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  • Pros and Cons of Catarafts

    There's a lot of interest in catarafts for float hunting, and I'm interested in your thoughts on them. Here are some areas I'd like to explore with you:

    1. User reports on the pros and cons of catarafts in general.

    2. Brand name recommendations. This could be based on personal experience with a particular brand, or educated guesses. I'm looking for durability, tube diameter / shape, etc.

    3. Customization. What are some things that you like and dislike? What mods would you like to see on catarafts?

    Let's have some fun with this!

    -Mike
    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

  • #2
    cats, pros and cons...

    I purchased a Fishcat 13 from ark last summer and although I cannot comment on its "huntability" I can tell you it filled the bill for my particular use. I could easily put the frame on the top of my Jeep which made for an interesting looking vehicle. So much so that I was asked by a couple of passerbys "what the heck is that?" My reply was that I did not like back seat drivers and the two seats were where I put my wife and mother-in-law...joking aside I used the cat to fish several small lakes, float several class I,II rivers and have absolutely no complaints. I will admit to being a novice on Alaska waters and the use of a cataraft was new to me, however I do have considerable experience with boats,canoes, and kayaks. Having been through the full cycle with boats, you know start off with a john boat with an electric and it somehow evolves into an offshore 25 ft overhorsed gas guzzling platform to house tens of thousands of dollars worth of electronics and high tech toys. Like they say, the two happiest days of my life were the day I brought it home and the day I got rid of it. The last few years I have been conciously on a mission to simplify as much of my life as I can, and that includes my fishing. I spend the biggest portion of my fishing time paddling a tupperware sit on top kayak fly fishing for redfish, sea trout, and tarpon here in Florida. From my perspective I can offer these comments; the learning curve for cats is very short and they are far more manuverable than canoes or rafts or even kayaks. The higher profile aides in fishing but increases wind resistance. The stability is supperior to canoes, kayaks, and at least equal to that of a raft. The overall ability to handle a load does require a little bit of "balancing" but no more so than any other small craft. I was able to "take-it-to-the-river" straight from the store with no modifying of any type. I liked the removeable standing platorm for the oarsmen station; floor in place when fishing the lakes, floor removed when drifting the rivers. The Fishcat 13 may not have the load capacity for a float hunt, but it certainly handled two people and all the gear necessary for a week long fishing trip. Its small size lent itself well negotiating the many tight turns, sweepers, and log jams on the small rivers, yet was large enough to allow two of us to fly fish on the lakes. As to the durability, the jury is still out but with a five year warranty I suspect it will last at least that long. One could add some rod holders, and a transom for a small motor without a lot of difficulty but as I mentioned earlier I prefer to keep things simple. I am planning my 2007 trip at the present and it appears I will have my son and three of my grands at least a couple of weeks. I debated upsizing and trading the Fishcat 13 for a larger cat to accomodate all of us but have decided to just buy another one. Thanks to you Mr. Strahan for pointing me to the "right choice". One final comment....the decision to buy locally came as a result of Mr. Strahan's recomendation and I am here to tell you, the guys at Alaska Raft and Kayak are tops!

    Comment


    • #3
      I bought an Aire Jagurundi (16' long 20" dia. tubes) demo from Idaho River Sports in Boise, in 99. It came with a powder coated Aire Expedition frame and rigged for white water--3 carlile oars, stirrup oarlocks, 2 whitewater seats and an adjustable cargo brace. The tubes are 45# each and the 2 1/4" steel tube frame is 85#. Strapped together and ready to hit the water, including my old 128qt fish coffin for a dry box, it comes in just under 200 lbs unloaded. The frame has a wide stance--tubes are 7'9" apart at the centerlines.

      This set up is very nimble on the water. I rafted as many rivers as work allowed while in Idaho--the North and South Forks of the Payette and Boise rivers, and main Salmon. The Owyhee was planned for summer 01 but I moved back to AK that spring (someday). The SF of the Boise became my pet river and I ran the 18 miles from Cow Creek to Danskin about 10 times in various water levels and seasons but mostly summer at 1600-1900 cfm. Idaho is a great place to cut one's whitewater teeth and I had a blast.

      I really like this raft-it holds a lot of gear and 3 people comfortably, its responsive to oar input--even when over-loaded, and its durable and easy to repair in the field.
      In 2002 I ran Atigun Gorge from the Dalton Hwy to the Sag and then on down to Sag River DOT camp. A few bounces off boulders aside, we manuevered the Atigun's nearly endless boulder gardens without too much difficulty. Somewhere along the way I sliced a 2 foot gash in my right tube but only put a pencil sized hole in the inner bladder which I didn't notice until we got past the Gorge and to the Sag confluence. We pulled the gear off, dragged the raft onto the beach, unstrapped the tube, and I patched the bladder and baseball stitched the tube just like the very easy to understand video showed me--Aire includes this How-To video and an excellent repair kit with all its rafts.

      We finished the trip without a problem and the repairs held up to the pounding of 10 miles of near constant Class III and big Class IV rapids. When I brought my boat to Tracy at AR&K he made a beautiful, permanent repair that has held to this day.

      As a comparison, a friend bought an Aire Leopard (18'/22") from AR&K set up with an NRS frame and configured more for float hunts than whitewater. He raved about his raft after 1 trip down Class I Beaver Creek. Since I was an Aire fan I assumed the Leopard was a bigger better version of my boat. So we ran the Klutina. After barely getting away from the bank and spinning and crashing into every rock in the river I convinced my novice buddy to let me drive--OH MY GAWD what a pig that boat was!

      I absolutely reefed on the oars to get it to do anything. Pivoting, crabbing cross current and generally positioning the boat in the right current line was difficult. I was able to keep us out of the Klutina's many sweepers and log piles-but barely. MY OPINION--my buddy's cargo frame set-up was narrower than mine by 8 inches. That combined with the longer tubes reduced the mechanical leverage of the oars--hit boat was set up to float a gob of weight down un-technical Class I & II rivers not a rapidy, obstacle strewn, fast river like the Klutina. It's a good boat just misapplied as configured.

      I know each type of boat has its place but for a rowing frame set-up I'm personally sold on cat boats--properly set up they're unbeatable.
      If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

      Comment


      • #4
        on a cat it is ALL about getting the weght distribution right. I ran the Locsha with my Aire Jag and it was the mst nimble 16' boat ever.....moved the frame on the next trip which put the weight back too far and it is a total pig! I think Aire boats are tough to beat for durability and ease of repair. there are gobbs of boats out there that are lighter, but if you are gonna pay for weight it oughta be for your boat.

        I now have the 16' lion series and a huge nrs frame... it is a gear hauling machine! it glides through the biggest water the clark fork has without even a worry.

        I lost a bunch of manuverability going from the jag to the lion, not too much weight difference, my short shaft 15 horse is too short unless the lion is loaded way heavy, the plus side to the lion is you can haul a pickup, it drafts in an inch of water and requires so much air that you will be very warm by the time one tube is full

        Comment


        • #5
          AIRE Lion

          Originally posted by highcountry View Post
          on a cat it is ALL about getting the weght distribution right. I ran the Locsha with my Aire Jag and it was the mst nimble 16' boat ever.....moved the frame on the next trip which put the weight back too far and it is a total pig! I think Aire boats are tough to beat for durability and ease of repair. there are gobbs of boats out there that are lighter, but if you are gonna pay for weight it oughta be for your boat.

          I now have the 16' lion series and a huge nrs frame... it is a gear hauling machine! it glides through the biggest water the clark fork has without even a worry.

          I lost a bunch of manuverability going from the jag to the lion, not too much weight difference, my short shaft 15 horse is too short unless the lion is loaded way heavy, the plus side to the lion is you can haul a pickup, it drafts in an inch of water and requires so much air that you will be very warm by the time one tube is full
          The AIRE Lion was built to compete with the NRS River Cat (formerly the Grizzly), another big load-hauler. Personally I don't care for the design because it doesn't work as well with larger outboards as the Leopard does. The Leopard and Jag both have gradual bow transitions, whereas the Lion and Grizzly have blunt bow sections. This gives them a tendency to plow, rather than plane. I'll attach a photo for those who may not have seen either boat.

          On the other hand it hauls a huge load, and if it's loaded properly (not overloaded) it works well. It's a pretty good boat for float hunts, just not my cup of tea.

          Just my take.

          You have hit the nail on the head about cats though. They are extremely versatile boats, but easily overloaded. If there is a single negative about them, this is it.

          -Mike
          Attached Files
          Michael Strahan
          Site Owner
          Alaska Hunt Consultant
          1 (907) 229-4501

          Comment


          • #6
            this guy did some great research on the same subject last month...opinions,cargo capacity,weights,tube sizes,ect of all the major players in the cataraft game. good stuff, I thought, so passing it along.

            http://www.whitewateraddiction.com/cat_shootout.php

            Comment


            • #7
              It's whitewater though-

              Originally posted by indyjones View Post
              this guy did some great research on the same subject last month...opinions,cargo capacity,weights,tube sizes,ect of all the major players in the cataraft game. good stuff, I thought, so passing it along.

              http://www.whitewateraddiction.com/cat_shootout.php
              Indy,

              I read the article, and I think it's a pretty fair overview for whitewater folks. But in my situation it doesn't really fit. For example his comments about cats not being very good passenger boats. Obviously he hasn't been to Alaska in the last 15 years, where a huge amount of innovation has been taking place specifically in this area. Truth is, a cat is a much better passenger boat than a round boat, when it comes to fishing and hunting. Yes, we put SEATS (OOOOO NOOO!) on them! Shhhh.... don't tell anyone!

              You have a lot more room on a cat than on a round boat, plain and simple. The problem is that people tend to fill all that space up and you end up with an overloaded boat. Overloading is the biggest problem with cats.

              In a whitewater situation you don't want seats in your way or any other extraneous stuff. But here in Alaska the bulk of the boat market is looking for something they can take the family in or they can do a float hunt in. Cats are perfect for that. His comment about 18-footers being undesirable might be true for a whitewater boat, but it's something I really disagree with for Alaska expeditions. They're perfect for float hunting.

              Regards,

              -Mike
              Attached Files
              Michael Strahan
              Site Owner
              Alaska Hunt Consultant
              1 (907) 229-4501

              Comment


              • #8
                The article is what it is. The writer is a very experienced class V+ rafter with first decents under his belt and owns a whitewater rafting company out in Durango,CO doing both international trips and local class V runs on the Animas.

                I agree with him on the raft/cat thing for passengers too. ... especially for the family rower. Anything a kid drops in a cat tends to vanish in the river plus cats with seats locks a kid into place for the day. In a raft, a person can move around easier and has a soft floor to catch items and people.

                Not related to the article but the other thing I don't like about cats is that they draw more water than a raft. True, you can stradle rocks to some extent but I've seen many times where a big,loaded 16ft raft skims the shallows where a smaller/lighter cat slices in and hangs up.

                The only thing I like about cats is that for a big portage you can break them down into 3 smaller chunks.

                Agree to disagree,I guess.

                SYOTR.

                Comment


                • #9
                  since we are sharing pics of our floating babies...

                  http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...pid+josh+brian

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    About 12 years ago I bought an Aire Cougar. There's still quite a few of them around. Mine's 17.5' long with four 18" diameter tubes, two per side. It's a decent gear hauler since the four tubes put a lot of floation on the water, and the center of gravity remains low. I've used it for quite a few Alaskan river trips. I've run it down Sixmile Creek more than a few times, but it is really a poor boat for such a technical river. I've also managed to flip it in Nenana, Lion's Head and more than once in Sixmile.

                    About six years ago I got tired of pushing a gear boat, so I unlaced the pairs of tubes to create two boats that are still just as long, but with skinny tubes, and narrower frames. They are now lighter and a lot better for technical runs, and surprisingly are more stable than before. Their downside is that they are each way too easy to overload.

                    Personally, I like catarafts for whitewater. They are faster, more stable and punch holes better than round boats. But I don't like them as much for tripping, fishing, camping, hunting. For those uses I like the idea that as a passenger I can stand up and move around on a self bailing round boat. I can sit on a seat or move to a tube when I want. With a cat boat you sit in the seat that's been asigned to you an you stay there for the duration.

                    Also, a round boat hauls more for its size, and still remains manuverable. Once a cat gets overloaded it acts like two keels that resists turning, and their speed advantage goes away too. And heavy cats draft more water. The same weight distribute on a conventional boat float in much shallower areas. So, I agree with Mike -- Don't overload a cataraft. All the time I see these cats with heavy frames and wood floors and wonder what people are thinking.

                    I've goten a few small holes in the Aire but nothing serious. Surprising, considering all the abuse I've given it. Patching is fairly straight forward, but once the zippers get packed with glacial silt they don't want to work. Personally, I usually find fixing regular raft material easier.

                    Off topic, last month I had the trip of my life. A (mostly) local group floated the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. We rented 18' boats that weighed a bit over one ton. Pictures are here: http://paddling.jimstrutz.com/images...bum/index.html

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Grand Canyon trip

                      that looked so warm and sunny..
                      Jim, I would like to go back down south and run a few rivers again.
                      Nice pictures of a nice trip.
                      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

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Rafts or Cats

                        Originally posted by Jim Strutz View Post
                        Personally, I like catarafts for whitewater. They are faster, more stable and punch holes better than round boats. But I don't like them as much for tripping, fishing, camping, hunting. For those uses I like the idea that as a passenger I can stand up and move around on a self bailing round boat. I can sit on a seat or move to a tube when I want. With a cat boat you sit in the seat that's been asigned to you an you stay there for the duration.

                        Also, a round boat hauls more for its size, and still remains manuverable. Once a cat gets overloaded it acts like two keels that resists turning, and their speed advantage goes away too. And heavy cats draft more water. The same weight distribute on a conventional boat float in much shallower areas. So, I agree with Mike -- Don't overload a cataraft. All the time I see these cats with heavy frames and wood floors and wonder what people are thinking.

                        I've goten a few small holes in the Aire but nothing serious. Surprising, considering all the abuse I've given it. Patching is fairly straight forward, but once the zippers get packed with glacial silt they don't want to work. Personally, I usually find fixing regular raft material easier.

                        I aggree with Jim Strutz, For light loads cats are great and alot of fun, but for long river trips where I have a heavy load my first choice is a 14' Kenai Drifter S/B round raft. A round raft will glide over the shallows where the cats hang up and you often have to get out and drag then through.


                        I'm wondering if the Cat Jim is talking about is the same one we recovered off the Matanuska near the glacier view take out? That was quite the L shaped slice you had in that tube!

                        Good boating

                        Jim King
                        Alaska Series Inflatable Boats,
                        Commercial quality at Wholesale prices
                        River Rafts, Catarafts, Inflatable Kayaks, Inflatable Canoes, Inflatable Sport Boats, Inflatable Jet Boats, Tenders and Dinghies.
                        WWW.alaskaseries.com
                        (907) 248-2900

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Cataraft loads

                          I want to be clear when I say that cats should be lightly-loaded. I don't want to suggest that cats cannot haul big loads; the truth is that they can. What I mean is that you don't want to pack it in like you must on a round boat- you've got a lot more room to deal with because the bow and stern areas are open. Plan your load carefully with either boat and you'll be fine.

                          In my experience a 14-foot round boat hauls about the same load as you'd put on an 18-foot cataraft.

                          Hopefully that makes sense.

                          -Mike
                          Michael Strahan
                          Site Owner
                          Alaska Hunt Consultant
                          1 (907) 229-4501

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I agree Mike. I find it easy to overload cats, but if you keep that in mind they work quite well. I've used mine everywhere. I just don't think they're the best boat for everything.

                            One thing I didn't mention was that while cats can be broken up into smaller parts to haul in a plane or just to portage, they also weigh more for their hauling capaicty. They also take longer to set up once you get it to the rivers edge. That's probably the prime reason you almost always see a cataraft hauled in one piece on top of a trailer. Round boats get taken down more often because they are easier to put back together. For that reason they are often easier to store.

                            Jim King... Yes, it's the same boat. Odd that I forgot about that. Actually it's surprising that I managed to get it back together after that series of rips. Hard to blame Aire for that kind of abuse though. That was a nasty bit of rusty steel it hung up on. Thanks again for hauling it back to town.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Cataraft loads

                              Jim,

                              I hear you on the setup time for cats. I trailer mine all summer, but I do the same thing with my self-bailer too, just to get off the ramp quicker Still, it takes me at least an hour to set up my cataraft. The frame is pretty complex.

                              I also agree with you that they're not the "everything boat" folks are looking for. Nothing is. That's what I love about Alaska. You need at least two tents, two rafts, two powerboats, several firearms and a half-dozen fishing rod /reel setups just to get close to covering the options!

                              Thanks for chiming in on this, you have a lot of experience, which I respect a great deal.

                              The Grand Canyon pics were great!

                              -Mike
                              Michael Strahan
                              Site Owner
                              Alaska Hunt Consultant
                              1 (907) 229-4501

                              Comment

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