Types Of Boats
Over the years I have been asked numerous times what kind of boat to own for swift water boating. The answer is, just as in purchasing a vehicle, there is no perfect boat for all seasons and all reasons.
There are 3 classes of boats: inflatables, kayaks, and canoes. Inflatables fall into 3 categories: Catarafts, which are formed by 2 separate 16-30” cataraft nylon tubes (like a ski tube) covered with neoprene and held together with a J-rig aluminum frame which rests between the 2 tubes connected with many straps, usually leaving about 44” of open water beneath your feet. You sit on a raised platform on a tractor seat and maneuver the boat with long wooden or plastic oars. In 1992 I successfully negotiated Marble and Grand Canyon for 16 days, 226 mi. in a 16 foot long cataraft. I still own it but an 18’ boat would have been safer.
There are also large oval rafts up to 22’ outfitted with interior aluminum frames set up for oars. Why oars? They provide a much greater degree of control in fast moving water than paddles.
Then there are paddle rafts where people sit on the tube thwarts or raft tubes. These boats range as short as 8’ to as long as 20 feet! The longer ones can carry literally tons of people and gear.
And there are “rubber ducks” or inflatable canoes and kayaks. These are generally the only inflatables suitable for Ozark streams and then not at minimal flows. These boats are fairly pricey but allow for economy of transportation to and from the river. They can carry either 1 or 2 persons; and they are more forgiving than a rigid craft.
CANOES: are generally built out of four materials: wood, aluminum, fiberglass, and plastic. After World War II, aviation grade lightweight aluminum with flush rivets made wood and canvass covered canoes obsolete almost overnight.
Aluminum canoes are commonly called “rock grabbers. However if purchasing an Aluminum canoe, avoid lake keels and river keels. You need to find a whitewater or shoe-keel which is just an extra rounded tube of aluminum running down the bottom length of the canoes.
Then after the Vietnam War, plastics and fiberglass started to make aluminum canoes obsolete. Plastic has now pushed fiberglass to the side. Fiberglass is easy to repair, with cloth and resin; but the boats are heavy, and gain weight with each additional repair and can become waterlogged. The only good fiberglass boats are now very high-priced boats made with a Kevlar blend.
Plastic boats are divided into three categories; the first and premium one is thermoplastics, all based on a vinyl covered seven-layer sheet of royalex (or oltonar, depending on the company), and all under a patent developed by Uni-royal. These boats are virtually impervious to damage with memory dent “in and out” characteristics and they slide over rocks like glass.
They are somewhat lighter then aluminum canoes. After severe use, one can preserve their life by attaching stern and bow keel protective pads formed out of Kevlar and a special, expensive kind of resin. Kevlar is the material commonly used in bullet proof vests.
Then there are less pricey cross-link or poly formed dense plastics such as most of the Old Towne canoe line. These boats. unlike ABS thermoplastic boats earlier described, should be kept out of ultra-violet rays (sunshine) if at all possible as it gradually deteriorates the material by making it brittle. And finally there are polyurethane and ethylene boats, much like Coleman Ram-X material.
These of course are the cheapest of your choices. The material is subject to not only ultra- violet ray deterioration but also hot and cold contraction. They are definitely not lifetime boats and they are difficult to repair.
One other thing, a good white-water or swift-water boat should measure between 15’6” and 17”. That way it can be soloed with a kayak paddle. And seats-forget them; they are a white man’s invention for comfort. Try gluing in kneepads and kneeling. Use seats as an object to lean against. And kneeling lowers your center of gravity and gives you more padding power, and is a savior on the spine.
Now for Kayaks, most modern kayaks include a large cock pit, some with back support and foot pegs and a sprayskirt that you wear to keep water out. Most are now designed in semi rigid crosslink or poly plastic materials, again necessitating their storage out of direct sunlight.
Leave your – Sit-on top kayaks for gentle streams as they just don’t drain quickly enough. I’ll also mention C-1 canoes. This stands for a one-man solo covered canoe (looks like a kayak) except you kneel in the cockpit while wearing a sprayskirt. This style of boat is used in Olympic white-water canoeing and usually directed with a single canoe paddle. They can be rolled just like a kayak, maybe even easier. I used one in my prime. It’s a great manageable boat and draws only about 1 ½”. But it’s not called the “boat of pain for nothing.”
You kneel in the cockpit resting on your heels or ankles. And taking a break about every 60 minutes to ensure that your feet are not a sleep. Originally kayaks were narrow Olympic-sized at 13 ½ feet, but now most are wider and seldom measure over 11 feet.
One other category to talk about, although you mostly see them on the coasts and on western big rivers, and that is the dory boat. They are common in the Grand Canyon.
Dory boats can be manufactured out of wood, fiberglass or aluminum. Think of a large deep and double-ended 16-18’ canoe operated by a center-seated oarsman. You can even add a stern-board to equip a trolling motor or a marine motor up to 10 hp. In fact an aluminum dory and trailer is on my next wish list.
If I had to recommend one all-around best boat to own, it would be a 16’4” ABS Royalex® plastic canoe. It is big enough for two people and lightweight overnight gear. It’s big enough to hold up to big water and big waves. Yet by sitting in the front seat one can face the other direction and solo float; a truly enjoyable and well-balanced way to venture downstream. A new one will run you over $1,000; and a good used one is worth $400-600 in decent unabused shape.
NOTE: Back to the roots of the Civil War. While slavery was being outlawed in England during the mid-Eighteenth Century, the Puritans and other colonists also desired a free country without slavery.
However, King George and Lord North of Parliament in Britain did not want to forbid slaves in the Colonies due to business interests. Several large land-owners in the American South insisted that slavery was vital to their agrarian economy. And the King’s merchant fleet capitalized by shipping slaves to and from Africa, South America, and the West Indies (the Caribbean); as well as America. The foreign importation of slaves was outlawed in 1808.
After the Revolutionary War, most of the founding fathers desired that slavery be outlawed or “grand-fathered” in for a short period.
However, when attempting to gain a consensus to form the articles of Confederation, and then the Constitutions, Jefferson’s famous line about “all men are created equal” was conveniently forgotten, and slavery is not ever mentioned in the Constitution. It was not until the 13th Amendment was enacted which outlawed slavery at the close of the Civil War. The only mention is Congressional law that slaves were not to be counted in the ten-year census counts.
Remember, the Emancipations Proclamation, issued by Lincoln in January 1863 (formulated after the costly Union victory at Antietam in September 1862) only applied to the States that had seceded and were in rebellion. It specifically did not apply to the North or to Missouri, Kentucky or Maryland, as Lincoln did not want to further alienate Southern sympathizers in those Border States.
Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful outdoors.