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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone, newbie here looking for a little input on buying my first boat.

Without reading a wall of text, I'm basically looking for a 14' - 14' 6" boat to build out as an oar rig for 3-7 day trips on the Idaho rivers. I've narrowed it down so far to the 4 boats below and I've provided a lot more background afterwards if you don't mind a novella.

  • Maravia Williwaw
  • Maravia Willy-Willy
  • Maravia New Wave 3
  • AIRE 146DD
I went on my first rafting trip with a good friend of mine 4 years ago on Hells Canyon and got hooked. I did a good bit of rowing on the final day of that trip through some of the small water just to get a feel for the oars. I came back the next year for a trip down the lower Deschutes and was able to borrow an AIRE 156D to run on my own. Stepped up to running the Lower Salmon (Vinegar Creek to Lucille) the year after that in a borrowed Spider. Then, this year, I ran the same Spider down Hells Canyon. So 4 total "years" of experience, but really only 4 total trips and I was mostly a passenger for one of those.

I'm at the point now where I know this is something I want to do a lot more of and am ready to invest the money to get my own boat so that I can start doing more trips per year and can be a full contributor to the group instead of relying on borrowed boats and gear. My main goal for 2021 is to get on a Middle Fork trip (permit gods willing) and I expect the primary use will be multi-day trips on Hells, the Main/Lower Salmon, Middle Fork, Grande Ronde, maybe a Rogue trip at some point, and maybe work my way up to the South Fork over the next few years, etc. I have enough friends with paddle boats that I don't think this needs to fit that use case; anybody I would be doing paddle day-trips with already has a boat for that purpose. Based on my limited experience so far, I know I want something smaller than the 156D for maneuverability and the Spider is way too small to haul enough gear to be a good multi-day boat, so I've been looking at boats in the 14-14.5' range.

I've zeroed in on either AIRE or Maravia (shocking, I'm sure). For round boats, everyone I boat with has one of those 2 without exception. The AIRE guys love the AIRE's and the Maravia guys swear by the Maravia's, but I've noticed that the only converts have been AIRE-to-Maravia and none in the opposite direction. Everything I've read and heard is basically that the Maravia's are the more durable boats, but they come with a price premium. The only advantage other than cost I've heard for the AIRE's is that they're faster to do field repairs on. In general, it seems like both company make high quality boats... but it's just a matter of whether you want to pay the Urethane tax or not.

On the AIRE side, basically every single person I've asked has flat out told me to get a 146DD. On the Maravia side, the most common recommendation by far is the Williwaw. Through my own researching and browsing, I've added the Willy-Willy and New Wave 3 to the list. I like that the Willy-Willy is basically just a Diminished Williwaw that they made 1" wider to fit 40" dry boxes and the New Wave 3 seems like the natural competitor to the 146DD since it's essentially a 14' 6" Williwaw as far as I can tell.

And that's basically where I'm at... I can compare spec sheets on my computer screen all day long and make logical assumptions, but I don't know what I don't know. Logically, I would assume a 14' 6" boat would have more useable cargo room than a 14-footer, but then I see that the 14' Willy-Willy has a 1" longer straight section and 3" more internal width despite being 6" shorter than the 146DD and I wonder if I can even make that assumption. Logically, I would assume a shorter boat would generally be more maneuverable, but is a shorter/wider boat easier to move around than a longer/narrower boat? Is the ballast floor in the AIRE going to make it feel like a pig compared to an identically-sized Maravia regardless? Or is there even enough of a difference for that to play into the buying decision in the first place? I also wonder things like why they decided to make the New Wave 3 with 3 chambers instead of 4 when it seems like a slightly-longer carbon copy of the Williwaw in every other way. And what's the functional difference between the 2-stage rocker of the Williwaw versus the gradual rocker of the New Wave? What makes the Williwaw (seemingly) so much more popular than the Willy-Willy?
 

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My first recommendation would be Williwaw 1.5 - I had a 1 and my buddy had a 1.5. Was great because I had a paddle boat and with a max-fit frame could rock the following;

  • 16” drybox
  • Yeti 110
  • Sizable Captain’s Bay
  • Groover Tray (4th bay - 10” wide for rocket box and Scepter jug)
It is an amazing boat but just a bit undersized especially in width and bow / stern with the frame configuration I had.

Why I recommend a 1.5?
  • You stated you don’t need a paddle raft. So part of benefit of 14ft’r is thrown out the window.
  • I think you’ll find yourself wanting to go bigger after a season or two.
 

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Hands down the Williwaw 1.5, it'll last considerably longer than the AIRE and the floor doesn't hold water
 

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Since most of those rivers also include fishing options, and you're investing in a solid platform, consider the Streamtech Steelhead or Salmonfly. Best of both worlds. I've owned and guided out of a Salmonfly for years, run the MF Salmon, Selway, GR, etc and by far designed to row better than a typical whitewater raft. Right in your back yard in Boise.
60560
 

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Discussion Starter #5
My first recommendation would be Williwaw 1.5 - I had a 1 and my buddy had a 1.5. Was great because I had a paddle boat and with a max-fit frame could rock the following;

  • 16” drybox
  • Yeti 110
  • Sizable Captain’s Bay
  • Groover Tray (4th bay - 10” wide for rocket box and Scepter jug)
It is an amazing boat but just a bit undersized especially in width and bow / stern with the frame configuration I had.

Why I recommend a 1.5?
  • You stated you don’t need a paddle raft. So part of benefit of 14ft’r is thrown out the window.
  • I think you’ll find yourself wanting to go bigger after a season or two.
Interesting, I may need to take another look at the 15-footers. I had gravitated toward the 14' boats because I was under the impression that they were quite a bit easier to move around and would be better for rivers like the MF and Selway, but maybe it's not a big enough difference to justify the loss of cargo room?

Any specific reason to stay with the Williwaw 1 or 1.5 versus the Willy-Willy and Zephyr? The latter seem to be dimensionally identical to the former, just with diminished tubes for more room on the ends.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Since most of those rivers also include fishing options, and you're investing in a solid platform, consider the Streamtech Steelhead or Salmonfly. Best of both worlds. I've owned and guided out of a Salmonfly for years, run the MF Salmon, Selway, GR, etc and by far designed to row better than a typical whitewater raft. Right in your back yard in Boise.
I'll be honest... I really dislike fishing (no offense). It's just not my thing and I don't see myself ever using this boat for that purpose. Is there anything that would make these better boats for whitewater trips compared to others I'm looking at or is all of the benefit that they're set up for anglers? At first glance, it doesn't look like there's as much room available for cargo on longer trips, but I may just not understand how they're designed to be packed.
 

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I am not the right person to ask regarding diminished tubes - very bias toward the standard Maravia’s. That is what I have grown accustomed to and have had several near misses but always remained right side up.

I looked into the Wave series after reading your post, I personally would not buy until I understood the difference between a Willy / Wave. Wave is six inches longer but weighs less, would assume different PVC or less urethane? And I’m not saying the Wave Serieswould not be a great boat, I would just want to know exactly what I was buying.

Last random / potentially non-value add thought - if you are going to store the boat rolled I would get something else other than a Maravia (would probably push me to an Aire - again just my experience with a Super Puma that I kept rolled over 5 years of use)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I am not the right person to ask regarding diminished tubes - very bias toward the standard Maravia’s. That is what I have grown accustomed to and have had several near misses but always remained right side up.

I looked into the Wave series after reading your post, I personally would not buy until I understood the difference between a Willy / Wave. Wave is six inches longer but weighs less, would assume different PVC or less urethane? And I’m not saying the Wave Serieswould not be a great boat, I would just want to know exactly what I was buying.

Last random / potentially non-value add thought - if you are going to store the boat rolled I would get something else other than a Maravia (would probably push me to an Aire - again just my experience with a Super Puma that I kept rolled over 5 years of use)
Yeah I've heard Maravias aren't the choice for rolled storage, but I intend to always store it inflated.

I was a little skeptical of the Wave series as well. The lighter weight, the fact that they only have 3 chambers instead of 4, and the lower price for comparable size makes me think they aren't as robust as other Maravias. That doesn't seem like a concern with the Willy/Zephyr diminished models though.
 

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We are just coming off of four years of Aire ownership and one of the main reasons we sold it was the ballast floor. The Aire was our first boat and I was happy to have the extra ballast as I was gaining experience. It did what it was supposed to do and kept us heavy and stable as I was leaning. But, it also made the boat heavy and slow, particularly in the wind or when I needed to make a move mid-rapid. We have done almost all the rivers / sections you referenced, so our use cases are similar.

Our new boat (Maravia or Hyside) will not have a ballast floor and that makes me very happy. I didn’t have any other issues with the Aire but glad to be ditching the ballast floor.
 

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I have a 27 year old Williwaw 2. I did replace the floor about six years ago. With its guiding life before I bought it, the boat had a lot of low, low water Middle Forks on it, so the floor needed it. Yes I do have to pump it up once in a while, but this kind of longevity is pretty awesome. With an unlimited budget....I would buy the very same thing again. My vote would be for the Willy 1.5. Still small enough to use as a paddle boat easily and if you are thinking your primary use is multi-day you won't regret the extra foot. Which South Fork are you hoping to 'work your way' up to?
 

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I've owned both a big big 16' Maravia (ex-guide boat) was 16' with 24" tubes and 8' wide. Maybe an old Wind series? Only sold it because I rolled it for 7 years and couldn't keep up with the floor pinholes. Still sort of wish I had that boat.

Now have a 156R. I hate the ballast floor when using it as a big paddle boat, but have never regretted the ballast floor on a multiday when I take less "spicy" lines and just want to get to the bottom of the rapid right-side up.

Neither one rolls small, but the Aire rolls a bit smaller if flying into a river is ever a consideration. My 156R was also an ex- guide boat and the price was right. Would buy again.
All other points being considered, if you're buying new, I'd go Maravia. Buy your dream boat and get some sexy colors.
 

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Move along then, this isn't the boat for you. Still suggest you stay with Maravia.

I'll be honest... I really dislike fishing (no offense). It's just not my thing and I don't see myself ever using this boat for that purpose. Is there anything that would make these better boats for whitewater trips compared to others I'm looking at or is all of the benefit that they're set up for anglers? At first glance, it doesn't look like there's as much room available for cargo on longer trips, but I may just not understand how they're designed to be packed.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I have a 27 year old Williwaw 2. I did replace the floor about six years ago. With its guiding life before I bought it, the boat had a lot of low, low water Middle Forks on it, so the floor needed it. Yes I do have to pump it up once in a while, but this kind of longevity is pretty awesome. With an unlimited budget....I would buy the very same thing again. My vote would be for the Willy 1.5. Still small enough to use as a paddle boat easily and if you are thinking your primary use is multi-day you won't regret the extra foot. Which South Fork are you hoping to 'work your way' up to?
Sorry, I was referring to the South Fork of the Salmon... guess that's kind of an important distinction! Not sure if this will be the boat for those kind of trips or if I'll find myself shopping for a cat in another couple of years.
 

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Sorry, I was referring to the South Fork of the Salmon... guess that's kind of an important distinction! Not sure if this will be the boat for those kind of trips or if I'll find myself shopping for a cat in another couple of years.
I know a really good boater who took a round boat down there and said 'never again'. Most do it in cats. YMMV. I never made it so what do I know.
 

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I know a really good boater who took a round boat down there and said 'never again'. Most do it in cats. YMMV. I never made it so what do I know.
Yeah I've heard the same from somebody that ran it in a 16-footer. But I assume that one will be a cat trip a few years down the road.
 

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Yeah I've heard the same from somebody that ran it in a 16-footer. But I assume that one will be a cat trip a few years down the road.
Honestly think that is more size and flow related than raft vs cat. At medium flows, if you have the skills to be there, the craft matters less than the size. I'd actually say a raft starts working better as the flow drops. Anything 13'-14' seems to work well.

I'd consider the Zephyr as well. I have the little brother, the Diablo. It's not as sporty as the Spider (nothing is) but much more so than a non diminishing design. I also wouldn't want my Diablo any wider like the Willy Willy. It works well if you keep the load in check but 40" boxes and cooler seems like it would be loaded super heavy. The long water line and abrupt rocker tend to plow if over loaded. I'd just step up to the next size if I wanted that width. I wouldn't be scared of 3 main chambers in the New Wave either.

If you go with the Aire, definitely get the sealed floor. I've had both and upgraded one so I can directly compare- there is no comparison. The advantage of the Maravia floor vs anything else is how well it works at low water.

Think out what you plan to carry and how much space it will take up. Lots of people buy boats then figure out the frame/ gear set up. I think it works better to figure out your approximate load (boxes, cooler, passengers) then buy the boat to fit. Or do as many of us have and buy several. Then you can spend all of your time second guessing if you brought the right boat for the conditions...
 

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If you go with the Aire, definitely get the sealed floor. I've had both and upgraded one so I can directly compare- there is no comparison.
I upgraded my 156R floor a few years ago. I agree. There is no comparison. I wish I would have bought the sealed pocket when I originally bought the boat.... but I guess then I wouldn't know first-hand how much I prefer the sealed pocket now.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Think out what you plan to carry and how much space it will take up. Lots of people buy boats then figure out the frame/ gear set up. I think it works better to figure out your approximate load (boxes, cooler, passengers) then buy the boat to fit. Or do as many of us have and buy several. Then you can spend all of your time second guessing if you brought the right boat for the conditions...
I've rowed a fully tricked out Recretec frame and a bare bones NRS... hated everything about the NRS frame except the seat. So I know I want dual latch-in dry boxes, a cooler bay, and a captain's floor. Maybe a low-back seat on the rear dry box, but I'm not 100% on that since it can make getting into the box a pain when loaded and makes you sit up higher... feel like I should be fine with a regular padded dry box and making a back rest out of the gear pile. Other than that, I assume it's going to be a learning process as I figure out what I actually need to haul each time.

I usually go with a pretty big group. I think 8 boats is the smallest trip I've been on so far and usually the community gear is thoroughly covered, but I'd like to have enough cargo room to at least help out when people are too loaded down. Just saying that there's nothing that I'm "the guy" for as of right now, so it's really just personal gear. Last trip, I had 2 passengers on a Spider for a 4-day trip, so just getting personal gear packed was a challenge. I'm sure I'll eventually need to have a "thing" to contribute to the group, but I don't know what that's going to end up being yet. I assume I'll always have 1 or 2 passengers. I will say the one thing I never seem to have enough of is cooler space, so being able to carry a second hard side cooler in the back or a couple of smaller soft-sides in the footwell would make a huge difference. But I'm also always stuck trying to make do with a 50-65qt cooler because of how narrow the Spider is, so fitting something closer to a 100qt cooler will make that less of an issue.

I found another post here with a list of frame manufacturers and have been going through that when I have time. I obviously like the Recretec stuff, but have been trying to see if there are any alternatives that aren't as pricey. Rogue Gear Works looked like they had some pretty sweet setups, but they weren't any cheaper.
 

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For a newbie you sure have it dialed in!

I think I’ve helped all I can and since this is about to become a Frame discussion I’ll leave you to it 👍🏻
 

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Keep in mind that maneuverability is also a function of how deeply the boat is sitting in the water. A larger boat will float higher given the same load, making it easier to pivot. Of course, there are down sides to that as well, plus you will always end up filling the space you have. I hear more people wishing they had a larger raft rather than a smaller one (for multi-days). the 15 foot range seems perfect for all the runs you mention. I have only run diminishing tubes on paddle boats. I find that even on the hottest days my passengers want to stay dry and so I appreciate the full tubes all around. Adding a little width seems to add more usable space than adding length.
 
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