Originally Posted by Paul7
We always run the risk of being misunderstood in forums, I appreciate your concerns about safety and would like to emphasize that I'm many seasons away from taking the family on anything difficult. Your idea of buying a used boat may make sense fininacally but does not relate to safety. Many of the local used boats I've seen are far outside of even the ten year warranty and they seem to want more than I think they are worth. If I buy new I run no risk of dropping cash on a POS unwittingly. Because I'm asking about gear does not mean I'm not asking safety questions otherwhere. Buying gear is a lot of decisions.
Paul, I would buy the boat that will fit your needs for years to come--tens of thousands of newbies, including myself did just that. If I could go back and change anything, I wouldn't at all. In 25 years I've purchased 3 new primary boats for my needs at the time and loved them all. Needs change of course, so I bought secondary boats during that time as well to run different rivers such as smaller southwest rivers without the whole family, or boats for my sons when they were ready to take their own.
The boat that will fit your needs from what you've stated is at LEAST a 15', or a 15.5' (better), or a 16' raft (my choice for a raft based on your stated needs).
An Aire is an excellent choice, don't get caught up in the bs that Maravia, NRS, Sotar, etc, etc, are the best--they're all good at that level of quality--just personal preferences.
Hook up with folks that can help you on the river on trips such as the San Juan, the lower salmon at low flows, and so on. My first trip was a Westwater in an Otter, and my second trip was a upper and lower Dolores--I somehow made it
Btw, I run a 14' Sotar, greatest boat out there! See, all boat owners swear theirs are the shit.
Also, if I were you, I would consider buying the sealed floor on an Aire raft-- you will end up on the silt rivers in the southwest sooner or later.