Back in the 90's, my brother and I bought our first raft together. It was the end of the season of his first year of guiding in Browns, and he found a good deal on an old Avon from ART. It had been used and abused for many years as it is a 1987 self bailing adventurer. We picked it up cheap as it had an I beam that was giving out in the floor. Not long after we got it, we were floating down Browns with my brothers little girl, trying to figure out a name for our new/old boat. She spoke right up and said we should call it Old Gray Mare......."because she ain't what she use to be." Of coarse the name stuck.
After running it for a year with it's floor problems, my brother ended up taking it to Eric at Inflatable Restoration and Repair. Eric was busy, but let him have a corner of his shop and provided the instruction to help him repair our old boats I beam. This gave new life to our old friend and it saw about 5 or 6 more years of being used almost every day in the summer. It went down the Grand twice. Went down Gore once.
We eventually bought more boats over the years. My brother was a Claveys rep for a season or two, and the I beams slowly started to go south one by one. We finally retired her around 06 or 07 with three blown I beams, several missing D rings, and a very leaky floor. It took up a space in the quiver for many years, but we just couldn't part with it.
Last year on a Deso trip, and old friend of mine got talking about her. I asked if I should donate her to patch material to help keep the rest of our fleet up. He wouldn't hear of it. He too loved Old Grey Mare back in the day, and has a real passion for old Avons. Just so happened that he does raft repair for a living.....go figure. Well......to make this long story shorter....I ended up dropping her off at his place in Denver this fall. His mission......fix her back up like new......kind of.
So my good friend and boat patching buddy fabricated 12 new D rings, 2 handles, 2 what I call Avon steps....or the front and back handles on the boat, and 4 new thort attachments of his own makings. My friend not only put in new valves, but relocated them to the outside of the boat. He opened up the floor and prepped it for the new I beams. The I Beams were ordered in through AAA in Denver, but they needed to be sewn to the right height. Big thank you to Judy at AAA for doing just that and modifying our I beams with her sewing skills. Without the help from Mark and Judy at AAA.....this boat would not be going back on the water.
We ended up putting in the I beams and finishing the boat up in my garage. Here are some of the pictures of the project in action. More pictures to come....