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Interesting Trips With Our Inflatable Products

HC Cadbourn Takes a High Water Trip Down the Selway In Idaho

Work has been crazy both before and after my trip, and as you can see I got about 1 month behind on my e-mail. Trip was great - We launched on the 27th. Our permit said the river was at 5.2, but some USGS guys were there working on the gage and said it was lower - probably real number somewhere between 4.5 and 5.0. My guess would be close to 5. Will write with more details soon, but for now I'll just say that we had a great time; flipped one of the 14' rafts, flipped one of the other catarafts (a small one) twice. Also had an oarsman fall out of the smaller cataraft at Ham on a near-flip, but he caught a strap as he was going airborne, hung on, dragged himself back aboard, and finished out the run. I managed to get down the river without flipping in any of the rapids. On days one and two (above Moose Creek), I had a complete blast rowing, even managed to catch a wave and back surf for a while. On day three, we of course had significantly larger water, plus my load had increased to two kayaks (mine plus one more) plus a kayaker whose shoulder was acting up, plus my original share of the other gear. With the additional load and the bigger water, I had my hands completely full. I did flip once, but not in a rapid - I'll explain that one later.

Even though I didn't get this message until after the trip, you don't know how good it made me feel to hear your suggestion on the paddles --- I was afraid my buddies would make fun of me, but I placed one canoe paddle and one throw rope on a frame member where I could access them if upside down. Basically, I was determined that if I did flip I wasn't going to give up or just wait for someone else to come rescue me - I was by golly going to be doing something.

On the cataraft, about the only thing I don't like is the time it takes to rig it out. I'm sure I'll get faster, but as a kayaker, I guess I'm just spoiled by the "grab your boat off the roof and go" that I'm more used to. But if the alternative is to use a self-bailing raft with paddles, I'll spend the extra time rigging, thank you very much. I think I'm going to try some oar extenders and see how an 11' oar feels - at times the 10' seemed a little short sitting way up there above those 27" tubes. Also, at times I felt like more reach would have helped me spin a little faster - on the big water days I found that if one tube caught some slower or faster water I had trouble maintaining my angle where I wanted it. I'm sure glad you steered me away from going with even shorter oars!

Also, I find myself being a little obsessive about the tubes - trying to prevent my friends from dragging them around on the ground, trying to keep them in an Air Conditioned car and off the hot floorboard, and just worrying a whole lot more than what I see among the other rafter-types. Part of me says "I'm sure they are tougher than that, quit worrying" and part of me says "No matter how tough they are, if you take better care of them they'll last longer."

Our open boaters thought better of it when we had such a "high" level (for us) on launch day. One chose to paddle his kayak; one rode a raft (the oarsman really needed him since it was NOT a self bailer), and our female open boater also chose to ride a raft. All three did quite well in their open boats on the Lochsa, making combat rolls when needed, and I would say they probably could have handled the majority of (if not all of) the Selway, but considering that the Lochsa is right by the road and the Selway is not, I would have to say they made prudent decisions.

We had several reminders of the serious side of this sport - some rafter (rafters?) drowned on the upper Selway the week before we got there, then a kayaker who launched two days before us took a bad swim at Ladle (and continued through Little Niagara and Puzzle Creek) and had to be helicoptered out. On the way home we floated Bear Trap Canyon of the Madison, and three days later someone drowned there too, in Kitchen Sink Rapid, which we had run without scouting. I think we normally would have scouted, but we had put in relatively late in the day and were pushing to get down the river, and once one of the group headed down we all ended up bombing through. The level was posted as 2300 cfs when we were there, which per the books is a pretty good (bordering on high?) level.

Will write more soon - will try to get something organized focusing more on the Daddy Cat, frame choice, and all that good stuff. Would also like to correspond with you on some handling comments - for example, the rafters seem to be 95% back ferrying, but with the cataraft it just felt better to go forward when I could and back ferry only when I got fairly far off the line and needed the extra muscle. Maybe I was just nervous about punching the holes ... on the first two days, I was intentionally hitting the holes just to see what I could punch, but by the time we got past Double Drop the holes were big enough that intentionally hitting them no longer seemed like such a good idea. (One stopped me dead and almost flipped us; its amazing how quickly you can find the high side when you need to.) Also, I noted a number of catarafts had their oars rigged forward of center - I assume this is relatively recently developed style geared toward hole punching with relatively light loads - i.e., get the rower over the hole and pull through. What style comments would you have? You already mentioned loading the gear forward - but do you generally stick to back ferries, or do you do a lot of forward maneuvers too?

Jack's Note
There is some good information in here about a very serious stretch of whitewater. A must read for anyone contemplating getting into the sport of catarafting. He had a 27 inch Diameter Daddy Cat. He did extensive research with us for frame styles, load capacities, and rigging suggestions. Obviously his search for information and the right boat paid off.

I was concerned about this trip because they had open boaters, and I did not know the level of training that they had. I was also concerned that it may be a cold June, and that the high water would come down late in the season. I wrote HC and suggested that two paddles be tied on the bottom of the frame. That way if the boat is flipped, the oarsman and passenger can paddle the boat to shore. A cat boat paddles nearly as good upside down as right side up. On the Selway at high water, a boatman must develop the philosophy that there is not going to be anyone around to save my boat. I must save myself.

Please be careful out there. Too many have died in this sport, and the limits are constantly being pushed.


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