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Discussion Starter #1
In a position to invest in a long term boat for the family - going to finally put my patched 16' Oregon WhiteWater to rest. 2 kids, getting more into white water, want a boat good for 4 people for up to week long trips - but also for some fishing on MT rivers. I'm used to a 16' even though it was probably overkill 75% of the time.

I want a boat that's going to last and I have the blessing of my wife - of sorts. I've narrowed it down to a Sotar or an Aire. I understand, apples and oranges. Both good boats. I'm entertaining the 14' on both, the 15' ST and the 156D.

When I price everything out (I need a new frame too), I can get into an Aire for about 1500 less. If money wasn't an issue, I'd likely jump on a Sotar. But that extra cash could get me a stern seat, an anchor - better cooler, a canopy, etc.

In anyone's opinion, is it worth me pushing my budget for the Sotar (I want the chafe too, which adds on) - or is it over the top, both are great boats and I should just focus on the extras?

Thanks.
 

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I've never owned anything but my 156D so I can't help with the comparison. For four people on a week long trip I would highly suggest not going with a 14 foot. With kids you will end up bringing stuff like toys, I K's friends at times, dog....

I was set on a 14 boat but a friend talked me into my 156D. It's the bomb for us and I can't fault it in any way.

Don't just look at gear and weight, look at the personal dynamics issues too with kids. Do they ever fight in the car when shoulder to shoulder? Mine do and a bigger boat really helps in that regard. Diminished tubes seem to help the boat feel a bit smaller and more maneuverable. Only time I wish my boat was smaller is when it's just me or one other on a day run, but soon that won't be an issue when my paddle cat arrives. Hope that helps!

For full disclosure my family is wife and three kids 10, 14, 17 and sometimes the springer spaniel when appropriate.

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Discussion Starter #3
Paul - thank you for that reply. I've gone to some local shops here in my hometown and they keep trying to convince me that I'm being silly for wanting a 156D - for example. I just had this conversation yesterday, and I was told it was overkill for my family. I told him my wife has a SUP, we bring instruments - etc, he said no worries on a 14' boat. I had a hard time picturing it.

The kids get along good enough, but my boy's a fisherman - so I mainly want a stern seat so he can throw the fly around without getting in everyone's space.

My wife's concern with the Aire is the weight. She's still learning to row, just as my son is getting interested in rowing - they want a lighter boat, which the Sotar has bragging rights to in this case. Any thoughts on rowing the 156D? Does it track good enough that as long as you have a good line - you are set.

I've never rowed an Aire. Thanks for any insight!
 

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I’m by no means an expert, but I have borrowed and rented boats for many years. I now own a 16 and would not wish a 14 on anyone that is planning on doing a multiple day river trip. Our last borrowed boat was a 14 Hyside with our family on the Main to include the chocolate Lab. (4 person family) Lucky for us we had a person riding alone so my oldest rode with him the whole trip and we were still tight. I have used Aires and they are a good boast and if I was buying again I would go no smaller than 15.6.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Those are sweet Sotar setups. I'm pretty sure I'm not in the market for those frames, but they are nice. Maybe in a year - but that's my question.

Is it worth paying extra for the Sotar's rubber - and put together the frame/extras over the next year due to the extra cost of the Sotar's rubber? Or get the Aire and get most everything we want now, right out of the gate?
 

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You just answered your own question. If you aren't in the market for a full PRO setup then just grab an Aire throw some frame parts on it and go rafting. Sounds like the money and going rafting is more important than the boat you wil do it in which is totally cool as well.
 

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I must first say I may be a little biased as I have only owned a Sotar 15.
I have rowed the Aire 15.6 D loaded and empty and have found it did not handle quite as nicely as my Sotar. The Aire is also narrower which limits some of the larger coolers and boxes as well as stability concerns and I think my Sotar 15 has a little more interior room. If the difference in cost is enough of a concern the Aire is still a good boat. We can all get a little snobbish when it comes to our boats but what is most important is getting out on the water with Family and Friends and what ever gets you out there is great. On size, with your family I would not consider anything smaller than 15'
Happy Floats
Michael
 

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So here's my thoughts you asked about how the Aire rows, I've never ever rowed a Sotar. I think that size boat weight differences are silly to worry about, are you gonna worry about every item the fam brings? Don't think you would feel the difference between the two weight wise. I'd personally spend less on the Aire and spend some saved coin on oars that weight saved your wife will feel and appreciate.

I don't feel that my boat could track or handle any better (again limited experience of other boats) I've never felt that I was fighting the boat.

The Aire does take on water in the floor I have never had issue with this and do feel that it keeps the boat planted. At take out it takes about 3 minutes to completely drain but it takes me longer to clean out the kids stuff and wash sand...

A big boat is never gonna be ideal for youngers to row buy the boat that fits your lifestyle on the river, you can always set up a light weight mini raft/cat/paddle cat for teaching rowing.

I've used mine for 4 years and wouldn't trade for smaller.

FYI two people I boat with have 15 foot otters and they both commented on my boat. They feel it's lighter not sure if it is but they both stated so.

Also highly recommend an everything bag for the rear makes stowing kid stuff painless.

Don't underestimate the cost of misc gear damn it adds up!

I don't have much to say about Aire vs Sotar but size wise I'd really go 15-16. For week long trips, if only day tripping maybe the 14.

The 143D looks really small compared to my boat don't think it would be safe for my family on multiday.

We did low water grand rhonde I ran with virtually no pressure with overnight gear and it slithered through inches of water lots of fun.



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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the input everyone - I know I'm over thinking this purchase, but its my first brand new raft. Want to get it as right as possible.

I know my son isn't going to be really rowing for 3-4 more years - but I want to have this boat for the next 10+, so this will be the one he learns on. Mainly my wife was the one who read about the weight differences and tracking - and she's kind of mini. But I also agree that when you have a loaded boat - an extra 50 lbs of rubber and/or water isn't going to change things one way or the other.

Regarding the width - the 15' Sotar and the 155D appear to be almost identical based solely on the specs. Maybe someone has observed differently? The Sotar SL does have 23" tubes on the straight section, and the 156D is 22", so maybe there is a slight width difference. Each though appears to have 42" in the middle.
 

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Here is what I can tell you, you are paying for the material on the Sotar.....Urethane vs PVC. The urethane will wear better over time due to the nature of what it is and will be stronger, more puncture resistant, tear resistant, etc....you get the idea. That said, if you are going to be using it a lot in areas where abrasion and puncture is an issue, get the Sotar....otherwise save the cash and get the Aire, nothing wrong with them at all. Kind of like settling for a Porsche vs a Ferrari.....both great but in different ways. Someone mentioned it previously, but the main point is to be out on the water and having fun and being with family & friends....you will be safe and will have made a great investment with either one of the two rafts you are choosing from!
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Alright, here's an ignorant question I should probably know the answer to.

What might you consider a river that's more prone to punctures? I've been down the MF, Main, Snake - but now live in MT where the rivers get lower in late summer, more rubbing but nothing sharp. The middle fork is the only water I can relate to that might be a puncture prone river. I'm probably not going to be taking this down the Lochsa or Payette - if that is what you are more so talking about. Thanks in advance for entertaining my ignorance.
 

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I think it is true that urethane is more abrasion resistant than PVC and I wouldn't argue that one boat is far superior than the others.

Both have merits, My Aire shows scratches that Sotars' might not but they are superficial. I would buy more on construction, if the Aire is less resistant to scratches it is offset by the fact that the outer material is not burdened by having to hold air.

I really like the way Aire's are built it gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I have inner bladders that can be easily replaced down the road if need be, others do not like the zippers and bladders. So between the two the construction is just as important as the material.

I learned on Aire boats at the college on really old boats that had been used almost entirely by nubes. I learned they are very tough and easy to work on which is why I choose to buy one. Also their no-fault warranty rocks!

Having said that if the college had a set of Sotars I would most likely have ended up with one of them.

Dont get me wrong I don't care which you buy cause they all rock sotar/aire. after your on the water you wont be thinking about pvc or urethane. If your gonna beet your self up on decisions make it on the size not the brand.
 

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Alright, here's an ignorant question I should probably know the answer to.

What might you consider a river that's more prone to punctures? I've been down the MF, Main, Snake - but now live in MT where the rivers get lower in late summer, more rubbing but nothing sharp. The middle fork is the only water I can relate to that might be a puncture prone river. I'm probably not going to be taking this down the Lochsa or Payette - if that is what you are more so talking about. Thanks in advance for entertaining my ignorance.
Generally speaking I would consider rivers with Volcanic type rock(abrasive) or shale(sharp), and man made features near it to be rivers concern for material. Personally I have never "punctured" a raft, but have seen it happen many times and in general was usually to lesser quality fabrics which are on low end boats. What I have experienced is pinholes from a lot of wear, and those are easily fixed most of the time. With the rivers you are describing I would think the Aire would be solid. I personally use a 14' Sotar ST with a double wrap floor, but my boating is commercial in nature on the Rogue and Upper Klamath where there happens to be a lot of basalt & shale, so I wanted to have a bomber boat for how it's being used.
 

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14' boat with 4 people on a multi day? No-

Why would you rule out Maravia?

Sotar for cats- Maravia for rafts. Stiff boats row better

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Discussion Starter #19
I haven't ruled out Maravia entirely - I just found what appears to be a fair deal on a new Sotar and an Aire that's in my price range. I see a few demo or used Maravia's on their website - but the 15' Maravia versions are already priced more than the rubber and basic frame for a Sotar and/or Aire.

If I could get by with a 14' boat, there are a few Maravia's that I could probably price out in this regard - but I'm getting affirmation from this website that a 14' isn't going to be what I want.
 

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The AIRE is probably more likely to puncture but it's also going to be much easier to repair. Field repairs on urethane (SOTAR) are really tough unless you have a lot of repair experience.

I don't know of any outfitters on the Middle Fork that use SOTAR boats. We use them on the Rogue River and typically have one or two punctures a year.

For small holes on SOTAR we use tear aid for a quick temporary repair. For larger holes the repair with glue and patches are really tough in the field. Either way we take them to the SOTAR factory (very close to the Rogue) afterwards for a professionally done repair.

One consideration for buying a boat is how close the factory (or a qualified repair facility) is to you.
 
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