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Interesting Trips With Our Inflatable Products

Culebra Grande Trip on the Arkansas

This past weekend I had a chance to test the new prototype Culebra Grande - a 'frameless' cataraft from Jack's Plastic Welding Inc. The Grande is 14.5 feet long with 22 inch diameter tubes and is the larger of two available sizes. It has three thwarts much like a raft and has a solid fabric floor with foot cups for guide and passengers alike. I took the Culebra Grande to the Arkansas river since it still has some water and ran it in (june 20, 2003) both 'one man' and 'three man' configurations with a small oar frame on the Royal Gorge Royal Gorge, Browns Canyon,and The Numbers. The first benefit I noticed was the drive from Durango to Salida was much
easier without my big ol cataraft frame on the roof.

On our first run down the Royal Gorge I had no passengers so I put the small rowing frame in the front compartment and sat on the middle thwart. It was nice to just pump up the boat and slap on a small frame for once (for those of you with regular catarafts you know what I mean). There is no foot cup for the oarsman up front so in the rapids I slid down so my foot would reach the front thwart. This actually put the oars at about the right height. The Gorge was flowing at about 1800 - a good test for the Culebra. How did it perform? In one word - fantastic! With no large metal frame I felt very nimble in the rapids and was able to spin and ferry with ease. When it came time to punch Sunshine Falls it was no problem to high side on the soft front thwart. I felt like a kid again. The boat was very lively with just me on it - but I never felt like I was even close to flipping. At the takeout it was a simple matter to deflate the tubes and roll up the boat. If you are ever hungry in Cañon City be sure to check out Alfonzos Super Taco for some good cheap grub.

On day two I took two passengers up front for both The Numbers and Browns Canyon so this time the rowing frame went to the back and me with it. Jack has a center foot cup back here so I didn't need to slide down so much. There are also foot cups up front for the passengers. As you know the numbers is a fairly technical IV+ run with little margin for error. Although its nice to have the extra power of the paddlers up front this obviously made turning a little slower - unless I called a turn and then we tended to overcompensate! In fact I confess we got a little sideways in Number 5 and even though the boat is fairly narrow it forgave us of this error and we emerged unscathed. Again I thought to myself that this is the ultimate boat - all the advantages of a cataraft in a compact package like a raft.

Not satisfied with only one run that day we decided to jump on Browns about 4 PM. The Culebra was so easy to row I hardly called any commands until my passengers demanded something to do. The only real test for us was Seidels Suckhole. I planned a left sneak of the hole but as things go ended up right in the middle of it. Once again the Culebra didn't let us down and we emerged right side up. Our companion Millissa with her traditional old school cataraft did end up in the drink - so that must prove the Culebra is a superior product right?

What would I change? I think this product should have carry handles and D-rings like the rest of Jacks Cats. He assures me all you need to do is ask for them. It would be nice if the floor had drain holes and some kind of grippy surface. Jack tells me this also is in the works. There might be room in the product line for a 12.5 or 13 foot version (the other version is 11 feet). Customer demand would solve that. I am not sure I like having a floor especially when solo - although the floor is integral to the structure. Maybe there is some way to cut out a hole for when you need to do a Fred Flinstone.

This boat turned a lot of heads on the Arkansas and is a great idea who's time has come (no offense to Shredder). I personally really want one and highly recommend one to anyone looking to run hard whitewater in an inflatable with easy setup, transportation and storage. If you want one call Jack at (505) 334-8748 or e-mail him at info@jpwinc.com and tell him Dana sold you on the Culebra.

Later!

- Dana

Jack's Note
I really like this boat also. However there are a lot of variations. The next one that we build will probably be outfitter style as shown in the photo gallery drawing. We hope that our customers who see this will keep in touch and let us know how they feel about this product as it developes.

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