Cataraft size? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-11-2010   #1
SLC, Utah
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 6
Cataraft size?

Very new to the forum, as well as rafting. Having done many, many miles of canoeing and a few raft trips, we're looking to take the plunge and buy a cataraft to do more.

I've settled on a cataraft because storage/transportation size is a big issue, and I also intend to put a motor on it for some lake trips, which seems easier and more efficient with a cataraft.

The big question, what size? It will be me (180 lb. man), my significant other (115 lb. woman), and one 50 lb. dog. I'd like to get something now we won't outgrow. In the near future, I see Desolation, San Juan, Moab Daily, Green River Daily, etc... with the hope of doing some harder/bigger rivers as our skills come up. Most of our canoe trips have been multi-day, so I see us doing that with the raft as well.

Anybody have a size they would recommend? I was looking at a 14', but have been told if we ever did the Grand, we would need a 16'. I was thinking a 16' with a 4 bay frame for most trips, with the option of adding a cargo module if we start doing longer trips. That seems like a setup we wouldn't outgrow?!?!

Thanks for any suggestions,

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Old 08-11-2010   #2
prescott, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 280

something to consider: all cats are not the same. my 16' hyside has a much shorter water line than a 16' nrs cat. the hyside is quick and turns easily but doesn't carry nearly as much as the nrs. the nrs has a really long water line. side by side it's hard to beleive that they are both 16' boats.

IMHO most 14' cats are too small for two people and gear (even without the dog) for multi day trips.

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Old 08-11-2010   #3
mountains, Colorado
Paddling Since: '92
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 418
He's right. My 16' NRS river cat has a 12' long frame and can comfortably sup 4 people (including me) and gear for a multiday. That said his boat does spin faster.
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Old 08-11-2010   #4
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 13
I took a 14' (24" tubes) cat with a 5 bay frame down the Grand last summer and it was great. Quicker in the rapids than the big rafts and hauled a lot of gear and 2 people. Would a bigger boat have been better? Maybe, but this did great and is a perfect size for 2 folks on multi day trips. Good luck.
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Old 08-11-2010   #5
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 345
Ryan. Just a thought, after having a 17' Aire for the last ten years. they are nice for multi day trips and a great boat for the Grand but you really have to trailer it - the breakdown time and weight of the frame and tubes limit access to a lot of rivers that don't have ramp access. If I had it to do over, I get a 14 footer and rent a boat for any really long trips like the Salmon or the Grand
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Old 08-11-2010   #6
mustloverafting's Avatar
Aspen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 66
In my opinion (I have a 20 yr old Aire Cat and I am looking to replace the old girl in the coming months) I would go with a five bay frame and 16 ft for your needs. You won't regret it. It is also worth the extra bill or two for the extra bay on the frame and the extra two feet for weight. I currentely have a 16 ft. Jaguanudi and it has served me well over the past years. But now I am torn between the Aire Lion 16 ft w/27.5" tubes and the Leopard 18 ft w/26.5" tube. The Lion can hold so much more weight than my current boat and the folks I have talked with, love it because how it can be used in shallow water. The key is the tube diameter for the weight you can hold. The issues for me is the extra 2 feet. The 18 footers look soooo BIG! But I am going to buy a 5 bay frame no matter what boat I get. Currently I have a four bay frame. I want this new boat for weight and to carry more passengers than I curretly can carry. I do a lot of friend trips and carry up to four adults on my cat and gear. Needless to say, I am low in the water and probably over the weight limit for the boat. I will also probably buy the Aire 15 ft Wave Destroyer in the next year or so and use my four bay frame for that boat and use it for the big water. Obviously, I am a fan of Aire. I am looking at DRE or a place in Salida for my frame. Not sure yet. My original frame came from DRE and it has served me well. I probably will buy from Down River. Hope that helps, just my opinion.
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Old 08-13-2010   #7
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 520
We have 14' NRS Cat, it is great for the two of us. Held us and everything we could need for 5 days on the Salt. Also have a 14' Aire Super Duper Puma, which doesn't do the rocket boxes and camp counter as nice as the Cat, but still did fine for the two of us and two dogs on a 3 day trip. Between the two boats we easily supported 4 adults and 2 kids down Deso (including kitchen, chairs, tiki torches, bocci ball, camp counter, 10 meals for 13, 2 cases of beer, several bottles of liqour, and a 5 gallon keg, and 2 groover vaults) with room to spare. Typically though- you don't have to carry it all because there are other boats. Plus- this boating thing is going to get expensive if you plan on owning all the gear you need for overnight trips (beleive me and my depleted bank account). I think a 14' is the way to go for a family of 2-3 plus canine. It is still manuverable for the low water western rivers, but enought to provide solid support on overnights. Now raft vs. cat is a tough one. I like cats, but when it came down to the second boat, I wanted something we could easily stuff in the truck, no trailer. I also wanted something we could R2 or paddle boat. I wanted to add verstility when I added a boat. The NRS Universal frame on our cat is huge and pain to transport without the trailer because of the taking it apart. It was however the way to go when trying to stuff the raft and equipment for a 5 day trip into a float plane - because of the taking it apart thing. Lots of choices out there - but they really depend on what river you want to do.
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Old 08-13-2010   #8
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
My two cents...... I row a 14 X 24 Maravia Cat. I use a narrow, 66 in. NRS frame. This gives me a great one person set-up. I can carry my gear, and some group gear on multi-day trips. I can self support for weekend trips. I rarely carry a passenger. I designed my boat and frame to suit my needs. However, it took me several boats to get to this point. I started with a 14 X 19 Jack's Plastic Cat, then rowed a 14 X 22 Maravia Cat for 5 years. Now I feel like I have the right sized boat to carry the gear I want to without worry of overloading. My point is ...... I underestimated the size boat I needed for a long time. I am, however, a dedicated Cat boater. The separate tubes and breakdown frame are easy for me to deal with.
Two adult humans and a large canine might be a bit much for a 14 ft. Cat. Another thing is that once you get into rafting, you'll probably start doing more and longer multi-day trips which require more gear carrying space. Any kids or grandkids in the picture? How river savvy is your dog? Would the dog be more manageable in a raft versus a cat? You might want to consider a 16 ft. cat, or a 14 - 16 ft. raft.
Getting your set-up exactly right the first time is difficult. So many choices. Have fun.
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Old 08-15-2010   #9
SLC, Utah
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 6
Thanks for all of the advice and thoughts. I think we'll go with a 16' cataraft with 25" tubes. That seems a flexible setup, and hopefully one we won't outgrow. At least the salesman sold me on it... Coming from the canoe world, it will likely feel very spacious!

Next question.... anyone use a motor on flat water on their cats? If so, what HP, and what kind of performance do you get (speed/fuel consumption)? I'd like to also use the cat on lakes as well... I realize many factors are involved, but am interested in real life experiences.

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Old 08-15-2010   #10
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,344
Good choice on the 16 X 25 Cat. I don't think you'll regret the extra size and carrying capacity of the 16 footer. Especially when you, your SO, and the dog start doing multiday trips.
No personal experience with a motor. I have a friend who uses an electric trolling motor on his 14 ft. Cat for lake fishing.
Enjoy your new toy/investment. On the river is the best place to be. I just got back from the Main Salmon, and I'm off to the Middle Fork in a couple weeks.
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