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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a long-time Colorado kayaker with two young kids (7 and 9) and need to switch my river paradigm to rafting. I rowed my family down the San Juan last year in a 16-foot Star and was impressed. The boat was 12-years old, held air great and tracked nicely. It also carried a lot of stuff. I liked that a lot. I am seriously considering ordering one of these ... the 15.5 foot Big Dipper (about $3,300). Can anyone give me some insight or experiences with Star Boats. Are there other similar price point boats that would make sense to consider? I know Vanguard makes 15- and 16-footers that are priced similarly to the Star. How are those Vanguards? ALso, NRS Revolution comes in about the same. I would like this to be a family/gear boat for San Juan, Green, Middle Fork, Westwater and Cataract trips.

Of course I would love to get a $5,000 or $6,000, American made hypalon boat, but those are budget busters for me. I am carrying quite a bit of guilt about buying overseas stuff, but an extra 3 grand is a lot of dough.
 

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in my opnion buy a used boat of higher quality.

I got a 15 year old Maravia for less than a grand. It holds air beautifully, has only a couple patches on the tubes (the floor is lace-in and has taken some beatings).

In ten years, I'd guess my used old boat will be in better shape than a new-today Star or other Chinese made boat. The PVC/Urethane that Maravia uses is super-bomber.

edit to add:
http://www.mountainbuzz.com/swap/sh...2&title=14ft-hyside-self-bailer-package&cat=3

just posted today, it' hypalon, it's 11 years old, and for the price of a star you get dry boxes, oars, frame, etc.

oh. right. you want something bigger. well...you get the idea :).
 

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Be wary of Star. Has a reputation for bad glue. I spent 30 hours working on one a few years ago (rebuilding the inside seam) and never could get the last chamber to hold air. Have heard good things about Vanguard but have no experience with them. Might try pricing Hysides.
 

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Have had a Vanguard for 5 years now, about 50 days per year and have had no problems at all. Holds air perfectly on my deso trips, needs no topping off at all in 5 days. For the price they seem to be a great boat. Happy shopping!!
 

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I've seen bad things happen to Stars used commercially. One brand new one touched the end of a blunt bolt with the top of its tube and had explosive decompression. Two others had the floor seams separate. Some others I've used had the thwarts rip out. Only our rookie guides have to use the remaining Stars in the fleet now.....I'd stay away from them.

I saw a sign the other day alongside the road that read, "When you buy quality, you only wince once."
 

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I've had my Vanguard for about 5 years now also. They worked out some of the bugs in their early production runs and seem to be a quality boat. Do a search on them, Stars, and you'll find a lot of info.

-AH
 

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My star wonderbug has been a great boat for me so far. I would buy another one if I could get the same deal. It was $1800 new at the time, I think their asking around $2400 for the same one now. I'm not sure if I would be willing to pay $600 more to get the same raft again though. There does seem to be more viable low cost options on the market then there used to be.

Good luck with whatever you choose.
 

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I've had a Vanguard for three years now and haven't ever had any problems. Their customer service has been excellent. I have also seen their boats used commercially holding up strong after three yearsof use and abuse. Just my $.02
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all of the feedback here. I am crossing Star off the list and keeping my eyes open for a used hyside, aire, maravia, etc. I am also considering a new Vanguard. It seems like a solid company from all I have heard. Most helpful insights.
 

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I've owned my Vanguard since 02.....the first year they came out. It's a rare 12' hypolon model. I love it and it has held up very well over the years. There was a problem with the thort attachment points when I first got it.....but Eric at IRR fixed her up and never had a problem since. The customer service has been great over the years. I highly recommend a Vanguard.....or an Avon of coarse.
 

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Star makes decent boats. I rowed them guiding fishing on class 2-3 and they do great. That being said, they will not take the abuse of a hypalon or welded PVC boat, period. I have seen a number of them blow up from ramming blunt objects while super tight, usually coming off the trailer. We have also had a few develop pinhole leaks in the fabric, and we have had two seams fail catastrophically on the same boat(sounded like an elk calling). PVC and glue are not permanent together and will eventually separate, its just a matter of time. If you keep your boat in your garage, 303 it, and use it a few times a month, a star may last 15-20 years. If you leave it in the sun, 5-10 tops. That being said, all the boats we have had problems with are at least 5 years old and spend their entire life in the sun-no 303, no shade. 303 is too slippery and makes it much more difficult for our guests to stand in the raft. One of the first ones we had had the old bladder system in it. Eventually every seam on the boat went bad. They aren't bad boats but they are not great either. If you can find a new one cheap then go for it, but I would stay away from the self-bailing "cataraft" style rafts like the wonderbug. They draft way deeper and when you fill them with gear the floor (just 1 layer of material stretched above the waterline between the tubes, with drain holes cut in it) starts touching or going under the water, especially in whitewater. I wouldn't be too afraid of a star if the price is right, but $3000? You could buy a used boat in good shape that will last much longer. Oh, and don't automatically count out bucket boats. If you run more III's than IV's or V's buckets are great and can be found much cheaper, you just gotta teach those kids to bail!
 

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I love my Vanguard. Got it in May 2005 from Darren at Frontier Play in Idaho. The boat is bomber and holds air perfectly. Note that it is garage kept and never rolled. Has a thick floor which keeps you higher off the water and aids in tracking nicely. Of course I would have loved to get a new Maravia or NRS Expedition raft but for what they charge for rubber, I got the whold setup (cooler and mounts, drybox, throwbag, patch kit, straps galore, 3 complete oar setups, towers and clips, drybag, bowline, paco) If you want a new setup check out the frontierplay.com deals.
 

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Check out the NRS gearswap;
NRS Gear Swap
there is a 2001 Aire 156R for sale for $1950 in Durango- should work for you and may still have a little warranty left. Treat it well and it should last much longer than any star, vangaurd, or saturn. Don't forget to haggle!
 

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I say spend the extra dough for your brand new dream boat if there is anyway you can swing it. High quality boats have long warranties, are durable, and you can seel them easier when you decide to move on to something else. I bought an Aire Raft and NRS frame for $1800 in 1999 and sold it this year for a easy grand. I could have sold it for more as there were many buyers chomping at the bit, but it didn't seem right after 11 years of use. Inever had any issues with the boat.

If you are going to buy a used Aire- unzip it and look at the bladders. They should be be clean with good patches (not just tape) where the bladders have sustained injury. FYI Aire sell emergency and replacemnet bladders.
 

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Do yourself a favor and check out Saturn. Way cheaper and they hold up well. For non-commercial use they are really tough to beat. I'm sure some people will jump on here and bash Chinese boats and PVC, but be sure to ask which of those people actually owns a Saturn and I'd be shocked if any of them do. Speak to Saturn owners and you'll find the truth. Everyone who bashes them is just upset that they wasted thousands of dollars. You can come check mine out if you are ever in the area. Ask yourself, is that cotton t-shirt that you have now really that different from a cotton t-shirt made in America?
 

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I've had some pretty thin, cheap, shitty cotton shirts that you could see my nipples through and that wore out in a month or two. I have also had some Hanes Beefy T's that have seen weekly use for years and are still fine. It is not where the boats are made or who made them that is in question it is the quality of the material and construction. There are many companies (hyside for one) whose hypalon boats are constructed in asia. These boats aren't any cheaper than american made boats. Why? The materials they use are high quality and expensive. Why are hyside's Rio Bravo series and NRS's Otters series rafts cheaper than the outfitter quality ones? Thinner cheaper material. And comparing glued PVC to welded PVC or glued hypalon is like comparing a Kia to a Honda. And no I don't own one, I don't like to gamble. Sorry to start this whole cheap chinese boat mess again, I promise I'll stop.
 

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Like I said: the only people who will criticize the Saturn boats are people who don't actually own or use them. I would say it is like comparing a Hyundai to a Honda. Everyone started out bashing the "cheap and poorly constructed" Korean brand, but now they have some of the best cars out there and they are the fastest growing car company.
 

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I have no idea on Star or Saturn, but I had a rear valve on a 2006 16’ Vanguard come out in my hand on day two of a Green River Trip a few years ago. I also had a thwart blow out on the same boat on Diamond Down. This boat was definitely used and admittedly took some abuse from a number of lively trips on the Salt, Grand, Dolores and Colorado over two seasons. BUT, it definitely broke down quicker than other rafts I've played with.

It wasn’t a particularly nimble or rocking boat. Kind of just square up and bash headfirst into the foam. Ran it as an oar and paddleboat. The materials Vanguard used and the design of the attachment points as well as the adhesives employed led to the calamities I experienced After loosing three days in Lab canyon while glue set on the valve fix, I promptly committed to selling the boat- which we did.

I continue to examine and reflect upon the low cost vs. long life species of rafts on the market today. I also keep in mind the geo-political impact, human suffering and long lasting effects these products have on our natural world. Bumping down the river on petrochemicals and space age polymers is a trip when you contemplate and contrast that with the ruins we all often visit riverside. But I digress…

Making my peace with all this, I have had success running and abusing Tributary rafts over multiple seasons and those have held up better than the Vanguard did. I know it's a different design so my comments relate to materials and quality of construction rather than bladders vs. tubes etc...
I agree, it’s nice to have that one sweet personal hypa-boat for the Canyon trip, long desert outings and private expeditions. But for lapping the town run, dropping mountain pools, hitting canyon walls, scumming over low water ledges and chasing snowmelt on a consistent basis throughout the Rockies and the desert, a cheaper boat with admittedly mid-grade quality has been a more settling and cost effective option for me when building a quiver of rubber. I’m already broke from too much gear.
 

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Again, see how the hyundai is doing in 10 years. Surely you don't believe a hyundai is as nice a car as a honda or toyota.
 
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