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Thread: Advice on buying a boat

  1. #1
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    Default Advice on buying a boat

    I am debating buying a 16' cataraft for my family. My wife and I have some experience rafting (we've done personal trips down the Arkansas, Delores, and a couple of others rivers in the Southwest). We also have a 2 year old who dislikes hiking, however, she likes to be outdoors and loves water. So, my thought is that if I buy a raft we could do a bunch of 1-3 day trips in the rivers within a couple hundred miles of Anchorage. This way, I could fish, my wife would get some great outdoor time, and our daughter could be outdoors without having to hike. I figured we could do parts of the Kenai, Russian, and many of the rivers along the Parks Hwy.

    So, here's my question: Am I crazy? Or are there enough Class I-II rivers in the area that could keep us entertained?

    Any and all advice is welcomed... thanks in advance

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattdow View Post
    I am debating buying a 16' cataraft for my family. My wife and I have some experience rafting (we've done personal trips down the Arkansas, Delores, and a couple of others rivers in the Southwest). We also have a 2 year old who dislikes hiking, however, she likes to be outdoors and loves water. So, my thought is that if I buy a raft we could do a bunch of 1-3 day trips in the rivers within a couple hundred miles of Anchorage. This way, I could fish, my wife would get some great outdoor time, and our daughter could be outdoors without having to hike. I figured we could do parts of the Kenai, Russian, and many of the rivers along the Parks Hwy.

    So, here's my question: Am I crazy? Or are there enough Class I-II rivers in the area that could keep us entertained?

    Any and all advice is welcomed... thanks in advance
    Sounds to me like a perfect way to experience the outdoors... @ 2 years old the hiking outlook will likely gain a bit more endurance.

    An inflatable boat for family of 3 on 1-3 day outings roadside class I-II rivers/streams is starting with 13' rafts and 14' catarafts... likely you'll 'grow' into 14' rafts and 16' catarafts.

    The 13' Self-Bailer will be very practical with roadside trips affording easier handling for you and rest of family both on and off the water. Nice for streams like Portage Creek, Willow Creek, Montana Creek, Anchor River, Chulitna, Gulkana, Upper Nenana, Kenai and so on.

    Going the Cat... you'll find that the 16' (keeping to a more performance geometry shorter waterline) will do all you'll likely ever need to do. Good Choice. Only reservation here is having 2 year olds on cats puts ya into shin, knee, head banging on pipes, much higher to get in/out of, and kids have a harder time playing around on the floor. This is where the self-bailer really will shine... containing party and cargo, fast/easy set-up, plus a forgiving/cushioned/warm floor.

    Consider a few rentals to test the waters for starters.

  3. #3
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    I agree with Jeff, a raft/cataraft is a fine way to get into Alaska, even on the weekends. But Jeff is also right that a 13-14' self bailer is a better boat for little kids.

  4. #4
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    I have a three-year-old and a six-year-old. We have had them both on the water since they were infants, and they absolutely love it. It is a great way to have fun as a family, and you can still get your fishing fix.

    Our primary boat until last summer was a 16' cat. It worked ok, but I was always stressing about them falling out through one of the numerous kid traps or whacking their heads on a piece of framing/seat. Last summer we ended up getting a 16' s/b. I am still on high alert with the kids on the water, but I have now mitigated a lot of the risk we were facing with the cat. There is less framing for them to bonk into, and they are at less risk of falling out. It’s like a miniature House of Bounce. The raft has definitely helped us get in a better river groove.

    Before you take off, read Karen Jettmars book the Alaska River Guide. She has a great section on paddling with families. I have found her pointers very useful for making it a safe and fun trip for the family.

    Also, don’t buy cheap gear, for you will now be counting on it more than ever. Bring "good" food, toys, and lots of extra clothes for layering and if (when) they get wet. Most importantly, make sure you are dialed in and have done your homework on a river before taking the family down.

    Have fun! Here is a photo of my kids a couple weekends ago on the Upper Kenai…first trip of the year.




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    Find soomeone who owned alot boats and take them with you too look at the boat period...............

  6. #6
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Boats and kids

    Some great comments here so far...

    I second the remarks about Karen's book; it's a great resource and contains a number of road-accessible streams. We carry that book here in Outdoors Directory and it's one of our best sellers.

    I hear what the guys are saying about kid-containment in a round boat, however there are some pretty good ways to "kidproof" a cat too. When my kids were little we did all our river time in an 18' AIRE Leopard cataraft and never had any trouble. The key is in the flooring system and putting fillers at each end of the boat, where your vertical risers secure the top and bottom half of the frame together. In my case the Leopard served many purposes; family day trips or overnighters, to extended guided expedition float hunts. Some of those trips involved the use of a small outboard. I needed something that did it all, and the Leopard came pretty close.

    So my .02 is to look at whatever else you might do with this rig and plan accordingly. Also don't forget that your family might grow, and the kid(s) will grow up with this boat too...

    Finally, you might consider renting first. This gives you a chance to try different boats so you can be sure to get what you like. Alaska Raft and Kayak used to have a program where you could rent a boat and they'd credit your rental fees toward the purchase of a new boat, if the decision was made within a certain time frame. Dunno if they still do that but you might check it out. Could be a great way to figure this out. HERE'S THE LINK to their rental program, which also has their phone numbers and such.

    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.
    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

  7. #7
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    Thanks everyone for such great advice... now I'm even MORE excited about buying a boat. I think I'll take the advice of renting a couple of times before buying... that way I can not only experience the pros and cons of both types of boats, I can also see how our daughter does.

    When I finally pull the trigger and buy a boat, i'll send pics...

    thanks again
    Matt

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