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Old 05-13-2008   #11
Snowhere's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 93
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 844
Like said above, if you go to cheap you will be regretting it. A friend of mine would buy this beat up bucket boats he would always name 'Patches'. They would lose air so fast that he would pull over once every mile to pump up. I kayaked the Blue, at 3G, in 95 with him in his raft and got to see him taco in the big wave chains. It would be funny, but I think his head hit someone else's in the front of the raft and she was not pleased.

So take your time and really look. I passed on some commercial boats because they still wanted a lot for something that had 9 years commercial use and UV damage. I paid a little more then what the outfitters were asking and got a two year old, private boat with paddles, pumps, life jackets, helmets, repair kit..... A much better deal overall and a boat in better shape then any commercial throw away.

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Old 05-13-2008   #12
Chip's Avatar
SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
Hypalon vs. PVC?

Does PVC get brittle with age?

I've got PVC Jack's cat tubes going on 20 years old, used for lots of trips with no sign of brittleness, cracks, etc.

My take is that UV exposure's the #1 problem. For that reason, I'd avoid used outfitter boats, that spend entire seasons in the sun and are often parked on a trailer with no cover. One way to check sun exposure is to look at the patch kit, which usually includes some original fabric: compare the color and the quality of the surface (shiny vs. chalky & dull). UV protectants like Armor All help, but a boat that's continually exposed to the sun ages fast.

#2 is hauling and storage. Outfitter boats that get shuttled several times a day on a trailer, often in haphazard stacks, are subject to abrasion damage. Private boats that get trailered with rope tie-downs or are dragged on the ramps can develop bad patches in short order.

#3 is winter storage. If you fold (rather than roll) the boat the same way every year, and then stack stuff on top of it, you can get cracks or separation of fabric layers. Mouse-chomp is also an issue, if there are traces of food or beer.

Virtually any well-built self-bailing raft from a recognized maker can be a good beginner boat. The key is that it's in decent shape, and that you inspect it carefully— inside, outside, up and down— before laying down your hardearned cash.

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Old 05-13-2008   #13
Chip's Avatar
SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
Good Ol' Buckets

Another thought— if cheap is the main thing, look for bucket boats (with sealed floors that don't self bail). Self-bailing is a great practical feature, which is why virtually all new rafts have it.

But I've run a lot of drops with friends in bucket boats (including the Grand Canyon with a guy who loved his old Havasu and wouldn't let it go).

If you find a good ol' bucket, get a decent bilge pump that mounts on the frame in easy reach (and for long trips, get a spare. Sailboat stores and catalogs are a source for handpowered bilge pumps.) In big water, you'll need to allow for the loss of maneuverability that results from a boat half-full. That's not all bad. A swamped raft is stable as hell. Just hang on tight in the holes.
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Old 05-13-2008   #14
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
There's lots of good advice up above.

If you're looking for a cheap boat, PVC could be the way to go. They require a little more care due to not being quite as abrasion resistant as hypalon - most damage actually happens off river when the boats rolled and rubbing against something in a trailer or being dragged across rough surfaces - but wrapping it in a tarp takes care of a lot of that problem. There have been a lot of advances in the last decade in technology and glues so the seams supposedly hold up really well these days (I'm counting on that...) better than their reputation indicates. Coat the boat with some 303 conditioner (like armorall for rafts) a couple of times a year and you should be able to get years of private use out of a PVC boat.

Consider your planned use of a boat and keep asking around regarding what size to get.

Another thing to consider is that if you get a used outfitter boat, it may just fine for the amount of use you'll give it over years though its ready for pasture in terms of commercial use. Make sure you check out any boat you buy, inflate the tubes on opposite corners of the boat to check for blown partitions, put some soapy water on the boat to check for leaks if you don't have time to wait to see how well it holds air. When you're tempted to get a Baltic or Saturn, do searches here on their names to see what folks have had to say about them. Go get "The Complete Whitewater Rafter" by Jeff Bennett from Amazon.

Good luck!

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 06-01-2008   #15
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 06
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 10
PVC Care

So, I went out and bought a 10 year old used commercial PVC Maravia. The rubber on the tops of the tubes is dull and chalky. Should I just 303 it and call it good? I understand that you can put new coats of urethane on boats to give them extended life. Should I do that? Seems like i could drop $300 on urethane and not cover the entire boat. At what point do I need to do something?
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Old 06-01-2008   #16
Old Timme'
Mad_Hatter's Avatar
Eagle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 8
Originally Posted by Randaddy View Post
... I believe that Star rafts are made of glued PVC which degrades over time. .... I think it has something to do with the gas emitted by disintegrating PVC eating away at the glue.

.... you will be meeting a lot of rocks in your first years...
Sorry Star but he's right I've seen a Star delam after sitting out in the sun with in it's first year. I am sure with lots of care you can extend the life. I'm a Hyside fan (pricey$$) but a work horse. A used Hyside can last you years upon years.

Good luck..
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Old 06-01-2008   #17
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 20
I'm sort of in the same boat (ha ha), looking at an Aire 143D or a DRE Colorado Series or maybe dropping down in price and getting a Vanguard. Basically 3 entirely different boats with 3 entirely different constructions. Also looking at retired Hysides. At this point it's sort of a 3 way tie.
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Old 06-01-2008   #18
Cisco, Utah
Paddling Since: Dawn
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 351
the inflatable Shamu s at Wal Mart are very reasonably priced and surprisingly sturdy!!!
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Old 06-22-2008   #19
scoyoc's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 11
I'm lookin' to get my first raft too. Anybody got any tips on where to look besides the fore-mentioned. I checked out the swap forums on this site as well as craigslist.
Keep on, keepin' on!!
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Old 06-22-2008   #20
miker's Avatar
Indian Hills
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 340
What do folks think about marivias? They seem tuff. Are they too heavy? Performace as a paddle and oar boat?

With cunning skill like a duck walking a tightrope at night
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