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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Interested in adding a cataraft to our boats and would appreciate some input. Have a 16' raft, a 14'6" raft and a 2 person IK. Considering selling the 14' raft and getting a cat instead. The future cat would be used in two ways. First is to be rowable by my early teen kids on easy water when unloaded or very lightly loaded. This would be when me & the gear (& rest of family) are in the 16' raft. Cat would be need to be something they can manage on their own in easy water and grow into bigger water over time. Second use for the cat would be for me to row solo with gear on multidays and in bigger water. Not generally hauling glamping quantities of gear in the second case, just basic/regular stuff.

Is there a sweet spot size of cat that would do both of these well? How much of a difference in maneuverability would there be on a 14' vs 16' if unloaded or very lightly loaded for my young teen? How about width between the tubes? Lots of cats out there but right now really liking the NRS 14' or 16' river catarafts. Would ideally outfit it with modular NRS frame to leverage other NRS frame components we've already accumulated.

Thanks!
 

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Sounds like your 16' would be taking more of the gear and people than necessary....
My suggestion (owner of Aire cat 18' for 20 years):
Have the kids learn on a lightly loaded 14' 6" raft, sell the 16' and invest in a 18' cat that can cut the waves, handle well when loaded (if balanced and rigged well); with weighted oars and learning to set up early before rapids, they will learn and grow into bigger water
My two cents
 
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I own cats, and that’s it. A 10’, a 13’, two 16’’ and an 18’. I’m always running solo day trips, or multi day. My dayboat is the 13’ for high water and class IV (and feels pretty big), then the 10’ the rest of the year (feels pretty small in rowdy water). I’ve found that smaller is better. More nimble, easier to load/move. Buying tubes in 2’ increments is too close to the other size.
From what you’re saying I’d suggest something like a 12’ and the 16’. If I had to have only one small cat, it would be in the 11’-12’ range. Maybe a Sotar Legand…although the Outcast pac1200 is a sweet set of tubes. They’re pretty affordable. Made by Aire, I’ve been looking for one of them too.
 

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Way back when, I started my raft rowing career (converted from kayaks) with a 18 ft Aire Cat. Unloaded I used it on Arkansas Creeks like Big Piney and loaded on a wide variety of western river trips from San Juan to Middle Fork to Grand Canyon. I had a plywood floor which made the Cat ideal for rocket boxes and or cook box in the front bay. Like 2Tomcat2 I am a big fan of the Aire 18.

I am also a big fan of the Aire 16. I have rafting buds who do multi day western river trips with two folks on board and just as many who do solo multi day trips with their 16. Of course you have to manage the load on any cat else performance suffers.

For jb's use I recommend the Aire 16 because I think it gives him and his family the best of both worlds.

The 14 ft Aire Cats are the fun solo models in my opinion. I have buds with 14 ft Aires and they love them for solo runs but performance is directly related to the load if used for overnights. Not saying overnights are not possible, but my opinion the 14's are fun machines not load carriers.

I have run RMR 16 ft tubes and enjoyed them, but Aire Products would be my tubes of choice. RMR being very cost effective with decent performance and durability.

My friend Bighorn had a 16 foot SOTAR cat and with him at the oars that raft ran every thing from the Smith to Grand Canyon well. Truly a top of the line awesome river machine. His was set up as a fishing machine with open seating up front., but he could also carry a load. Just perfect to fly cast from and a exciting ride if a passenger. SOTARS are excellent products but are even harder than Aire to buy new. forget used cause SOTAR cats do not get resold often.

I also rowed a Aire 143 self bailer along side the big 18 Cat and enjoyed both. Bottom line is I like Aire designs and products with Cat's my design of choice. Which makes me biased.
 

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Nothing like opinions ! Might want to look on youtube and see what people are rowing in different kinds of water and how they are loaded. Personal opinion is that an Aire Jag is hard to beat as all around rig and value. Used buy might be 15 ft Aire WD ( discontinued). A lot of folks solo run 14's with gear.River Gypsies have a custom Aire 14 WD with 24 inch tubes that would work also.Most frame width is to fit std dryboxes. SOTAR's are nice but currently out of my price range ( have owned 3 different models over time)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Update - put my 14'6" raft up for sale and it moved fast. Sold this morning. So the search for cataraft is on! Probably going to search over the next few months and try and buy a used one. Our 16' raft is definitely a keeper and the main workhorse for us. It's a hyside 16 pro xt and bought that cruiser to be big enough to carry the whole family (wife + 3 kids) and gear.

To recap, the plan for the cat is that it's good for me to take solo on multidays (main salmon, deso etc.) with gear, and to be something my young teens can start rowing on their own on easy water without much gear or any gear. Because unloaded cats are so easy to move, it seems like the governing factor between those two is being able to handle a rower + gear for mulitdays. What's the smallest you'd go for that? 14' with big tubes? 16'?
 

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I know boaters that run 14X22 Ocelots with one boater and overnightgear , plus moderate group gear. One gal rowed her Ocelot ,gear, and early teen kid, on MF's for years. 14 fat tube (24) loses some nimbleness- more rocker ( less waterline helps). Hyside Thundercat 14 X23 looks neat- shorter waterline than Legend or WD. Do NOT overload a cat ! or it is not catlike.
 

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Got any pics of your multiday setup on it?
To be clear, I haven’t done a trip with it yet. It’s been my day boat. We did a Marsh/Middle two springs ago, and got passed by two guys doing what I’m discussing. They were both in 12’/13’ cats and while we were dragging our boats they were floating theirs. So that was the impetus to rerig my 13’ for a trip boat. They had maybe a Bills bag and a couple of small drybags. No cooler, no drybox, no ammo cans, no chairs, etc. So I’m definitely using their idea.
We did the Grand this spring…we saw several 14’ cats with 2 people and gear. It’s not at all impossible.
 

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I own cats, and that’s it. A 10’, a 13’, two 16’’ and an 18’. I’m always running solo day trips, or multi day. My dayboat is the 13’ for high water and class IV (and feels pretty big), then the 10’ the rest of the year (feels pretty small in rowdy water). I’ve found that smaller is better. More nimble, easier to load/move. Buying tubes in 2’ increments is too close to the other size.
From what you’re saying I’d suggest something like a 12’ and the 16’. If I had to have only one small cat, it would be in the 11’-12’ range. Maybe a Sotar Legand…although the Outcast pac1200 is a sweet set of tubes. They’re pretty affordable. Made by Aire, I’ve been looking for one of them too.
What type of 10' tubes do you run?
 

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It’s a low budget fishcat from Sportsman Warehouse. The tubes came from Aire originally, I did a bunch of work making it better for whitewater (stripped all the extra crap off it, added an NRS low back seat, etc) but it surfs great, and has held up to all kinds of abuse. I can’t recommend them enough. I have less than $1000 in it, and it gets more use than any of my other boats. The whole boat weighs about 50 lbs, maybe less.
 

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Update - put my 14'6" raft up for sale and it moved fast. Sold this morning. So the search for cataraft is on! Probably going to search over the next few months and try and buy a used one. Our 16' raft is definitely a keeper and the main workhorse for us. It's a hyside 16 pro xt and bought that cruiser to be big enough to carry the whole family (wife + 3 kids) and gear.

To recap, the plan for the cat is that it's good for me to take solo on multidays (main salmon, deso etc.) with gear, and to be something my young teens can start rowing on their own on easy water without much gear or any gear. Because unloaded cats are so easy to move, it seems like the governing factor between those two is being able to handle a rower + gear for mulitdays. What's the smallest you'd go for that? 14' with big tubes? 16'?
To address your actual question (young teens can row it and great for you as a solo boat), I think a 14' cataraft would be perfect. We bought a 14' Aire Wave Destroyer as my wife's boat. This past May we did Ruby Horsethief and my 12 year old son rowed it the entire way. Even with 2 big dry bags, 50lbs of water, and a smallish front dry box, it was still super maneuverable for him - he even made tough landing where there was current and no eddy. As a multi-day boat, my wife took it down 6-day Hell's Canyon this year and it can still haul a decent amount plus one passenger on the front dry box without being overloaded. Honestly, 14' seems perfect because its small enough that as long as you don't overload it it will be easily maneuverable for young teens, but is still big enough for you to go and take on big water.
 

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I second the above. There really isn’t much a 14’ cat can’t do - from 1-person Grand to day tripping empty. I’d lean more towards the Legend and Kima shape than the WD shape if you’ll be carrying gear regularly. Definitely would go with a sportier style and not longer than 14’.

A day frame plus a module makes it most versatile.
 

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Here is a photo of our 14' Aire Wave Destroyer rowed by my son earlier this year. He just turned 13. His 10 year old younger brother is the passenger.
My 16 year old daughter rowed a lot of the Hell's Canyon rapids and the big ones my wife rowed.

For multi-day trips we run it with the rower in the middle as seen in the picture with a dry box and passenger up front. For day trips we can take out the dry box and reconfigure with the rower up front. We use the NRS shortcat frame.

I am partial towards Aire, but I think any of the mentioned 14 footers are pretty sporty in style (Wave Destroyer, Legend, Kima) and would be worth considering.

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I have a 13' and 16' Cat. Both Aires but that's irrelevant to your original question, to which i would suggest a 14' er. No bigger though. Buddy has a Hyside ThunderCat (14') that really impressed me but personally i would take any 13 or14' cat from Hyside, Aire, Sotar, Maravia or NRS. Just my 2 cents....
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thought to sum up the most common recommendations from the thread and now several PMs on it. Appreciate everybody's input on this. Have only rowed cats a couple of times and it was fun so based on their upsides, want to experiment with adding one. For my uses, most recommendations were that 14' would have a cat capable of handling multiday gear for 1 while still being somewhat sporty and manageable for young teens learning to row their own craft. 14' wouldn't be as sporty as the those a few feet shorter but the dropoff in sportyness bigger than 14' was considerable - somewhat depending on the cat.... Lots of recs to get something with a decent amount of rocker over those with primarily flat tubes. In 14' size, most recs were for sotar legends, aire wave destroyers and nrs/star kima. My budget ($1500-2K) means would need to buy used for sotar or WD. Few of these come up for sale (a good sign for their durability) and almost all are fully outfitted with frame and lots of other gear I don't need that puts the package above budget. So, seriously considering nrs/star kima 14 tubes.
 
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