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Coupla things on cataraft rigging
Posted by Michael Strahan on Mar 28 2006

I have an eighteen-foot Leopard as well and I rig mine a bit differently.  I used to take all the cedar boards on flyout trips, but now I just toss three of them in and supplement with a mesh floor.  The boards are strategically placed where you are likely to stand up, and one goes behind my rowing seat.  I put my outboard fuel tank on it.  Just my preference.  My point is that the boards are not as big a deal as some have said, and they fit nicely into the airplane.

On the cargo platform I use snow fence material because it allows good air circulation around the game meat I haul up there.

Also, if you're looking at composite oars vs the Carlisle aluminum shafts, consider this.  If you jam an oar between a couple of rocks, the composite material may shatter, rendering the oar useless.  Also, ding them on the rocks too hard and they'll snap under a heavy load.  The Carlisle will bend, and you may be able to bend it back into shape between a couple of spruce trees.  Something to think about when you're 500 miles from the nearest raft shop.  Also, I prefer the thin Carlisle blades because they make less splash than the thicker foam-filled blades you get with the composites- but that's just my personal preference.  The thickness of the foam blades does nothing for you.  Finally, you'll hear folks talk about how the composites have the same "snap" as wood oars, and they promote this as a positive benefit.  All "snap" is is the oar's tendency to flex under a load.  Flex is lost efficiency.  Some may say that a flexible oar shaft is nicer on your shoulders, but this argument applies only in heavy whitewater where you're really maneuvering a lot.  For float hunters and fishermen on Class I-II streams, I think it's a non-issue.

Rowing seats- go with a fixed mount rather than a swivel seat.  You need a seat that won't move around on you when you're trying to row.  For whitewater go with a low back seat, so you can lean backwards as you go over ledge drops and steep chutes.  For all other applications I favor a high back oarsman's seat.  Get the one with drain holes- even dew will collect in the low spot of your seat overnight and you'll get a wet rear if you're not wearing chest waders.  Swivel seats are great for your passengers though.  Get the Fish-On seats, but if you trailer your boat, find a way to permanently attach them to the swivel base.  More than one fisherman has had his seats stolen off his boat when he ran into Carr's grocery store for drinks and ice on the way out of town.

As far as outboards, if all you're looking for is something to motor from the end of Skilak Lake to the boat launch, and to pick up a little time on long float hunts, get an eight-horse or a 9.9.  This outboard is small enough to backpack if you have to portage.  Larger outboards will weigh a lot more and be harder to deal with for the limited times you'll want the extra horsepower.  On the other hand, if you need to get on step, you'll need a different floor system to control the spray generated by the tubes as you push them through the water.  Tracey Harmon at Alaska Raft and Kayak is your best resource on this.

Just my opinion; there are others here with more experience and I would defer to their judgement.


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