Ep. 100: Raft Fabric, Repair and New Rafts with Jeremiah From SOTAR

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 100: Raft Fabric, Repair and New Rafts with Jeremiah From SOTAR
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This week Zach talks with Jeremiah from SOTAR about their fabrics, field repair, and new lightweight boats.

SOTAR Raft on the North Fork of the Owyhee River
SOTAR Raft on the North Fork of the Owyhee River

Gear of the Week

OG Mini-Rafters

Below is some listener mail referencing our recent mini-boat podcast from our friend (and paddling legend) Bill Cross. Thank Bill!

I really enjoyed your Mini-Boats episode today; I listened to it while running. I thought I’d write and offer a little historical perspective. It seems that I’ve gotten so old that I can now bore everyone with yarns from the days of yore.

I think it’s wonderful that people are finally showing more interest in small rafts; the only surprise for me is how long it took for it to happen.

My own interest in mini-boats goes back over 40 years, and actually predates self-bailers. In 1978, on my ARTA whitewater school, the instructors brought along a 12-foot Avon Redshank with a wooden rowing frame, which students could row as a “suicide boat” without an instructor on board. In those days, the standard raft was a 16-foot Pro, and the 14-foot Adventurer was considered radically small. A 12-footer on the river was unheard of. The Redshank was actually never intended as a whitewater boat; it was a yacht tender, and it had virtually no bow rise, so a two-foot wave could swamp it to the brim. But despite that major shortcoming, I spent every second I could in that boat: it taught me a ton about rowing technical water, and it launched my life-long love affair with small rafts.

In 1982, I bought an 11-foot Campways Piute bucket boat. Initially, I used the Piute as an R2, but within a year I built a metal rowing frame for it. I rowed that boat for several years, and even used it for overnight trips. You can see a picture of it in Western Whitewater on p. 450. My wife and I created a custom spray shield for the bow to try to reduce swamping in waves and holes.

In 1986, just a couple of years into the self-bailing revolution, Jim Cassady and I talked SOTAR into building the first two 10-foot custom self-bailers. At the time, SOTAR’s smallest production boat was a 13-footer, and initially they refused to build a 10-footer because they thought we were crazy. They kept telling us we’d hate it. Eventually we talked them into it, and Cass and I started R2ing that same year.

R2-ing Troublemaker Rapid on the South Fork of the American River in 1986
R2-ing Troublemaker Rapid on the South Fork of the American River in 1986

As far as I know, we were the first people to R2 a round self-bailer. (I believe that folks back east had started S2ing Shredders about a year before we started R2ing our custom SOTARs.) Cass and I nicknamed our boats “MiniTars.” In the first year I owned it, I built a frame for it and outfitted it with a pair of 7.5-foot Sawyer fir-laminate oars. Over the next two decades, I paddled and rowed that boat more than any other raft in my fleet. Remarkably, I still have that raft, and at 34 years old it’s still seaworthy — a pretty amazing testament to SOTAR quality. Admittedly, the design is a bit dated. About a decade ago I switched over to a Hyside Mini-Me and Mini-Max, so these days the original MiniTar only gets out on the water if I need a second or third mini-raft.

Satans Cesspool on the American River in 1988
Satans Cesspool on the American River in 1988

The really surprising thing to me is how long it took for mini-rafts to catch on, both for R2ing and for rowing. Cassady and I were totally enthralled with our new toys, but for the first decade or so that I owned my 10-footer, it was just a curiosity on the river. We drew lots of stares and dubious looks, but even though we were far more agile than bigger rafts and could tackle much bonier runs, we couldn’t get people to share our enthusiasm. Cass and I even wrote articles for River Runner Magazine and the Friends of the River newsmagazine promoting R2ing and mini rafts, but almost nobody followed our lead. None of the manufacturers took the bait to build a small production raft. It wasn’t until Hyside built the Mini-Me that small rafts and R2ing really took off.

Anyway, there’s a little history for you.

Take care, and stay well.

Best wishes,

Bill

Ep. 86: Klamath Dam Removal and Flow Studies

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 86: Klamath Dam Removal and Flow Studies
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This week we are joined by Tom O’Keefe and Bill Cross who discuss the Klamath Dam removal and recent flow studies for paddling new sections of the Klamath River.

Relevant Links about Klamath Dam Removal

Gear of the Week

Ep. 85: Interview with Lee Baker

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 85: Interview with Lee Baker
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This week we talk with Lee Baker about South Eugene High School’s Integrated Outdoor Program (IOP) that serve underrepresented youth in Eugene.

News of the Week

Lee Baker
Lee Baker

Gear of the Week

Ep. 84: River Guiding and Kayaking with Dave Prothero

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 84: River Guiding and Kayaking with Dave Prothero
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Prolific kayaker, raft guide, and photographer Dave “Davey” Prothero joins us to chat about whitewater and some of his favorite places to boat. Check out is web site at RaftingLife.ca.

News of the Week

  • COVID is still an issue
  • People are boating
Dave Prothero debriefing an IRF Instructor Course
Dave Prothero debriefing an IRF Instructor Course

Gear of the Week

Ep. 83: Talking Rescue PFDs and Throwbags with Mark Hirst

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 83: Talking Rescue PFDs and Throwbags with Mark Hirst
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News of the Week

    • Commercial rafting has begun
    • The topic of debate in Europe is whether or not guides and guests should wear face masks
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Links From our Discussions

Astral Rescue PFD
Astral Rescue PFD

Gear of the Week

Ep. 79: Diminishing Tubed Boat Debate and Other Nonsensical Discussions

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 79: Diminishing Tubed Boat Debate and Other Nonsensical Discussions
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This week we respond to some listener questions about diminishing tubed boats and Zach ponders whether we should paddling communities that only want “locals.”

News of the Week

  • Recreation in Washington is beginning to open up today. An announcement about recreation in Oregon opening up is likely to come Thursday.
  • The Rogue River will not be open when permit season begins on May 15th.
Sign found near a local put-in
Sign found near a local put-in

Gear of the Week

Rogue Gear Works Cataraft Frame
Rogue Gear Works Cataraft Frame

Ep. 77: Paddle or Watch Magnum, P.I. During Stay At Home Orders?

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 77: Paddle or Watch Magnum, P.I. During Stay At Home Orders?
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In this episode we have a discussion about whether or not it’s a good idea to paddle during the stay at home orders.

Magnum, P.I.
Magnum, P.I.

News of the Week

Gear of the Week

Ep. 71: IRF and Best Practices Discussion with Mark Hirst

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 71: IRF and Best Practices Discussion with Mark Hirst
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In this episode Priscilla and Zach talk with Mark Hirst about International Rafting Federation raft guide training. We also talked a bit some commonly debated best practices.

Mark Hirst
Mark Hirst

News of the Week

Gear of the Week

Ep. 69: Talking Rowing With Our Friend Peter Fox

River Talk Podcast
Ep. 69: Talking Rowing With Our Friend Peter Fox
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In this episode Zach and Erik talk with whitewater legend Peter Fox about whitewater rowing theory and techniques.

News of the Week

Rowing a Cataraft
Rowing a Cataraft