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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Folks! Picking up an Aire Lion 16' this spring. Dreaming about the frame... To anyone who has one, how wide is the actual storage between tubes? Not the total width of the frame, but the width into which one can cram coolers, dry boxes, drop box, rocket boxes, water containers, etc.? I'm thinking of going as big as 44", but am a bit worried that might make for too much girth. The NRS Fat Cat frame is at 37", but I don't think that'll do what I want. What's the use of them big tubes if I can't carry a lot of stuff? Advice from the more experienced--which is to say all of you--would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

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I run my jack's plastic 16' tubes with about 42" of space between the tubes. I'm only running a 4 bay, but wish I was running a 5 bay. My frame is by Marshall Welding. For not a whole lot more money you could probably get a frame made locally...or go with DRE. I really like their stuff. Then you could decide what size dry box and cooler you wanted to run and have them build your frame around that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, T.O. How big are your tubes? And are you happy with the 42"? My round boat is 41" of space. I'd like to be able to carry 5 rocket boxes across the front of my new boat. 99% I'm going with DRE--their stuff is the bomb--and 100% a five-bay frame. Actually, even if I go with 24", 24", 24" 20" and 20" bays, I'm at 112" and so still 32" short of maximum frame length for the Lion! So maybe six bays, or, more likely, the five and a trailer...
 

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I ran the Aire Cougar for 20 years or so. If I remember right I kept about 42" between the tubes - based on my drybox and cooler dimensions, That put the frame width (oar towers) at about 88". (Didn't go to the outside of the tubes). This is a pretty wide boat but very stable and manuverable if you didn't overload it. You don't have much room to drop stuff so everything rigs pretty high anyway.
 

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What T.O.Mac said. Figure out your gear first, THEN build the frame to your gear and needs.

The cooler/dry box/5 rocket box length will be your determining frame width parameter. If you need a mega cooler it has to fit in the frame. A frame with adjustable bay width is helpful but you can't change the bay length.

The frame for my 18' cat is 42" between the tubes and this is fine for a big boat that doesn't get wet on smaller rivers. 44" would have been OK for this boat and what it is used for.

If you are keeping your round boat and want to use the same oars without fiddling with them as you change rigs, you should shoot for similar width and height of oar locks on both boats.

Keep in mind that even with large diameter tubes, cats shouldn't be overloaded and will handle better if the frame doesn't extend too far toward the end of the tubes.

Enjoy your planning. That is fun.
 

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I've been running an AIRE Lion 16' since 2005. Before that I used an AIRE Leopard 18' purchased in the early/mid-90's which I still have but never use. I keep in my quiver an AIRE Ocelot. I've also owned two Jacks Daddy cats and a custom 18' Jack's that I used for catapanga'ing in Baja with a motor. Just saying that I have some cat experience.

The advice already given concerning designing your frame based upon your gear and also intended usage is very valid. Also very valid is the fact that you can overload a cat if you are careless.

I currently run my Lion 16' at 40"s tube to tube. For maximum flexibility I run a core module that is about 74" long that is a three bay. I also have two trailer frames(no drops), hence, I can optimize for as much cargo space as desired. That is, I can run with the core only(three bay(front bay is huge)), one trailer(four bay) or both trailers(five bay). The width of 40"s allows for a Engle 123qt cooler and 38" dry box.

I find the 40" tube to tube width enough to carry sufficient gear and narrow enough to use comfortably on low water Lodore, Selway, MF Salmon, Chama, etc. Perhaps 44"s is trending toward a primarily big water boat. I have to admit that for big water trips that I do have a six bay frame(48" tube to tube and no trailer frames) but I'm not totally sold on that frame anymore because it is so heavy and it just invites overloading a cataraft, even a 16' AIRE Lion("Hey dude, you have plenty of room, why don't you take these additional 10 Painless Private rocket boxes full of canned food, these four groover boxes and a second cooler?")

On my Lion I run 10' oars with a rather high seat arrangement that allows for a steeper entry angle for the oars which I strongly prefer. If you go to 44"s you might consider flipping your towers(If you go with a Hollender fitting frame) to be inside your frame which is what I did on my big water frame.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hey Ron,

Thanks so much for the input! Several questions/reflections/what-have-yous:

I’m leaning towards a 5-bay DRE frame, and instead of getting another cooler (if someone wants to borrow my round boat, having only one good cooler would be a great excuse for someone to buy themselves one, after all), spending that money on a trailer. My concern with the five-bay on its own is that it’s going to run about 112”. You run your Lion with a 3-bay. Have you ever experienced, or are you concerned about, the tubes taco-ing when you’re running just the shorter frame?

Even when I add an anticipated 24” trailer, I’m still 8” short of maximum frame length. I’m reluctant to go to a full-time 6-bay pretty much for the reasons you mention.

Travis, at DRE (a wonderful resource; him and the whole store), says the tubes actually run, in spite of the total diameter, 25” from left to right. I think I’m settling on 42” interior width, as that would allow me to take full advantage of the Cascade River Gear’s larger Cat Bag, which is 42”X24”. I have one of their Everything Bags—or one like it—for my round boat, and love it. Toss it in, tie it up, and go. I think that leaves me at 92” total, if Travis is on regarding that 25”. Your experience? A good friend runs an RMR 16’; it’s a little squattier than my 156R at 7’ 8”, or 92” exactly, so I’m thinking that’s not too big. (50" for the tubes and 42" for the frame = 92" on the nose.)

Totally with you on the tendency of others to say, “Oh, look at that!” then gather around a larger boat, holding gear in their arms and looking like Depression Era Okies, their Model A pickup broken down somewhere along Route 66, gazing at you as if you are their only salvation, begging you to carry all the luxury items they’d like to have available for themselves, but just don’t seem to have the room to carry. BTDT with my 156R.

I’ll also be running with the DRE captain’s chair, which basically sits me in the upper Troposphere. Given that height and the anticipated width, and the opportunity to buy more gear because that’s what I do, I went ahead and nailed down three 11’ SGG’s. The frame will have the standard DRE oar towers, so I think the extra length will be useful. The 16’ cats on my Grand trip (two NRS River Cats and one Jag) all ran 11’, and the oar towers won’t have the flexibility you mentioned to work on that angle. I mention this to invite any feedback…

Anything I’ve put down which elicits a reaction, please react! I’d like to get this done right the first time and rely on more informed individuals to help me towards that goal. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey Ever,

I’m thinking a 40-42” dry box, 18” high. Running with my current Engel 123, as a mega-cooler would force the captain’s chair (whatever it looks like, the frame will come from DRE and will have a captain’s chair) into the clouds. I don’t like humidity. Probably not looking at adjustable frame width, although I hadn’t thought about it before, and could just nail down some shorter interior rails and substitute them for narrower rivers…

Not really thinking of this as a small river boat. Might regret that—the Taos Box isn’t that far, and the Racecourse (if we get water this year) near Pilar, New Mexico, can be fun, but I ran my 156 R down the Racecourse once with some friends in IK’s and such, and I felt like a fat Saint Bernard chasing Border Collies through an agility course. Beat up my oars pretty well, too. So I’ll rely on my IK and Mini-Max for those day runs, I suspect.

42”, where you have yours, is pretty much where I think I’m settling in… As mentioned above, I’ve already addressed the oar issue. Plus, if someone wanted to try the round boat, I’d need more oars, anyway. I appreciate the advice regarding overloading, and hereby swear not to overcommit on gear-totage!

Thanks for the excellent input. Much appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hey T.O.,

42” seems to be the consensus. That’s probably where I’ll end up. Why is it these small details niggle and keep one awake?

Is your 4-bay as long as a 5-bay would be? If it’s shorter, have you ever experienced, or are you concerned about, taco-ing in some big waves? Maximum frame length for the Lion 16’ is 144”; the five-bay, which will be the entire frame for the most part, will run 112”, and with a trailer, 136”. Not concerned about that phenomenon with the trailer, but was wondering if I should be with the frame by itself.

Definitely going with DRE and hope I don’t wear them out with questions before we get this thing done…

Thanks so much for the input!
 

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Hey T.O.,

42” seems to be the consensus. That’s probably where I’ll end up. Why is it these small details niggle and keep one awake?

Is your 4-bay as long as a 5-bay would be? If it’s shorter, have you ever experienced, or are you concerned about, taco-ing in some big waves?
I just looked at it, and mine is a 5 bay and a trailer bay that will make six. The tubes on the JPW are pretty large.

I have run Westwater a dozen times at different levels and Deso a couple of times in that boat, and have never had concerns about tacoing...
 

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Concerning my Lion 16' tacoing when using only the 74" 3 bay frame center module,,, no, not at all. AIRE cat tube are very stiff. I always run them stiff except when trying to float over bars/rocks such as low water San Juan trips and MFS trips(I noticed sweep boats on the MFS pancaked on the water Mid August this year).

My Daddy Cats did have more of a tendency to compress back when slammed in big water but not much more so when fully inflated. Hypalon boats tend to be more noodlely.

I've never been man enough to enjoy 11' oars. I once had 1' extensions that I tried and they worked me over pretty good. Sitting in the "troposphere"(as you say) on my DRE seat I get a steep angle of entry close to the boat and that is all I seem to need to dig fast and hard. I seemed to get 3 stroke with the 10' for every 2 that I'd get with the 11'ers. Or perhaps 4 for every 3.

Someone mentioned against going too long a frame on cat tubes. These days I prefer to give the nose a little more time to rise and have a little less exposure in the rear. I rear-endered once in Big Drop Two at high water and I mostly blame my long six bay frame(well maybe I was a little off my line).
 

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Doug,

Take Georon's comments about a modular frame design to heart as you ponder your options. Having a core module with rower's bay that you can use when you don't need to be hauling a ton, plus trailer bay(s) for when you do allows you to optimize your frame configuration for any given trip. This is a great option and as stated running with a shorter core frame isn't a problem with stiff tubes. And running with a smaller frame when you can makes loading/unloading on a trailer or rigging/derigging an easier process. Food for thought.
 

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I ran a JPW Daddy Cat for about 15 years and finally just sold it this last year to down size to a 14' raft. I picked out my cooler first (128qt Igloo Marine) and that dictated the inside frame width, which like several others on here was 42". Then the dry boxes were made to match. Unless you're only going to run big water, I would resist trying to go too wide. You'll just like it better in the long run, especially if you run late season skinny water. I had the modular frames. It was nice to be able to switch the passenger module to the rear and run the gear up front.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks, Spey. Things kind of coalesced around that 42" width, as you mentioned. I think I end up at 92" overall, the exact same width as my friend Cliff's 16' RMR roundboat. I like that width. So I've got DRE cranking up a five-bay frame, 42" wide, that'll run 120" total, and a 20" trailer that, with the bars, runs 24" and brings me exactly up to the 144" limit. I'm excited about it, and would have done something stupid and wider without input from bright, experienced folks such as yourself.
 
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