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Old 04-27-2014   #1
Washington, Washington, D.C.
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 6
Low Cost Intro Raft

Monthlong lurker and first-time poster here. Thought I would share the starter boat I'm working on as a beginner's foray into the world of inflatables. I wanted a small boat mostly for float fishing eastern rivers solo or with one buddy, in flat water up to class 2, with possibly a class 3 rapid here and there. Mostly pretty tame rivers, though.

I looked at canoe-like inflatables like the Saturn RD365 ducky/boat ($550) and the Aire Traveller ($2100), and small rafts like the Aire Puma and the Mini Me. All of those were outside my price range though, since the resale market in this part of the country is crappy and I'm not even sure how much I'll actually use the boat.

So I decided to take a chance on a $200 raft called the Intex Mariner 3. I know, I know--not a real whitewater raft. It's a 10 foot long PVC inflatable, rated to 660 lbs. The PVC is 0.75 mm thick, which although not as rugged as hypalon or premium PVC rafts, is not much lighter weight than the 0.9 mm used on the Saturn RD 365. It's also got a removable PVC fabric floor insert with slots that hold PVC lumber planks, to add some stability for fishing. (Not sure whether this floor is a liability for floating rivers with riffles/rapids...thoughts?) Unfortunately, the Mariner has only got 2 air chambers, which is a major risk for running rivers. I'll have to carry patch kit and hope I can make it to shore before losing whatever gear is in the boat. (Yes, I have PFDs!) If I pop this thing and/or just give up on it, $200 isn't a whole lot to lose. And I should be able to reuse the frame components on a tougher boat like the Saturn or Aire.

Attached are some pics of the speed rail fitting & fence line post row frame I've built for this little raft. I still need to cut down the plywood seats to size, bolt them on with u bolts, and secure the tractor seat. Planning to use Carlisle Economy oars, 6.5'.

I welcome any thoughts/warnings/advice about the boat, or anything else for someone just getting into rafting. Cheers, and thanks for making this such a great forum.
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Cavalierchamp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2014   #2
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 535
even if this is a troll, i want to hear how you are attaching that frame to that boat.

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Old 04-27-2014   #3
k2andcannoli's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 657
used rafts for sale west virginia | River Riders
Used bucket boats in good ol WV

Harper's Ferry is about an hour from you.
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Old 04-27-2014   #4
openboat's Avatar
Longmont, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 227
I hope it works for you, but please don't go rafting alone on remote stretches without another raft or kayak along.
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Old 04-27-2014   #5
Sembob's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 485
Wasn't there a rumored warehouse near you (West Virginia) I think just overflowing with cheap top name rafts?

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Old 04-27-2014   #6
Washington, Washington, D.C.
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 6
Originally Posted by Sembob View Post
Wasn't there a rumored warehouse near you (West Virginia) I think just overflowing with cheap top name rafts?

That sounds delightful. I'm all ears.

K2, thanks for sending me the river riders page. Looks like some decent deals on used boats.

Upshitcreek, I may try to secure the frame to some plastic moldings that are welded to the pvc of the boat. If that doesn't seem strong enough, I'll probably glue on some d rings.

Openboat, I'll be careful... Not going anywhere too remote in this boat.
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Old 04-27-2014   #7
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 535
Originally Posted by Sembob View Post
Wasn't there a rumored warehouse near you (West Virginia) I think just overflowing with cheap top name rafts?

yeah, i remember that thread. no idea if it is true but this was the company that guy was talking about. give them a call and see what they say.
West Virginia Raft Repair
RT 3 Box 432
Fayetteville, WV 25840

so i'm just going to respond here in case you aren't actually a troll....

personally, i think you are throwing away your precious little money away right now. everything you are buying will go right in the trash can if you stick to it. the boat, the frame, oar locks, the cheap econo oars, the d-rings you are going to have to buy for that frame,ect... just huck it all the trash if you really get into it. it's a total waste of time and money on your present path.

cheapest way to get on the water with a new boat is an inflatable kayak like a aire tomcat solo. or better....just search NRS' or 'buzz gear swap or do a search of all of craigslist nationwide for used IK's or rafts and find someone who is willing to ship. ik's are the least investment since you don't have frames, oars, tons of cam straps,ect,ect,ect. just a good but cheap carlisle kayak paddle, IK, cheap starter pump,pfd. done, basically for just starting out.

also, your frame is abit too narrow working around that plastic oar lock thing. you are better off going too wide than narrow. second those plastic things on the side are not going to hold a frame, especially one that's too narrow to begin with and when they rip out then you probably destroyed your raft too. real frames put huge stresses on a boat in whitewater. and a boat like that isn't designed to take that stress. also, if you stick with that frame. make sure that side rail is only on the flat part of the tube and nowhere near the curve up on the bow and stern. the edges will be hot spots on an already very,very non durable, fragile rig.

dude,.02 cents.... just box that thing back up and return it to walmart or whatever and save yourself allot of personal risk, hassle and money down the line. be patient and go used or get a aire tomcat or something. it's all just pissing in the wind right now.
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Old 04-27-2014   #8
Austin, Texas
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 136
Those rope guides that you are talking about will prob tear when you tighten the frame down to the raft. Maybe not right away, but soon.
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Old 04-27-2014   #9
FlyingDutchman's Avatar
Westfield, Massachusetts
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 178
I agree with upshitscreek...

I would not even use the frame, just use the stock plastic oar locks and oars with your little boat. The metal frame is overkill for that little PVC boat, and it will probably slide around and wear holes in the PVC in whItewater.

I used to have an intex mariner 4. It lasted about 70 river miles. It carried enough for an overnight. I remember running some really BIG rapids on the connecticut river at 80,000 cfs.....carnage....

My Intex eventually popped on a pointy beaver stick and I gave up and switched to 1000 dollar hypalon raft. The hypalon raft lasted about three years and about a 1000 river miles with lots of abuse. And now I row a super puma.
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Old 04-27-2014   #10
Calgary, Alberta
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 361
Don't listen to these negative Nancies!

I have direct experience using an older version of the same boat (probably the Mariner 4 that FlyingDutchman is referring to) and I think for what you intend to use it for, you'll be just fine. I have even run this boat with two people paddling into a couple of class III rapids and while it help up fine, I would say that this is past the boats confidence range. We took on A LOT of water in those rapids and needed to pull over to bail. My opinion is that this boat is pretty resilient, and I'm not sure if yours has an inflatable keel, but mine did and it made it track really well. II to II+ is just fine for this boat.

I used mine for day trips and multiple overnighters... everything up to class II+ rivers, up to 4 day/3 night trips, with two people and all their gear on the boat (and more beer than you can shake a stick at) and I thought be boat handled all of that fine.

A few tips to share from my experience:
1) I glued some thin wear strips on the top of my tubes to prevent frame wear. I used a pretty heavy-duty fabric, but if I had it to do over again I'd just use this thinner IK material that's softer and easier to work with (AIRE PVC Kayak Material at
2) I agree that ideally a frame would go outside the stock plastic oar-lock parts that are welded on the boat, but I put mine inside those locks as well and didn't have any issues. When I was lining things up, it didn't look like outside those locks was going to work.
3) I had very low clearance between the oars and my legs... you might need taller towers and slightly longer oars than you think. I had either 6.5' for 7' cheap wood oars and the regular 6" NRS towers.
4) The boat isn't self bailing the the space between the rigid floor and the extended keel has a propensity to fill up with water. I cut a small oval out of the PVC sleeve that holds the rigid slats to allow space for a manual bilge pump to fit in, pointed towards the lowest point in the keel section... this allows easy bailing of any water that makes it's way over the sides.
5) I removed most of the perimeter line and only left short sections on the bow and stern for something to grab on to. As you can see from my pics, I attached the frame with 8 straps (vs 4 on large boats with full sized D-rings) to distribute the load amongst the welded on attachment points. I didn't reef on the straps, but it was pretty tight on there and didn't feel like I was in danger of ripping them off.
6) Because it has a rigid floor and just rested the cooler on that floor and used a couple of straps to attach the cooler handles to the frame rails.

I have since upgraded to an RMR so I can carry more gear and push the difficulty levels, but I have absolutely no regrets with my Intex boat purchase and have a lot of fond memories of the rivers I paddled on it.

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