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Old 02-22-2009   #1
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
Raft vs. Cataraft

I'm a kayaker from Maine. All I know about rafts up here is to avoid the parades of them on the Penobscot or the Kennebec Gorge. Those are almost all commercial with 8 tourists weakly paddling, usually not together. Ain't much love for rafts from the K1-ers in the northeast.

I've not spent much time on the Rios of the southwest but I've spent some and I'm going to spend more this season. Floated the Slickrock section of the Dolores last year with my son at the oars of a 14'? raft and me K1ing so I real quick got exposed to the value of raft support. Awesome couple of days.

So, what are the advantages of an oar rig raft vs. a cataraft? Is the cat more nimble? Can it haul as much gear? Passengers? Cost? I know I could do a search but hey, this is February. We're typing instead of paddling and I'm interested in what the current active members of the board have to say.


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Old 02-22-2009   #2
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C. Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2004
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In very simple terms.....cats are like skiing and rafts are like snowboarding........... one carves down the river and the other slides down the river.

Cats take a while to rig and load where rafts are more forgiving as to where you stow everything. Balance is everything when it comes to rowing a cat. Not so much with rafts. My NRS cat takes 22 straps to put it together as my raft takes a minimum of 4 straps to hold the frame in place. I hit a rock once while trying to straddle it with my cat and ended up bending my frame and dumptrucking myself out the front. (Browns Canyon, right side of #5 in the Staircase.) I would of slid over that same rock with a raft and had no damage done while staying high and dry.

Hauling passengers is harder with a cat as you need to provide them some where to sit, but a raft.....much easier to find a place ot sit. It's also harder to R1 or paddle out a cat if you loose the ability to row it. That's all I can think of right now.

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Old 02-22-2009   #3
no tengo
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Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
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caver said a lot of good things. the only thing I would add is cats are about the most forgiving boat you can have in a class V hole. also if you are lightly loaded you can catch pretty small eddys and ferry across the river easily. we use one for additional safety (plus kayaker) on our class V run.

if you want to go multi-day up to class IV with gear and passengers a raft would be the best choice.

i will also add for steep creekin class V with waterfalls you would also want a raft (small paddle boat) since oars and frame are a liability.
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Old 02-22-2009   #4
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Little Village, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
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The answer is... it depends.

Cats are more nimble if not overloaded. If they're piled up with creature comforts, they're sluggish. Rafts are much more comfortable for passengers (read: drier) and faster to rig. You can't really turn a cat into a paddle rig. But cats punch holes better.

I prefer cats. They work for my uses. Rafts may work better for yours. There's no definitive answer to this ongoing question. It just depends.
Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine.
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Old 02-22-2009   #5
Paddling Since: 96
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Thanks, I think I'm developing a better picture. Are cats faster? Can you make a ferry in a cat that you can't in an oar rig raft?

Also, Riparian Dude, I'm gettin old enough so that your repeated references to depends is something I take personally.

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Old 02-22-2009   #6
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
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I've owned both - I went from a 16' cat to a 16' self bailer because I have a young kiddo. The other advantages to a self bailer that weren't mentioned is a drier ride, a contained cockpit (stuff / kids / dogs won't fall through your frame and into the water), and the ability to leave the frame at home & just take it out for a paddle raft day trip. As mentioned, rigging a SB is a lot quicker.

Cats are cheaper, punch holes well & are fast, and are easier to store (tubes roll up smaller than a bailer). They handle hard-edged gear better (metal boxes, etc), but you need lots of straps with a cat.
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Old 02-22-2009   #7
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C. Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Cats don't taco like rafts in a hole. They tend to be faster on the water too.

The kayakers on my Grand trip preferred my cat over the rafts when they did do some rowing. They liked the handling and surfability it offered. Nothing like surfing a fully loaded cat. Their kayaks strapped on better too.
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Old 02-22-2009   #8
Parachute, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
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What size NRS tubes are those on your cat?

Length and diameter please.

thanks, Chris
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Old 02-22-2009   #9
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Farmington, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 140
A cat has better straightline speed, and a raft turns quicker. If you're trying to ferry, I think it depends less on the boat and more on the rower as to how "quick" you can do it.

If you're looking to get into rafting, get out and do some rowing. Get a feel for how each type of boat rows, and then start deciding on a type of boat.

I think its cool a long-time 'yaker is seeing the benefits of both types of boating. I'm of the opinion that K1 boaters turn into really good rowers.

I have a 16' selfbailer that I love, it is very nimble, and can pack a ton of stuff. I disagree with caverdan's thought about balancing gear. I can tell when somebody put the beer on the wrong side of the cooler, and I hate having a rear-heavy boat that feels like I'm gonna wheelie over in a wavetrain. Gotta even it all out...
4 out of 3 people have trouble with fractions.
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Old 02-22-2009   #10
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C. Springs, Colorado
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Originally Posted by Shiryas View Post

What size NRS tubes are those on your cat?

Length and diameter please.

thanks, Chris
They are the 14'ers. three chambers per side. I think the diameter is around 22" but not sure. I'll try and look it up.

Edit: The tube diameter is 25"

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