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Old 05-23-2016   #1
trevko's Avatar
Fort Fun, Colorado
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 117
Converting a bucket boat to a SB

My experience rowing a SB is nil. I have probably over 5000 river miles in bucket boats and my opinion of self bailers was formed in '96 running Hermit. The 5th wave was huge and breaking that year. 5 boats ran the gut, 3 buckets and 2 SB. All 3 buckets made it fine and both SB's got surfed by the 5th wave and flipped. I know, not a huge amount of data to form a conclusion but it left a strong impression. I love the way a bucket boat tracks. My wife hates having to bail. I run class 3 with the wife and kids these days.

I don't need a discussion on the pros or cons of a bucket vs. a SB, that has been covered many times.

My questions is to those folks who have converted a bucket boat to a SB. Was it worth the time and expense to convert your boat? Did you notice a huge difference rowing it? Would you do it again or just buy a self bailer that was made to be a self bailer?

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Old 05-23-2016   #2
Shingle Springs, California
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 100
I was just about ready to do a conversion (Small 10'er) until someone pointed out that the in most cases the location of where the floor of a bucket boat and a self bailer attached to the tubes are very different. Check this out and it might answer your question for you. In my case I would have ruined the boat.

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Old 05-23-2016   #3
dirtbagkayaker's Avatar
Bazzaro, World
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,324
I killed a boat this way. If I had a second shot, I would have glued in a pocket in the floor to use a slide in bladder like AIRE does and used a hole punch to cut some hole like NRS boats. It tried the grommets and Maravia floor. The hboat never really worked good. Anyway. Good luck
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Old 05-23-2016   #4
Basalt, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 15
Most of the 'early' flips in the grand were the result of loading all of the gear -in the rear of the rafts ,as was common practice in bucket boats . for a time the solution was to reverse the loading and put the gear in front and the passengers in the back.
however the best solution is to remove the thwarts and load the boat as evenly as possible front to back and side to side . [using your gear to keep the boat stiff.]
I use drop bags ; and if running empty then I can place my thwarts back in the drop bags -to secure.
The cheapest way to convert your raft to SB is to drop in an nrs outlaw type - drop stitched floor. Not as nice as a full on Sb floor .; but works fine. downside is that it is a pain to keep clean , as sticks and debris like to get caught underneath. I used a 2'
piece of 1" pipe sharpened to punch the drain holes in my floor.
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Old 05-23-2016   #5
jakebrown98's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 165
What Spanky said...

I have thought about this many time over the years as I love my old Avon Pro bucket boat. But when it comes right down to it there isn't a way to do it that would equal the performance of a factory SB. The price of new floors is also almost the price of a quality used SB. Hyside seems to be a good source of new floors but they are still almost 2k.

If you came across a used floor that fit for free or almost, and wanted to spend a couple hundred bucks on glue and patch material and a couple weekends cutting off the old floor and gluing in a brand new grommet strip higher on the tubes you MIGHT end up with a boat that handled well for cheaper than a use SB.

Me? I plan to keep my old AVON till it dies (unlikely) or I can pass it on to someone who will cherish it. I'll keep rowing it down class III and IV pool drop and making people bail for as long as I can. Then I'll buy a used SB. For continuous whitewater and hard stuff I have my 14' Hyside SB already.
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Old 05-25-2016   #6
telluride, Moab, UT
Paddling Since: 1977
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 60
I am old school and like bucket boats. I bought a "bucket buster" pump system years ago that works just fine. It is a simple deal w 2 pumps, a small pelican box with a battery and a flexible solar panel. Here is a link, not sure if they still sell them, but you can buy everything online at amazon and put it together yourself. I bit of hassle for a one day, but works great for longer trips, got me down 4 grand canyon trips so far in 10 years of use.
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Old 05-26-2016   #7
Wolf Hole, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 45
I bought my 16' Domar bucket boat new in 87. My chief bailer was usually my long-suffering very petite wife. About 15 years later, she had had surgeries on a neck vertebrae and rotator cuff and discovered that most of our boating friends had self-bailers. At the time we were living in Anchorage, Alaska. I had a friend at Alaska Raft and Kayak, Tracey Harmon, who is a fantastic raft glue guy. He knew someone in Eugene, Oregon who fabricated custom SB floors. I wish I could remember that guy's name. Tracey took the old floor out of my boat and shipped it to Oregon. A new grommet-style SB floor was fabricated using the exact dimensions. Tracey professionally glued in the new floor perfectly. The boat tracks like it came out of the factory that way. Total cost was $1800. I have no idea if there is now anyone around that could do it this way or how much it would cost in today's dollars. But it was worth every penny at the time. I still have that boat and it is in great shape.

That said, my trips in Grand Canyon have all been in 18' bucket boats. Have to admit, I have been full of water a couple of times and might have flipped without the extra water weight. On the other hand, maybe I could have avoided those holes altogether without the water weight slowing down my ability to ferry the boat over.

It didn't take much rowing to decide the SB feature is worthwhile for the oarsman as well as the bailers. If you are trying to make the move to avoid Skull hole in Westwater or maneuver through Snaggletooth, 1 or 2 people with buckets can't lighten your load near fast enough. I loved the SB immediately and will never go back to a bucket boat except for flat water fishing.

So I would vote for conversion that is done right. I just don't know if a truly professional customized conversion is even available anywhere right now. Even if it is, only you can decide if the old boat is worth spending that much money on.
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Old 07-03-2016   #8
Jackson, Wyoming
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 10
I converted my 1997 Avon bucket boat to SB.

It works great. I wouldn't hesitate to run about anything on it. It handles as good as any factory SB I've rowed, and in my opinion it handles better than it did as a bucket boat.

The key is to get the old floor cut out with enough left to allow the new SB floor to float up to about 1/3 of the tubes diameter.

More info and pictures here:
How To: Fix a Bucket Boat

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