Originally Posted by Sembob
Stick, fork, evolution? I don't see the different boats as an evolution I see it only as more options. If I am having brats I'll take the stick. If it's pasta the fork. I like the post about the river exposing your boats weakness eventually. I guess you try and predict when and where, and make sure you are alright with that. There is some very good reading here and lots of good info but I am not any closer to knowing what boat to get yet. Or just go with what I have. I guess I feel as though I can certainly take my time in deciding. I think I have decided that the worse case scenario isn't a bad one.
One of the benefits of going with a bigger boat is more passengers which means more alternate oarsmen/women. Lots of flat water down there and its fun being a peep occasionally.
I have rowed a 16 foot and 18 foot down there. I actually had the 16 foot for the longer winter trip and was just happy with it, which is shocking as we needed a lot more gear. You definitely gain more space with a bigger boat but I have also found that the jump from 16 to 18 seems to mean a lot more space in the passenger compartment and comparably moderate more for gear storage. But that may just be our Avon bucket as it has a huge passenger compartment and didn't gain a lot of space between flat tubes. That extra space sure is helpful for carrying clean water during the summer though.
You will likely also get a major change and rise in the kick of the front tubes when you go bigger. Good if your passengers like to stay dry (we loved every hit during the heat of May). You will likely experience the same flop from such big front tubes as I did with our 18 foot Avon. The amount of flex was significantly more in the front of the boat (likely because it was older and longer).
There is no doubt that the 18 foot option will be slower to initially move (at least for puny to average size arms like mine). You learn to line up sooner. House Rock was a lot of work as the dog-leg right didn't give a lot of time to prep from the left scout. But I ended up having a great run. The benefit is once you get the bigger beast going they tend to keep their momentum longer.
I guess I would say this: if you won't have but one passenger, an average amount of gear and prefer to be able to dink and dunk a little more than most then stick with the smaller current rig. If you want to carry or have the potential to carry a few extra people, want to carry extra gear (if you build it they will come, prepare for that with a big boat), want a little easier time on the flat water and don't mind working a little harder at the entries to line up then go with the bigger boat.
If you do go with a bigger rig then I would recommend doing a shakedown run before your Grand trip. It took me a good 3-4 days to adjust my rowing style and reading the water accordingly after we bought the 18 footer. Don't think I would want to be going into the Roaring Twenties on Day 2 still adapting to the boats needs.
Have a great trip. Any boat you take will work and will likely feel small in the meat of several rapids. You can't see our 18 footer in the photo of Hermit (which I just can't describe how fun that rapid is). Its also amazing how quick the thoughts of gear diminish the moment you push off from Lees. Enjoy the journey.