Ways to Raft Down A River
Ways to Raft Down A River. The roots of modern river rafts date back to the post-World War II surplus equipment sold across the country. Before rubber, river runners were using wooden boats with poor agility and little room for cargo or passengers. They were heavy, easy to break, and time-consuming to repair. To avoid these issues, Goodrich Rubber Company manufactured one of the first rubber rafts for whitewater in 1938 for use on a documentary film trip. The resulting footage from the trip inspired more individuals to experiment, and once they became cheap and abundant after the war, rubber rafts became king and wooden boats generally fell out of style.
The diversity in boat types on the river has never been greater than it is today, with almost all of them being made of rubber. Because every boat provides a different experience and their names are not always intuitive, here is a basic guide to the main types of water crafts you may see on the river.
The luxury cruise liner of the river, oar rafts are designed to carry as much gear as possible while leaving space for passengers to ride comfortably onboard. For seating and gear storage, oar rafts have wooden or aluminum frames strapped onto them, with the oars attached in the middle. These boats are sometimes confused with paddle boats, as the guts of both are the same, but the utility and experience of each could not be more different. On a paddleboat, everyone is participating, while oar rafts are powered by a single person utilizing two 9-10 ft. long oars positioned off of either side of the boat, allowing the passengers to relax, lay back, and enjoy the ride. A typical oar raft can carry 5-6 people and upwards of 1500 pounds!
For slow, flat-water stretches, there is no more relaxing way to travel downstream than riding along on an oar boat. Sharing stories and conversations, reading books, taking naps, or simply marveling at the scenery, the experience of the calm float offers something that is lost in activity. Due to the heavy weight of gear, food, and passengers, oar boats are difficult to flip and generally the safest way downstream, making them the most popular boats for multi-day trips.
A paddleboat is what most people picture traveling on when they imagine “whitewater rafting”. These rafts have elevated tubes that make up the sides with smaller tubes running width-wise across the floor. These smaller tubes are called “thwarts” and they act as seats or footholds for passengers. Paddleboats hold between 6-8 people and everybody has their own paddle, with one person (usually a river guide) sitting in the back. The passengers are responsible for creating and maintaining momentum, with the captain in the back doing all the steering and voice commands.
Paddleboats are a great way for people to participate and stay active. With strong paddlers, these boats are very maneuverable and lots of fun in the whitewater. However it is often hard to find 6-8 people who are committed to paddling the entirety of a trip. They are not designed to carry any cargo, and because of how lightweight they are, it is much easier to flip over in a rapid. Also, paddling can be a tough workout, especially in flat water and fighting a headwind, which may scare away any willing participation. Ideal for day trips and active groups, paddle boats are rare for multi-day trips but may be available upon request. Read more about why we don’t bring paddle boats on all of our trips in this blog.
Affectionately known as “duckies” for the characteristic way they appear to waddle downstream while following bigger boats (mama ducks), inflatable kayaks are a great source of freedom and autonomy on the river. Great for beginner and experienced paddlers alike, duckies are fun, stable, and easy to use while providing good exercise and the opportunity to explore the river on your own. It is common to see duckies on all stretches of water, but are not typically used in larger whitewater on commercial trips. Most kayaks are designed for one adult, but tandem duckies have become more popular in recent years. Holiday will bring duckies on most trips, when appropriate.
Stand up Paddleboard (SUP)
The newest river craze is the stand up paddleboard, or SUP. Despite being inflatable, these can be stiff as a surfboard and surprisingly stable. Manufacturers make many different shapes and sizes of SUPs, with the river designs being wider and thicker to better fare in whitewater. Another fun option to explore the river with autonomy, SUPs offer a unique workout and challenge to those seeking an active experience. The flat water of Cataract, Ruby/Horsethief Canyons, and Desolation Canyon are the most common sections of river that Holiday will bring SUPs.
Originally from the suburbs near Cleveland, Ohio, Justin made his way to Utah after graduating from Ohio University with a degree in exploring and having fun… If not on the river or in the kitchen, you’ll find him wandering the mountains, drinking coffee, or writing down words he hopes will come across as sensical.
Hypalon Raft Repair Guide and Kits
Hypalon Raft Repair – I own an old Achilles bucket boat and took it down the Smith River in Montana this year. I had picked up a trailer for the boat and it didn’t fit between the wheel wells. I rode it sitting on one wheel well to the river with no issues. After the float, my van had a flat tire and I rushed loading to get to a repair shop in Great Falls. I had it on the wheel well again but with additional weight this time. The weight rubbed the tire which burned through the plastic wheel well and put a hole in the raft floor and the tube. I saw it deflate on the trailer and stopped before it shredded the tube.
I applied a patch to the tube and floor and it actually seems to be holding without issue after a few floats. The NRS instructions and other youtube channels were helpful and I followed those instructions. Here’s how that whole process went down and some suggestions based on what I learned while doing the patch.
Table of Contents
Hypalon Raft Repair Kit:
- Hypalon material – I ordered it from NRS directly. It’s heavy duty and came in a big roll. Used for the floor and the tubes. I discovered smaller, cheaper patches (still solid hypalon) being sold at the Trailhead in Missoula and could have saved some bucks going that route. They actually had everything I needed at the store.
- Clifton Hypalon Glue and Accelerator – Definitely get the accelerator
- Toluene – Necessary for cleaning
- Sand Paper – 180 grit
- Gloves – I did some cheap latex ones but heavier duty are recommended
- Eye protection – Wore my sunglasses but actual protective ones are recommended
- Respirator – I skipped this and was careful to not breathe in fumes. I put my shirt over my face and was working outside. The glue is no joke and a respirator is a good idea for anything more than small patches.
- Roller tool – I went with the cheapest roller rasp one from NRS and it worked just fine. Definitely worth the purchase though.
Patching the Tube
- Lay the raft out on a flat surface where you can work easily. I only had the front yard option and laid the torn tube section on some concrete pavers for a nice working area.
- Cut your patch with rounded edges. You want the patch to extend a few inches beyond the tear.
- Trace the patch and sand the surface area that will be covered and the patch itself. You want to sand it down until the sheen is no longer on the material but not so far that it works down to the threads. You’ll have a good idea when it’s roughed up enough.
- Take a rag and clean the patch and raft surface with Toluene. Let it dry for 10 minutes. You will see it evaporate off pretty quickly in the sun. Get everything good and clean, it makes a big difference.
- I poured about 1/4 of the small glue can into a small plastic mixing cup and added a few drops of the accelerator. I probably used too much accelerate because the glue set quicker than anticipated. 1-2 drops of this stuff is just fine.
- Mix the glue and accelerator then thoroughly cover the patch and the outlined patch area (separately).
Note – I had 2 patches in an attempt to set one on the inside and another on the outside. The interior patch wouldn’t fit and having the glue on the outside made it difficult to manipulate. I ended up just doing the outside patch and it has held fine.
7. After applying the first layer of glue, let it set until it’s tacky but not dried. Then add another layer. Wait for the same result then add one final layer and wait again for the tacky texture. Use your gloves to test the glue, not your bare hands.
8. Lay the patch on the outlined area and get it lined up correctly. Use the rasper/roller tool to apply pressure until the patch is seated nicely and no possibly air bubbles or ends are loose. It will stick down pretty quickly with the pressure.
9. Leave for a full day. I put a heavy paver on top to keep pressure on the patch and left it for a day and a half. Then I aired up the tube until it was firm and monitored it for another day before putting pressure on the tube to see how the patch worked.
10. I used the same process for the floor. The tear was larger on the floor and I patched both sides. Everything has held up really well. I even had 4 people and 2 dogs on the boat, moving around and walking on the tube. The patch is showing no strain from that trip.
My hypalon raft repair kit has held up well.
Zach Lazzari is a freelance writer, fly fisherman and explorer. He is currently fly fishing down the Pan American highway, exploring fisheries from a camper van with his companion, Shale dog.
Inflatable Pool Float: How to Repair a Hole
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While everyone is enjoying a dip in the pool on a hot summer’s day, there is nothing like finding a hole in your inflatable pool toy to ruin your fun. Usually made of vinyl, inflatable pool rafts and toys are easy to move around and play with, in the swimming pool, but their lightweight construction and design make them susceptible to tears that can reduce their lifespan.
Follow these steps to repair a hole in your float with things you already have around the house, and get it back in the pool instead of in the garbage bin.
Identify the Hole
Submerge your float in a bathtub or pool and look for escaping bubbles. This will indicate the exact spot of the leak. Another alternative to this is to spray a mixture of water and soap directly on the surface of the float, covering one section at a time. The appearance of soap bubbles will indicate the spot where the hole is. Draw a circle around the hole using a marker or crayon once the float is dry again.
Temporarily Tape the Hole
Dry your float completely and blow it up as much as possible before putting a small piece of duct tape over the hole. This is a temporary fix until you can apply the permanent patch, and it allows the float to stay mostly inflated to give a better fit for the final patch.
Glue the Hole
Cut the patch or a piece of duct tape to cover the area of the leak completely, allowing ¼-inch overlay around the edges of the existing temporary patch. This will provide more surface area for it to hold. Cover your hands with gloves to protect your skin and apply super glue to one side of the patch or duct tape, completely covering it in an even layer. Do not glue just the edges as it will leak.
Place the patch or duct tape, glue-side down, over the hole already covered with a piece of tape, applying even pressure for a minute or so for the glue to set in evenly.
Allow to Dry
Allow the glue to dry completely before using the inflatable pool float in the water again or you risk undoing your hard work.
Using a few household items and some ingenuity, you can avoid trudging to the store to buy new pool toys every time one springs a leak.
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