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I'm taking my extended family on the San Juan (SI to MH) this summer. We will need to transport five 15' rental oar rigs about two hours to the put in. The question is how many rafts is too many to stack on a trailer? I figured someone probably has a spectacular story about learning the hard way...

Considerations:
  • We are putting in at Sand Island and have a reservation to camp there the night before launch so we'll have time to futz around with rigging
  • I could probably get two trailers so don't need a super stack of 5
  • We could stack the top 3 or 4 rafts unloaded so we don't need a forklift to get them up on the stack
  • We are going to self shuttle one vehicle to Mexican Hat so we aren't concerned about minimizing how many vehicles we take to save on shuttle costs

Thanks!
 

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In my guiding days we routinely stacked 5 boats and occasionally 6. Mind you those trailers were far beefier (i.e. heavier) than most private use trailers. Cross winds are certainly something to consider. One time crossing over a highway overpass a particularly strong gust blew the trailer and raft stack onto its side severing the tie downs and sending the rafts tumbling hundreds of feet along the side of the highway.
 

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I've done 2 or 3 stacked oar rigs on several occasions and it works allright. The guiding companies regularly stack 5 or 6 or even 7 boats...but they are just the rafts...no frames, oars, gear and other stuff. I'd say the limiting factor is the trailer and the vehicle pulling it. 5 fully outfitted oar rigs sounds difficult to me without a pretty large trailer and a big dually diesel to pull them. I personally wouldn't do more then 3 and even that is pushing it for a lot of trailers.

It might be easier and more reasonable to just inflate and rig them at the put in especially if you are getting there the day before. There are options for battery powered inflation. If all you are doing is transporting a blow up boat with nothing in it...its not gonna save you that much time at the put in and complicates transporting the boats.
 
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If you need to go more than a 3 stack, we drop the towers on the lower boats and rotate the kick bar and deflate them with all the rigging in place. It only works if your frames don't have drop rails but is really slick. Alternatively, you can put the frames from the deflated boats on the top of the stack.
 

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3 is a comfortable stack, 4 is pushing it, and 5, well not with frames and such. I'd opt for 2 trailers if you have the ability
 

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for that many boats I would roll 'em and stack the frames (with something between the frames and the rolled boats) . I have seen outfitters stacks up to 6 or 7 paddle rafts on a trailer (partly deflated) for shortish drives...but I wouldn't do it.
 
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