hp - really had to watch the weather, not as comfortable as a larger boat but safe enough when taking proper precautions.
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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    With a glass or aluminum boat you will be fine in a 18 foot or larger boat with an inflatable you will be good with a 16 footer or larger. Like jklingel said the Zodiacs work great but you get thrown around a bit and get wet. The ice fields are not a big deal just go slow and try to avoid hitting them. The biggest danger in PWS or anywhere for that matter is the weather with that being the waves or un seen obstacles that can hull a boat or disable it.

    Familiarize yourself with the area you are going into by looking at the nautical charts ahead of time so you know where to go when the weather gets bad or even iffy.

    Listen to the weather forecast and pay attention to it.

    Watch what other boaters are doing if you hear of bad weather coming in and are not sure what you should do. When they are all heading to the port or to a sheltered area follow them.

    Make sure all of your emergency gear is good to go and make passengers wear life vest.

    Take your boat out on a lake prior to going to the ocean to get used to how it handle and if possible have someone who is experienced give you some tips while on the water and on properly launching/recovering your boat at the boat ramp.

    Above all else have a fun time!


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    Member AK NIMROD's Avatar
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    bigger is better. Zodiac or that style are the best all around boat for Alaska. but plan on being wet and unfomfortable. neoprene waders and float coat help. They aree very safe type of boat and will handle alot more that most folks want to be in. got into 10 foot confused seas out of seward and bad 8 footers off anchor point.
    i started in cook inlet with 14 footer then few years later when i returned to Alaska got a 16 footer took it all over cook inlet, out of seward (30-40 miles) and PWS probably kings bay was furthest i went out of Whittier. but i use to spend a week at a time out there
    inflatables just aren't very big and will fill with gear very fast. cabin locations in PWS are nice with inflatables as you need to carry a little less gear.
    rocky barnicale shores of PWS can cause severe problems have to be very careful.
    if you are in the market for a near new 14 footer i have one for sale.that i would make you a good deal on but if you can afford it go bigger. also don't get too small of a motor.
    my two footitis ( over 25 years) moved me from 16 footer to 22 ft c-dory then 30 custom alum that we stretched it to 34 a few years later now have 24 ft bowpicker and really miss the 34 footer but not the $$$$ it took.
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    Member IceKing02's Avatar
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    Default The Zodiac idea WILL work...but,

    I've run a Zodiac out there for the last two years, missing only the months of Jan, Feb, and March 2009 (too crappy, too cold, and nothin to hunt).

    My non-RIB-ed Zodiac has a full enclosure, console steering, built-in seating and many other goodies. If you go with the Futura Mark III and a 50hp motor it is perfect for 2-3 people, although I've fished five without the top. This setup is quite flexible when it comes to all of the issues (depth, current, and wind) that you'll find in PWS with exception to large headlong waves--that's when a RIB-ed model really makes a difference. It is economical (3-5gph), fast over decent water (23-4 cruise, 28-31WOT), and is easy enough for one person to handle out of PWS, the Kenai, Seward and multiple lakes. With extra fuel cans I've gone to Rocky Bay on Montague Island last year. It took me out around to Abra Cove in Aialik Bay in April. I've had the fortune to run most of the Kenai, Skilak, and many smaller lakes. This platform has served me well to confirm that I LOVE getting out on the water.

    Now for the BUT...

    If you want to take your wife out there and have her share glacier views, a glass of wine and hiking. If you would like your kids to jump at the chance to go fishing, shrimping or whale-watching. If you'd like to take the entire family out for berry-picking, clamming or visiting other towns by boat. If you want to get 2-3 guys together for hunting deer, goats, bears and sharks...You're gonna need a bigger boat and, at minimum, one with a porta-potty.

    I'd advise taking the wife out ONLY on a charter or friend's bigger boat. Everyone will go home happy and you won't have to store a boat. If you feel the need to jump headlong into boat ownership--come on in...the water is fine!

    PM me if you have more Zodiac questions.

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    Member AKBassking's Avatar
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    I have been using my 20' wooly Xtra plus for quite a few years now. The only problem, it beats you to death when it starts getting choppy.

    #1 reason I have started to refurbish a 30' Sea Ray. This summer, just take a trip to Whittier and see what eveyone is using, then go shopping!

    Good Luck.

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    Member Maast's Avatar
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    I've been zipping around all over PWS for three years now in my little 17 foot fish and ski, it was a good PWS starter boat, but now I've moved up to a 26 aluminum boat.

    I've also got a 1985 26 foot Carver fiberglass that I'll be selling in the spring. I used it when I was down in the Puget Sound area outside Tacoma/Seattle - it was great for the deeper water boating I did there, but I'm too close to shore (and sharp rocks) to use it up here.

    I guess its all in what you intend to do, you can save a lot of money getting a fiberglass boat - as long as it does what you want it to.

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    Member breausaw's Avatar
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    How much money do you want to spend; how much money can you spend.

    Once you have that figured out, buy as much boat as you can afford.

    Not the biggest boat you can afford, but the biggest boat you can afford to keep up and fuel.
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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    Default zodiac

    I don' t have much personal experience yet - but I do have a 15'-5" old MKIII that I am going to run the heck out of this spring/summer.

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    Default What boat to buy?

    Lots of good advice out there, here's one more thought: Take a Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course this winter, learn all you can. Then start shopping for boats; you'll be better 'armed' with knowlege that will help you get the right boat. All boats are pretty much compromises, so it helps to know your intended use and the water/weather you plan on running in...and every boat has it's limitations, so it's good to know what those limitations might be. Good luck and have fun shopping! Boat Safe!

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    How many people, how much gear, and how long are the trips? How far do you want to go, how fast do you want to go? How comfortable do you want to be, and will you have passengers that are more concerned with comfort than you are, i.e. wife or girlfriend. While the zodiacs are very capable boats, they aren't great platforms to fish from, and can beat you up. They also can't carry that much gear.

    While the enclosed boats are more expensive than open skiffs, I would highly, highly recomend doing what it takes to get a cabin cruiser. They effectively double an already short boating season, and turn potentially hypothermic trips into no big deal. I really couldn't imagine running 100 miles in 50F temp, 20 knot winds with fog and rain in an open skiff. I've been on many trips in the sound where the boating conditions were fine for a small open skiff, but due to the weather I would have been too miserable to do any fishing by the time I got to my desitination if I'd been in an open boat.

    Saftey is much more about who is at the helm then the boat, so it really isn't about what size boat is safe. You could put some guy in 1/4 million 30' aluminum boat with twin 300's, and he's dangerous, and on the other hand have a kid in an 18' skiff with a 50 hourse o/b that is safe as can be.

    What you really need to do is honestly nail down your needs and plans, what you can live with, what you can live without, and then you'll come up with some criteria for a boat. Camping, fishing and hunting gear can take up a fair bit of space and weight, so give strong consideration about the smallest boat for your needs. Also longer trips need more fuel, which takes up space and adds weight. I'd be hardpressed to find anything smaller than a 22' cabin cruiser as a good choice for exploring the sound. Not only will you arrive at your destination warm and dry, if the weather has been nasty and is still nasty, you have a warm dry place to sleep vs. being wet and cold, and having to set up a tent on shore in the wet and the cold.

    While not cheap (though cheaper than buying a boat not up to your needs), there is a place in Whitier that rents cabin cruisers. It wouldn't be a bad idea to rent one of there boats for a few days to see what it's like traveling in the sound and do some exploring.

  13. #13

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    Thank you for all of the information. I likely plan to have 1 thru 3 people in it for day tripping, overnight or long weekend trips to the forestry cabins or to set up a camp in visual range of the calving glaciers. The reason i honed in on a 16 foot zodiac is because i could store it for free with my RV and it would be light enough to tow or mount on top of that Rv. A standard boat and trailer would be too heavy for my tiny RV ('85 toyota 20 footer) I simply cannot afford to store a second vehicle or upgrade to a Larger tow vehicle. Also, i would like to use it on rivers where larger deeper boats would not be able to navigate. Ideally, i would use it to scout out for a good moose hunt (i'd love suggestions there too) and to glass and stalk a tasty black bear this sprin.

    Ultimately, what i'm saying is that its a question of buying a zodiac within my price range and needs or not buying at all, at least not too soon.

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    Member Bullelkklr's Avatar
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    Default budget

    Budget is big factor on boat picking......

    I want a 26 foot hewes with all the goodies and more power than it should have - but realistically I will have about 5K into my rubber duck and will get to use it a lot.

    If you get into an old Zodiac - tear the rubber back down the exterior of the transom and look at the wood very close - don't just knock on it and say - heck it's good....that mistake cost me $1K last fall.

    I wouldn't want to try to throw my 15er up the roof even without the floor\motor by myself tho.

  15. #15
    Member jrogers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CG Boating Safety View Post
    Lots of good advice out there, here's one more thought: Take a Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course this winter, learn all you can. Then start shopping for boats; you'll be better 'armed' with knowlege that will help you get the right boat. All boats are pretty much compromises, so it helps to know your intended use and the water/weather you plan on running in...and every boat has it's limitations, so it's good to know what those limitations might be. Good luck and have fun shopping! Boat Safe!
    This is a really good suggestion. Obviously the guy making it is a bit biased, so as someone that is not involved in these classes but has taken it, I think it is well worth the dollars and time time that it will cost you. Plus, you will get to know other boaters in your area.
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    Member FISHFACE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    How many people, how much gear, and how long are the trips? How far do you want to go, how fast do you want to go? How comfortable do you want to be, and will you have passengers that are more concerned with comfort than you are, i.e. wife or girlfriend. While the zodiacs are very capable boats, they aren't great platforms to fish from, and can beat you up. They also can't carry that much gear.

    While the enclosed boats are more expensive than open skiffs, I would highly, highly recomend doing what it takes to get a cabin cruiser. They effectively double an already short boating season, and turn potentially hypothermic trips into no big deal. I really couldn't imagine running 100 miles in 50F temp, 20 knot winds with fog and rain in an open skiff. I've been on many trips in the sound where the boating conditions were fine for a small open skiff, but due to the weather I would have been too miserable to do any fishing by the time I got to my desitination if I'd been in an open boat.

    Saftey is much more about who is at the helm then the boat, so it really isn't about what size boat is safe. You could put some guy in 1/4 million 30' aluminum boat with twin 300's, and he's dangerous, and on the other hand have a kid in an 18' skiff with a 50 hourse o/b that is safe as can be.

    What you really need to do is honestly nail down your needs and plans, what you can live with, what you can live without, and then you'll come up with some criteria for a boat. Camping, fishing and hunting gear can take up a fair bit of space and weight, so give strong consideration about the smallest boat for your needs. Also longer trips need more fuel, which takes up space and adds weight. I'd be hardpressed to find anything smaller than a 22' cabin cruiser as a good choice for exploring the sound. Not only will you arrive at your destination warm and dry, if the weather has been nasty and is still nasty, you have a warm dry place to sleep vs. being wet and cold, and having to set up a tent on shore in the wet and the cold.

    While not cheap (though cheaper than buying a boat not up to your needs), there is a place in Whitier that rents cabin cruisers. It wouldn't be a bad idea to rent one of there boats for a few days to see what it's like traveling in the sound and do some exploring.


    some good ideas and information on here for sure. Do some searching on this site and you can find lots of great information ( positives and negatives) on many brands of boats. I know being a "younger" boater myself, the best tool in the ocean is knowledge. I happen to have a 100 ton masters license and have found the information I've learned to be invaluable. Just buy what you can afford, have fun, and be safe. that's the reason to be out in the water. good luck spring is closing in.

  17. #17
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    We've all been there trying to find one boat that will do it all and with limited funds and space. I haven't been out nearly as much as I'd like in the sound, but this is what I've found in three season's from May through October.

    If you are going out for multiday trips, you really want a boat that can be comfortably used in 2-4' seas. While you may cruise on out to your destination in dead calm water in an hour or so, you'll be running much slower in those bigger waters, and it is pretty fatiquing driving each and every wave for hour after hour, even when you are in a fully enclosed boat. I honestly couldn't imagine doing that in an open boat. So, the only option is to hide out for 1-? days in your small boat. Do you have room for enough food for hiding out that long?

    I love fishing, but that has to entail some catching. While you can sometimes catch fish closer to Whitier, I've never been able to get into fish consistantly unless I run ~50 miles from Whitier, or further.

    If you'd be content just making trips to Blackstone Bay, I think you'd find a 16' zodiac would work well for you. However if you plan on making longer trips out to Culross Island and beyond, you'd be advised to strongly consider a bigger enclosed boat. Wells passage is often times the roughest water you'll face, and you need to be prepared to face 2-4' seas every time you cross that passage.

    If you can live with a boat that the water conditions and your time to use the boat match up once or maybe twice a summer, then the zodiac will be fine. If however you spend the time and $ to drive down to whittier, go through the tunnel, park and pay your launch fee (about $100 before you've gone a yard) and you say, heck we're down here, doesn't look nice, but lets head out, you will likely find that boat just isn't up to the task.

    Even though it took me 4 years longer to get the boat now vs. the used zodiak I'd planned to get, I'm much happier I waited.

    I'd give strong consideration to either renting a boat out of Whittier, or having Sound Eco Adventures do a drop off/pick up from a state cabin or camping site. One or two of those trips a year would be close to a wash vs. what you'd have into yearly expenses and outfitting the zodiak.

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