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Old 08-25-2013   #1
montrose, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 325
Old style puma water in tubes and wrinkles

I was stoked to pick up a gently used puma for a good price last week, but after messing around with it a bit this weekend I am left a little confused.

One of the tubes has a little bit of twisting and wrinkles from the internal bladder. I have unzipped and repositioned the bladder about eight times now and I have gotten it better but still not perfect. Is there some trick or something.

While trying to straighten the bladder on the one side I noticed that there was about a half a cup of water in between the pvc shell and the bladder. An inspection of the other tube showed the same thing in that side too. I pulled the bladders out from the shells to let the moisture dry out and had a peek around the inside of the pvc shell. Oddly enough there is a series of tiny holes spaced about 2 1/2 inches apart that run the length of the tubes just about an inch above the stitched seam where the grey material meets the purple material. These tiny holes were definitely intentional. Are they meant to allow water to drain out of the tubes? I can't see any way to prevent moisture from getting in there with these little holes in the PVC.

Do other aire rafts have the same issue? If so, what do you folks do about it? Do you just let that moisture be? Also, if anyone has any tips about getting the bladders back in with out lumps and wrinkles that would be great.

I have always been skeptical about the pool toy in a bag design of Aire rafts, but I have heard that many private boaters love them. Maybe I will learn to love zippers, bladders and open pocket floors, but right now I am scratching my head. I definitely do not want to unzip and air dry this boat after every trip.

Oh yeah, this is the old style puma that looks more like a ducky than a traditional raft.

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Old 08-25-2013   #2
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
None of their bladders are meant to be sealed (Unless you option a sealed floor on a newer raft) and yes, there is usually water or moisture in the tubes. I had an Aire Force XL for almost 10 years, and it never seamed to be a problem. I have heard of the bladders getting twisted, but it never happened on my little kayak. The Nose cone was never perfect looking, but I didn't care.
If you ran in high silt areas it could be an issue. I typically took my floor out once per year in the fall and washed it out. I always had a little sand and a few pebbles in there. They can find their way in the drain holes.
I wonder if you blew the bladder up until it came in to shape on the outside what it would look like? If it's the older model, I wonder if someone replaced the original bladder with a newer style bladder and it doesn't fit quite right?

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Old 08-26-2013   #3
theBoatPeople's Avatar
Danville, California
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 190
Hi Mike-
The little holes are "tic" marks that AIRE uses for aligning welds and stitching, though I suppose they could help a bit with moisture evacuation. Not so much in your case I guess!

Usually the floor pocket of an AIRE raft or kayak is the main area where water can hide, though most will come out through the round drain vents (I know your boat is old, but I think it has those on the floor?).
On the side tubes, if the two bladders are aligned well they will fill out almost all the nooks & crannies, and there will be no standing water even though it's always a bit wet inside. But if there are twists and wrinkles then you have voids where water can sit.

AIRE has a lot of youtube videos, but as you have found re-aligning tube bladders is one of the hardest parts, especially since your Puma is old enough that it does not have the velcro'd alignment strips on it's bladders that the newer boats do.
Give AIRE a call at 1800-AIREHEAd and see if they have posted a video for this. I am pretty sure there is a "bladder re-installation" vid, but whether it is detailed enough to help you I am not sure. Some of AIRE's videos are linked from their website, but I do not see the one you need.

Try to make sure the welded seam is in the same line all the way around the boat, and if you see wrinkles or voids push the bladder into them - don't pull the bladder away unless it is folded over on itself.

To answer your question, no, once you get everything straight, you should not have to keep messing with it and opening the zippers time & again - except for maybe in the Fall if you are putting it away for a long time.
Also - very important: I think your boat may have Halkey Roberts valves? If so, these are a very old series. Buy at least two spares from NRS if they are Halkey's, because someday NRS will run out. They haven't made this exact valve for around 20 years now.

This is a fun little raft. We had many of them in rentals that we paddled too. Once everything is straight I think you will enjoy it.
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Old 08-26-2013   #4
montrose, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 325
Thanks for the responses. I'll try putting the bladders back in later this week when I have some time and I'll just live with the moisture in the tubes and clean it out once in a while.

I think this boat will be a blast as a "thrill boat" on trips and as a boat for my kids to row as they get a little bigger.

It does have the old halkey roberts valves. It is good to know that I can still get replacements from NRS. I have done a few valve replacements to c-7's on old sotars and in that instance it would have been great it I could have unzipped the tubes and only patched a bladder.
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Old 08-26-2013   #5
ReillRaft's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 20
Originally Posted by mikepart View Post
One of the tubes has a little bit of twisting and wrinkles from the internal bladder. I have unzipped and repositioned the bladder about eight times now and I have gotten it better but still not perfect. Is there some trick or something.
Just replaced 2 bladders on one of my tribs. The only thing I can think of is to make sure the bulkheads are lined up correctly

Whitewater rafting and kayaking photos videos blog and adventure outfitters | AIRE

Here's the link to Aire's videos if you haven't seen them already
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Old 08-26-2013   #6
ReillRaft's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 20
Unless Puma's don't have bulkheads? I'm not super familiar with the puma
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Old 08-27-2013   #7
AIRE Inc.'s Avatar
Meridian, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 61
Kayak Style Puma


Wow, a kayak style Puma! We built those in the early 90's, you are going to love it!

The best thing to do for getting your AIREcells re-installed in an old boat without bulkheads, is it to call our service shop. Their direct line is 208-991-5771 or call us at 1-800-247-3432. We would be happy to talk you through the process.

There are a couple easy things to do to help prevent water from getting in-between the AIREcell and the PVC. Run the boat at full pressure on the river, never leave it 1/2 inflated or deflated in a rain storm and prop it up for 5 min at the take out while you are waiting for the shuttle before you roll it up.

Once you have everything put back together, all you really need to do is follow our annual cleaning recommendations and you should be good to go.
AIRE - Annual Cleaning Recommendations - YouTube

We are looking forward to hearing from you!


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