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Old 05-09-2014   #1
Laramie, Wyoming
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 4
Raft Performance

I’ve been rafting now for a few years and have about 10 years of ww kayak experience - I want to purchase my first “real” raft and because the Saturn I borrow is no longer available. I’m looking at 14 foot rafts and I’m going to be using a rowing frame and rafting Colorado and Wyoming rivers (class II – IV). I would like to leave cat's out of the discussion because I want a raft. I’ve probably read all of the posts about “what raft should I buy” and found great information but I wanted to ask for specific information about raft performance. I don’t want to know about raft longevity/quality or cost but pure speed and maneuverability. Here are a couple of things I found I would like opinions on: “Avon and Vanguard have high floors and are very slow”. “Aire D and R series maneuver well but hold water in the floor”. “RMR have blocky corners and are a bit slow”. I would love to here from all of the oarsmen who have rowed many rafts and know about performance in all types of technical water. I’ve looked at: Aire, RMR, NRS, Hyside, Sotar, Maravia…… Hope to get good info to help with my purchase. Thanks,

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Old 05-09-2014   #2
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,121
I'm a long time catarafter who just made the switch to a raft. I got a Sotar 14SL. Diminishing tubes. Supposed to be very maneuverable. I'll be running it for the first time over Memorial weekend. Just a class I-II float, but it should give me an idea on handling as compared to my cats. I'll give some feedback after the trip. I rowed a 12 ft. Hyside last year. Lots of fun, but a small boat, so hard to compare to a 14 footer.

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Old 05-09-2014   #3
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 520
I am a fan of AIRE, for what it is worth. My Super Duper Puma is a narrow and very maneuverable 13'9" raft. I just wanted to point out that you can get an AIRE floor that does not hold water. They are designed to hold water to help with stability, but you can also get the sealed pocket floor which does not hold water. A sealed pocket floor is likely to be more maneuverable and less stable. Mine lets water into the floor, but it is still very maneuverable.
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Old 05-09-2014   #4
Sembob's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 485
I think speed and maneuverability may come from design or shape more so than brand or material. Hypalon may be slower over a rock but in the water I can't imagine it matters much. I also think Aire offers options on there floors that doesn't hold water. It seems to me though that you should stay away from the standard round boat style found in NRS or Avon. Aire , Sotar and Maravia have boats that I would consider fast (if there is such a thing) and nimble. I have a Spider wade by Maravia and it is very maneuverable as was my Aire Puma. If I am doing 8 days on the Salmon though my Avon feels fast and maneuverable. The others would feel like toads loaded very heavy. So do consider the amount of gear or people you may carry as this should factor into boat design.

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Old 05-09-2014   #5
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
I started on Hypalon Rikens and have a 14' Sotar ST now. For paddling, I really like PVC/ urethane boats, they are very rigid compared to Hypalon rafts. When you add a frame, there isn't much difference. With no thwarts installed and my raft fully inflated, I can put it over my head like a canoe carry position in the yard. It is much lighter that the Rikens I've hoisted when I was younger. Two people can R2 it pretty easy, and I find it pretty easy to row with me and my small family in it. If you are looking for speed, the tapered tube design boats have an edge. Your statement about performance can mean a lot of things to different people.
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Old 05-10-2014   #6
Laramie, Wyoming
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 4
This is great information... thanks everyone. I did not know about the Aire floor options and I want to find a few of the designs with tapered tubes to look at and compare. If I take my time I'll find a boat that fits my needs. Another note... I was in Denver today and looked at some Aire boats and was impressed. I was also impressed with a new RMR I looked at. I'm not in the market for a round boat but I thought the quality and stiffness of that boat was great. IMO if RMR added one tube section to round out the boat a bit along with the drop stitch or I-beam floor option they will be selling lots of boats!
Thanks Again.
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Old 05-20-2014   #7
Fishnfowler's Avatar
Cle Elum, Washington
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 35
I just went from an 18' GC dory to a 16' Sotar SL and took my first trip last week. What an eye opener. The raft was a pig compared to the dory and I was rowing it empty. I'll have to give myself memory loss to forget how sweet the dory was.
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Old 05-20-2014   #8
East of the Pine beatle, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,363
Not to self- never row a dory

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Old 05-20-2014   #9
yesimapirate's Avatar
Denver-ish, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 741
Other factors that might play into the performance of the boat:

1. Where and how many drain holes? I won't claim to know the science of it, but the less holes seems to help with speed. Perhaps a lesser resistance to the water is what makes it faster? But then less holes would mean slower draining when you get pounded in big water.

2. CataraftGirl sorta hit on it, but tube shape(both on the bottom and top). The diminishing tubes are supposed be less wind resistant on the top half and therefore "faster", but I have a more traditional/sectional shaped boat and don't notice a major wind drag. On the water side, some would say the rockered boat is slower because at lighter weights it has less surface ares in contact with the moving water versus the traditional/sectional type boat. But I'm sure there's arguments saying the rocker is faster and more maneuverable with that continuous curve.

3. How much shit do you plan to carry? It's a legitimate question even within the ranks of only comparing 14 footers. If you're a "bring everything you might need, 5 friends, and many many beers" type, then a smaller tubed or narrower I would expect to perform like shitola versus a bigger tubed boat with a wider stance. If you're a minimalist "me, my tent, and my one bottle of whiskey" type, the narrower and smaller tubed boat would probably be a smidge better in performance.
Example: NRS's Patriot 142 has 21" tubes and a 6'8" width which is more beefy but slightly more cumbersome. AIRE's Super Duper Puma has 19" tubes and a 6' width which I would say is less beefy and more nimble.

4. And lastly, how do you plan to store and transport the boat? This factors in when you compare boat materials. If you have the space and will be keeping stored inflated and trailering, then no problem with getting the most rigid or thickest material-ed boat you want. If you're rolling it up after every trip or storing rolled up, you might consider the more malleable materials. Example: My 13 foot PVC boat sucks terribly at rolling up, and takes up massive amounts of space. Whereas several of my buddies with 14 and 15 foot hypalon boats can roll there's up in what seem like almost half the size of mine. But I have the space so I try NOT to roll mine if I don't have to when playing the game of "musical garage".
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Old 05-20-2014   #10
jakebrown98's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 165
Avons do not have high floors and handle completely differently than Vanguards.

All rafts are really "round boats." Cats are not. Most AIREs hold water in the floor, but that doesn't matter as long as the floor is in the water. When the floor is out of the water.... well, you know.

Of all the boats I've paddled and rowed Vanguards were the weirdest because they do have that really high floor. During a high-water season down the Lower Kern a few years back, trips driving Avons were in control; trips driving Vanguards were a shit show.

You've come to the right place to discuss the nuance of raft performance. But in reality, unless you're doing laps on the same section at the same flow with the same load it is nearly impossible to accumulate any truly useful data. Good luck doing that unless you're a commercial guide.

Ultimately you won't go wrong with a major manufacturer like Hyside, Avon, SOTAR, AIRE, Maravia, and you can sell it if you want to try something new. If you want to save a few bucks on a Vanguard, RMR, or (cough) Saturn, you could join the party of guinea pigs waiting to see if their boats will delam or explode.

Unless I had access to wholesale pricing, if I was in your shoes I'd just look for a good deal on a used Hypalon boat and get on the water without perseverating for years on 1/2" difference in the published specs between boats that you really can't get any experience with. Good luck in the hunt.

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