Hey folks - long time reader on the Buzz, but hardly ever post. I think I might finally have something constructive to contribute after reading about many people's decisions and comparisons on rafts. This is just meant to tell my story a little bit and maybe help someone else as they search for the right gear.
After looking for a used raft for years, I finally was able to save up enough and buy a new SOTAR. Considerations in my purchasing were
1) Price - Tough to find a screaming deal on a used rafts - those that are tend to go real fast. After a certain point, you have to ask yourself what your time is worth and whether you want to run around the region (or country for that matter) chasing a used boat that may or may not be exactly what you want. And if it's the right price, but maybe not exactly what you want, do you want to invest that much in something that you just foresee yourself selling in the future when it could potentially last 30 years otherwise ? Also, if you have access to industry discounts, it's often the case where you would paying only a little more for a new raft.
2) PVC v. Hypalon / Rubber - I started boating on PVC rafts and really enjoyed the stiffness versus Hypalon. Although being able to roll and store a hypalon raft with little to no negative effect really played into my purchasing consideration, I ultimately decided I want to go ahead and do PVC with the thought that I might store it rolled for the first few years until I could find a place to store it inflated. I am now feeling bad about rolling it and searching for a place to store it!
3) SOTAR v. Maravia - Both great boats from great manufacturers. I hear rave reviews of George's commitment to his customers over at Maravia. I also hear mostly good things about SOTAR. The factors that came in to play here were
A) Rollability - I would rather roll/fold a SOTAR than a Maravia. Maravia's are incredibly stiff.
B) Customization - SOTAR offers some minor customization work at really reasonable prices.
C) Price - The sales at SOTAR are great and really bring the price down out of the stratosphere and more just to cloud level. And they include 2 thwarts at their standard price!
D) As far as durability / performance go - I think both are great boats and you can't go wrong with either, however, I have seen older Maravia's develop pinhole leaks along the floor lacing and seen older SOTARs delaminate in spots.
4) Diminshing v. Standard Tubes - I've rowed both on class III/IV whitewater and liked both . 6 of one, half dozen of the other. The extra interior space afforded by diminishing tubes will be nice on my shorter boat with a 4 bay frame, but I don't feel it's a huge difference. I see some tangible space benefits from the diminishing tubes, but am not convinced I'm going to feel any tangible downsides to the performance of diminishing tubes on the water other than maybe a little more water over the front. I can never imagine myself saying "They would've made it had that boat had standard tubes!"
So that's it in a nutshell. the boat specs are as follows
14'6" SOTAR SL Yellow/w Kelly Green hardware/thwarts/floor bottom
22" tapering to 17" at bow/stern, 42" inside width
Plan on setting it up with a 4 bay NRS Bighorn II frame 82"x66" with 8" oar stands, NRS 145 qt Big Sky cooler (sounds like they've corrected some of the early production issues with these), and haven't decided on a dry box yet. Purchased 9'6" Sawyer Dynelite Square Tops which I hope will be the right length for this set up.
So that's pretty much it, let me know if you have any questions !
Those are liquid lex chafe strips. The one around the stern is for hanging a transom, as well as providing a less slippery surface for paddle guiding and stepping on/off the boat