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Old 02-15-2009   #1
mountains, Colorado
Paddling Since: '92
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 418
Cataraft Oar location (up front?)

I've been rowing a 16' cataraft for the past decade and have experimented with a variety of set-ups (as far as location of captain, gear, fishermen and ride alongs...depending on the trip). Lately, I've noticed a few picks out there of the captain up front (his/her feet actually using the front yolk as a foot bar). So, to get to the point, I was wondering what everyone's take on this is. NRS folks? I've definitely seen it rigged this way a couple of times in your catalog. What's up?

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Old 02-16-2009   #2
Wirednoodle's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 114
I would be interested in hearing a response to this as well!

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Old 02-16-2009   #3
no tengo
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Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,768
Okay I used to think this was dumb - but its not on smaller boats 14' or less.

the whole idea is to center the mass (mostly the rower). so if you sit in the center of a 14' cat your oars are forward and you might actually be up front depending on your frame.

sometimes nrs folks take it to an extreme and sit near the tippy tip of the front with all this gear and people behind them. they claim to be able to row out of holes and while I am sure they have some big holes in idaho - this causes a very large lever arm making it much harder to turn.

so try to center your mass and keep your pivot point (oars) close to center as well for ease of turning. one tip is to put your water jugs just under your oarlocks you can very much notice the difference in spin ability.
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Old 02-16-2009   #4
prescott, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 276
here's what jack's plastic welding has to say, i agree with him:

"Why do we see some Cat boats rigged with the oars forward on the craft?

I have often pondered this myself. There is some benefit to be gained by every change and some disadvantage. I am assuming that the benefit to this style is to get the weight and the power of the oars through a reversal (hole) first. In this way it is possible to have the weight and the power down stream of the reversal where it can be used more effectively. The Down side to this style is that you are dragging your load behind you instead of following the load down the river. In Idaho they use the forward oar position a lot, doing day trips on class 5 rivers. In my opinion as the gear load gets larger the benefit of this technique diminishes till it is a disadvantage. Definitely not a style I would use on a multi day trip. The advantage of having the oars mounted in the center or rear of center, give the ability to follow the load down the river, to pull back upstream, and aid in maneuverability by slowing the boat down in relation to the current. An oarsman can always turn the boat around and "Powell" down stream, or pull down stream across big waves to make his moves. This is a classic Grand Canyon big water move. This move gets the boat into the slower water at the edge of the rapid, and can really help a boatman avoid big holes in the middle of high volume rivers."

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Old 02-17-2009   #5
mountains, Colorado
Paddling Since: '92
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 418
Thanks for the feedback. I tried to scratch my head on it, but froze up.
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Old 02-19-2009   #6
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,932
I have used this technique for two different reasons.

First, solo in my small cutthroat with for day trips or quick overnighters. It punches well and the small boats don't feel the foot or two difference in centering very much.

Second, day trips in my larger AIRE cataraft with inexperienced passengers. I did so this past summer with my nephew and mom at high water on the Arkansas. Keeps the splash down, catapulting to a minimum (for them) and punches as well. Can't stress the comfort of being behind the captain enough for inexperience passengers on wilder water.

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Old 02-19-2009   #7
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Eagle, Idaho
Paddling Since: '78
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 794
I had the opportunity to row a 16' front-mounted cat on the Middle Fork last season through Dagger Falls. An old fellar approached me after I had rowed some of our crew through and asked if I'd row his (he didn't feel like portaging it and didn't feel up to rowing Dagger at 6.2').

I was more than a little nervous.....and only had about 400 yds. to "get the feel". It was strange, the difficulty for me was in positioning leading into the falls. My feet were at the tippy tip of the front tubes, 14' of tubes behind me. I had to envision where the front of a traditionally mounted rig would be and put MYSELF in that position. Crazy.

I have to say, the boat pivoted VERY well....I felt like I was doing an endo most of the time! However, the boat was pretty empty. I would imagine with a fully loaded boat it would be quite different and actually much harder to turn. Although, if you're running big water all the time and you're doing nothing more than lining it up....I don't see it being an issue. I like the idea of being on the front and trying to pull yourself out of big holes.

Somewhat technical whitewater with a loaded rig???? No thanks. But for the Grand or any other big water adventure, I'd be all over it. The ride is friggen awesome!!!!!
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Old 02-20-2009   #8
Durango, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 10
My 16' cat is set up with the rower in the front - there's even a footrest built that is part of the front cross bar. I've run with passengers on the front tubes (kind of a wild ride) and a good amount of gear in the back - you feel like a bulldozer, which is nice in the bigger stuff. Then this fall, I rowed solo/gear only on westwater - I tried to replace the passenger weight with water and still ended up a little back-heavy. Got surfed for bit in the little d hole as a result. Didn't flip, but disconcerting all the same. I wasn't a fan of pulling out of stuff versus the more balanced dozer experience.

So, long story short, I've had the same dilemma. I think I'm just going to flip the whole rig around where it is now, and try the gear up front. That should put the oars a lot closer to center than they are now, and set the balance to be a little front-heavy. I'll lose visibility and the front seat experience, but I won't have to worry about pulling everything behind me like a soggy trailer...

I guess the only thing I haven't seen is a center rig - it works for all those buckets, so it can't be all bad, right? has anybody tried center?
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Old 02-21-2009   #9
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at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347

Pretty much all we see around here are center mounts. The woman who put this video together, and her boating friends, all run center, and they do crazy, I mean CRAZY stuff. The Lochsa is an "easy" run for them. Most of the front rigs have passengers, but I see mostly centers here.
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 02-21-2009   #10
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Unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 961
I've seen that one before, but thanks for putting it up again. Nice video with my morning coffee.

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