Zodiac Capabilities in PWS?

deerhunter88

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Hello all,
Up front I do realize that there are probably 500 answers to this question but I am curious as to what the distance and capabilities of a 12 foot zodiac would be in the Prince William Sound. I am only considering nice weather outings, not looking to get into anything forecasted to be over 2 foot waves, but of course planning and finding yourself in such situations are two different things. I currently have a new 5 HP four-stroke outboard but am considering upgrading to a 9.9 HP.
To elaborate on my intentions here, I would be planning to MAYBE take it as far as Surprise Cove or Pigot Bay while giving myself time to wait out a bad weather and camp out provided I pack light enough. I do not currently have the means to get a larger boat, hence the reason for the questions and post. Does anyone have any insight into this?
 

kwackkillncrew

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when all we had was a zodiak we took it as far as the back of shotgun cove. that was a 14 or 16 foot zodiak with a 30 horse. Most times we would go to a spot closer to whittier, we were only chasing ducks though not sure what your looking to do out there. I dont think i would go much further then squirrel cove in a zodiak that small, mostly because i feel like it would take for ever to get there. We were going out in october/ november and typically the mornings would be flat and then it would be 2-3 footers coming back to whittier which makes you feel real small in a zodiak in passage canal. If you pick your days you can do quite a bit in a zodiak that small but if it picks up, no matter how many days or who you piss off stay camped or off the water until it lies down. Also make sure you have a handheld vhf radio so you can talk to other boaters if you get in a bad situation even in oct/november there are still a decent amount of boaters out there on the weekends.
 

iofthetaiga

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When the water's flat you can literally go anywhere in anything for as long as your weather window holds. Your range will be determined by the efficiency of your hull and motor, and how much fuel and weight you're carrying. I know folks who sometimes us a zodiac for their 20 mile commute...but they're always set up to survive if things go gunnysack (as you always should be, regardless your type/size craft).
 

deerhunter88

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when all we had was a zodiak we took it as far as the back of shotgun cove. that was a 14 or 16 foot zodiak with a 30 horse. Most times we would go to a spot closer to whittier, we were only chasing ducks though not sure what your looking to do out there. I dont think i would go much further then squirrel cove in a zodiak that small, mostly because i feel like it would take for ever to get there. We were going out in october/ november and typically the mornings would be flat and then it would be 2-3 footers coming back to whittier which makes you feel real small in a zodiak in passage canal. If you pick your days you can do quite a bit in a zodiak that small but if it picks up, no matter how many days or who you piss off stay camped or off the water until it lies down. Also make sure you have a handheld vhf radio so you can talk to other boaters if you get in a bad situation even in oct/november there are still a decent amount of boaters out there on the weekends.
Yeah that's about as far as I would plan to go in this thing.
The main attraction for me is some fishing, jiging for rockfish and such, and the hopeful blacktail.
Which is something else I am trying to figure out from PWS veterans. I fully realize that deer populations are better the further out you can get, but what are the odds of running across some blacktail around Shotgun Cove, Squirrel Cove, Pivot Bay, etc?
Does anyone have any insight to this?
 

Daveinthebush

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If you ever watched River Monsters, there is a segment on halibut and includes one interview in Valdez. A friend of mine and the person interviewed, were out in a 12' Zodiak. They caught a 200# halibut, dragged it to shore to kill it and then towed it back into port. They were only out maybe 12 miles but good enough for a good catch. Jeremey Wade did the interview.

My friend and another friend took the same boat fur trapping. A seiner towed them to a bay 30 miles out of port here and they spent a month in February trapping on PWS.

They can do it. But much is dependent on your capabilities and pucker factor.
 

Sid

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It has been some time ago for the rubber dingy but you can go around the world on a good day but if the wind comes up you are in trouble ,with the small motor , an time you will have to go an come back home , so most people would not go because on the equipment an gas you should have with you for the trip an be safe ,
The weather an equipment [ over night an gas ] insufficient space in the boat of that size for a trip like you want to do , [ no gas out there ] the more eqip. you have the bigger the motor to push the boat ,. as I see it.
could be wrong but I don't think so ,
 
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Having spent most of my career on the water, I just can’t help but throw in my two cents. Deerhunter88 you said you were thinking about upgrading to a 9.9hp. I think that is a grand idea. Or as much hp as you can afford and the craft will handle. However, rather than upgrade- add. Use that 5 hp for a kicker for when your new motor takes a drink of water ect. I always have a redundant motor. You drag ‘em around seemingly forever without use, but when you need it, there’s no substitute. Oars will get you to the beach but wear you out getting you to the dock.
 

AK Enginerd

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My wife and I have a 12.5' Bombard Commando C3 and we have run it (in ideal conditions) almost to Lone island. I would argue that a 9.9 is a little small, we have a 20hp merc and that seems to be just about perfect for us. In general I would say that in really nice conditions its possible to run a boat that sized through Culross passage without too many issues. There are a ton of limiting factors though. A boat of that size is very unpleasant to cross Port Wells in even in 2-3' seas, and frankly its hard to carry more than 2 people with enough fuel to go much outside of passage canal. In a 12' Zodiac, space is at a premium and you must allocate some of it for emergency gear (fire starter/space blankets/coast guard signal gear). One thing I would highly, highly recommend getting is a portable VHF radio you can strap to your life jacket. If I were to get a zodiac to go out into PWS, I would save up an extra dollars and get a 16' with a 35-45hp motor; I think it is just a lot more versatile.

As for blacktails, I don't have nearly the experience of some people on this forum when it comes to that but I don't think it is very common to find them closer than the southern tip of Culross.

Photo taken in the middle of port wells on an exceptionally calm day, from our 12.5'er.

IMG_20210717_173615033_HDR.jpg
 

deerhunter88

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It has been some time ago for the rubber dingy but you can go around the world on a good day but if the wind comes up you are in trouble ,with the small motor , an time you will have to go an come back home , so most people would not go because on the equipment an gas you should have with you for the trip an be safe ,
The weather an equipment [ over night an gas ] insufficient space in the boat of that size for a trip like you want to do , [ no gas out there ] the more eqip. you have the bigger the motor to push the boat ,. as I see it.
could be wrong but I don't think so ,
Very good points. This will be taken into consideration. Thanks.
 

deerhunter88

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My wife and I have a 12.5' Bombard Commando C3 and we have run it (in ideal conditions) almost to Lone island. I would argue that a 9.9 is a little small, we have a 20hp merc and that seems to be just about perfect for us. In general I would say that in really nice conditions its possible to run a boat that sized through Culross passage without too many issues. There are a ton of limiting factors though. A boat of that size is very unpleasant to cross Port Wells in even in 2-3' seas, and frankly its hard to carry more than 2 people with enough fuel to go much outside of passage canal. In a 12' Zodiac, space is at a premium and you must allocate some of it for emergency gear (fire starter/space blankets/coast guard signal gear). One thing I would highly, highly recommend getting is a portable VHF radio you can strap to your life jacket. If I were to get a zodiac to go out into PWS, I would save up an extra dollars and get a 16' with a 35-45hp motor; I think it is just a lot more versatile.

As for blacktails, I don't have nearly the experience of some people on this forum when it comes to that but I don't think it is very common to find them closer than the southern tip of Culross.

Photo taken in the middle of port wells on an exceptionally calm day, from our 12.5'er.

View attachment 2784478
Thank you sir. This is insightful. I am considering just saving some money for perhaps a larger skiff or maybe even building my own Tolman Skiff as I have wood working skills and tools. It seems like that would be a much better option and not much more expensive than buying a 16' zodiac with all the fixins.
 

Daveinthebush

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Many wanting to expand their opportunities start out with something like this.
On good days you can fish quite a way out, but I wouldn't make trips to the gulf. If over nighters are in your plan and longer trips people move up to something like a 22' SeaSport or something with a cuddy cabin. Sleeping on the floor of the one listed above in the rain is not fun. I went from a 21' Aurora canvas top to a 22' SeaSport to a 24' SeaSport. The 24' is about perfect for 1-2 people. If I had a family, I'd go 26-28'.
 

walter sobchak

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Thanks for the info shared here. I have a 15.5’ inmar that I’m hoping to get out in PWS and Kachemak Bay a bit this summer to camp with the family. So far have just day tripped on Skilak and Tusty. I‘m hoping to have a 30 horse on it by the spring. Will be starting off going real close and building up our confidence. Looking forward to reading about and sharing some trip reports.
 

4merguide

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Thank you sir. This is insightful. I am considering just saving some money for perhaps a larger skiff or maybe even building my own Tolman Skiff as I have wood working skills and tools. It seems like that would be a much better option and not much more expensive than buying a 16' zodiac with all the fixins.
That Tolman is a nice design for sure. Not a bad idea if you have the skills and the time. But I can't imagine what a sheet of marine grade ply goes for these days.
 

Daveinthebush

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That Tolman is a nice design for sure. Not a bad idea if you have the skills and the time. But I can't imagine what a sheet of marine grade ply goes for these days.
There is the box store marine grade and real marine grade. I picked up a sheet for a friend from Spenard's. He used to work for the oil terminal doing QC and safety and is really, really, research oriented. Spenard's is where I'd buy mine. If I am remembering correctly, I picked up a sheet of 3/16 (5mm) at the same time for the inside of my boat ceiling and it was close to $90 two years ago.
 

akskycowboy

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Thank you sir. This is insightful. I am considering just saving some money for perhaps a larger skiff or maybe even building my own Tolman Skiff as I have wood working skills and tools. It seems like that would be a much better option and not much more expensive than buying a 16' zodiac with all the fixins.
I’ve been in PWS in a 13’ Zodiac with a 25HP with two other friends onboard and we got into some nasty weather. The pucker factor was about a 9.5 and the boat took on alot of water, coming in faster than it could exit and enough to sink a skiff. I had other hair raising adventures in that thing too. So…. I’m a big proponent of inflatables (I’d rather have a hypalon material boat than a pvc).
Hope that’s at least a little helpful 🤷🏼‍♂️
 

iofthetaiga

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There is the box store marine grade and real marine grade. I picked up a sheet for a friend from Spenard's. He used to work for the oil terminal doing QC and safety and is really, really, research oriented. Spenard's is where I'd buy mine. If I am remembering correctly, I picked up a sheet of 3/16 (5mm) at the same time for the inside of my boat ceiling and it was close to $90 two years ago.
Two years ago here in Fairbanks 4mm Hydrotek was $62, 6mm was $76. Haven't priced it this year, but I imagine 9mm and 12mm (which is what's used for a Tolman hull) is probably about $150 and $180 per sheet respectively...and still you can build a better skiff for less $ than you can buy made of aluminum or chopped glass.
 

BQuad

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All depends on the weather. I would recommend a drysuit in any chance of inclement weather and personal locator beacon/InReach, especially if out in the winter. I’ve poked around Passage Canal in a Mokai, you can get amazingly flat days out there. I have seen deer and there are a lot of small pocket beaches that can be landed with a small Zodiac. Bring a pump, inflatables can take a lot but can fold in half if not pumped up firm. As others have said a 12’ footer does not carry much and will be a limiting factor.
 

andyak

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My wife and I camped out of a 15' Avon with a 20 horse for several summers. We easily got to Barry Arm, Perry Island, and Nellie Juan glacier area, and back!
It takes some planning and careful packing.
People talk about rough water....you do have to be aware of where you can beach and be ready to get on shore in case things change up.

I'm into larger boats now, but I wouldn't be out in a fiberglass boat without an inflatable along with me. As I tell my passengers, it's the only meaningful life preserver on board.
 

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