Hope all is well up in Russian River land.
It is probably fair to say that you have a bit more faith than I do in pressure relief valves. They do help, but are far from a cure-all for floor failures Ė and in fact I feel they tend to instill false confidence. A necessary evil that must be mixed with a large dose of common sense. Any whitewater repair shop will tell you that most I-beam repairs are on boats with p.r. valves. As they get older, p.r.v. tolerances change due to both grit getting inside, and changes in the spring strength. The very best case I have seen claimed for a out-of-the box p.r.v. is 10% by Leafield, but not too many years ago even their pressure gauges were reading as much as 25% below the real pressure. And I would argue their gauge is made with more precision than their p.r.v. If we very optimistically figure + 15%, assuming your relief valve is set to 3.25, if itís in fact not blowing off until 3.75 psi this is pretty high for any glued I-beam regardless of the country of origin. It might be okay on a Grabner or Demaree, but those are vulcanized boats.
As to how your boats handle with the floors softer (I wasnít speaking of supporting gear, I was speaking specifically of hull speed), the difference between 2 and 3 p.s.i. was noticeable to me. On the 14í I was in on the Merced many years back, it seemed quite a lot more responsive with the floor firmer, and I did not think it was a subtle difference. I also had some water around my knees with less pressure, as did the other fellow in the boat. You yourself have told most SOAR owners weíve talked with to keep the floors fairly firm, no?
You mentioned that Inflatable Technologies only fixes about ten SOARís per year, and I believe you, but that does not mean only ten are blowing I-beams. Most boats with I-beam separations, yours included, are out of warranty and I.T. is far from the only boat repair shop in the U.S. Out of warranty one will tend to go to the nearest place for repairs. This does not mean that your boats blow more I-beams than other rubber boats, itís just that most companies are pretty conservative about their floor pressure suggestions. As to whether I.T. sees more floor failures of another brand than they do of SOAR boats, that is a rather dubious argument since there are far more NRS or AIRE boats in the field. And those two brands in particular have a long established record of high reliability where I-beams are concerned. Again, no one reading this has to take my word; ask the repair shop owners who post here like Zack Baird.
I donít come on here running a brand down just because we donít sell it. Weíve spoken well of many products on the MB forums that we donít carry, and we do the same on our website. I also take great pains to point out any shortcomings of the products we do carry.
Your main Alaskan dealer had a fair bit to say about the matter here though-
-and while I realize this post is nearly three years old and that there are two sides to the story, it coincides with much of what I have heard. I do talk with six to eight SOAR owners per season. A large majority are happy with the performance of your boats, but at least one out of 3 or 4 have also had I-beams go south. And the very reason that some of them are calling is to ask for repair advice.
None of this means someone should pass on SOARs, but I strongly suggest that owners of boats with inflatable floors consider the age of their craft when leaving it parked in the sun, or when using cylinder pumps that are capable of higher pressures.
As to canoe style inflatables, your brand and the pricey Grabners (for those who can take out a second mortgage on the house) have more choices than any other companies. No question there. But I donít think it does any disservice to your customers to tell them to watch the floors when the boats are on dry land in the sun. We do that all the time with every brand we carry. And, further, to not expect a small piece of hardware to take the place of keeping an eye on air pressure.