Loading Watermaster for Multi-day trip

Discussion in 'Watercraft' started by Davbaker, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. Some buddies and I managed to score a permit for the Smith River in June. It's been a dream of mine for a long time. We are planning to go light, in our Watermasters. Essentially a backpacking, no frills style trip. Wondering if anyone has any tips on loading a Kodiak for such a trip? I think the manufacturer states something like a 750 lbs load capacity, which seems generous. I won't carry anywhere near that much, but am curious how the boat will perform with 40 or 50 extra pounds loaded. I plan to do a trial run fully loaded locally.

    Has anyone taken their Watermaster on Multi say trips? Any suggestions on loading?

    Thanks for any advice

    Steezn290 likes this.
  2. 8 day trip last summer. The nice thing about the manufacturer's stated load capacity is that you will want to stay under about half that value so you can maneuver your Kodiak. I had some serious rapids to run, and the WM would have been way, way too sluggish at 750#. My fly-in weight was around 350#, me at 200, WM at 40#, and rest was gear and food. I loaded mine fore and aft. I put two food boxes in my WM dry bag along with some misc. gear and a 15 qt. cooler lashed on the stern deck. I have a large Duluth dry bag that I put two dry bags in, so things were double dry bagged, lashed to the front on top of my little folding table and chair.

    This was heavier than back packing, but life was good having fresh-frozen breakfast and dinner the first 4 days for 3 of us, before switching to freeze dried the last 4 days. Beer was too heavy for our flight load, so we each took a bottle of Scotch or Jamison (packed in non-breakable container from REI), and I brought a 4 liter box of wine. We ran out of alcohol, and I'm revising my load for this year, thinking of foregoing the frozen food in the cooler entirely and substituting some lightweight meals that are not freeze dried. It's a shame to run out of booze on a high quality fishing trip.

  3. Salmo - thanks for the reply. That info helps a lot - and you helped answer other questions I had about packing booze. It hurts to not have a cooler full of beer, but a bottle (or 3) of Jamison or Knob Creek should get us through the trip. Curious - how did you pack gear on the bow?

    Once again, thanks for the reply - good to know others have taken multi-day trips in the WM. Were you in Alaska, by any chance?

    Much appreciated

  4. My buddy(s) and I have made lots of multiple day floats on many rivers over the years. We were NOT very well equipped, smart nor very cautious in the beginning therefore, we dumbasses have learned many important life-saving lessons the hard and dangerous way. Don't take this path. The most we learned was one year when we thought we could get down The River of No Return in our overloaded pontoon boats. It's a long epic story with big male bravado and wee bitty brains. Let's just say it didn't end well and we are lucky to be alive. We did however learn a huge amount. Next year, nursing our bruised egos, a little pissed off but much smarter, we bought a Super Duper Puma stripped it down and pimp it out for her not-to-be-underestimated Class IV rapids and went back to kick her a$$. Like any beautiful woman, her fury is not to be underestimated. So here's some hard learned lessons to recommend to you so you have a great and safe experience. There's nothing finer than floating, camping and fishing a fine river mistress.

    With a WM Kodiak, it's definitely smart to think alpine hike like minimalist trip in terms of gear. I never used one but it looks like it has a pretty low center of gravity. So, the first recommendation is not to overload it and significantly raise the CG too high. I've been told the Smith River doesn't have the same Class IV boat eating rapids like the Middle Fork of the Salmon but if you're loaded too high, you wouldn't believe how easy it is to get high centered an ottoman sized rock and then how quick it can flip you.

    Keeping your load well under the spec weight is a very good idea.

    Don't underestimate the value of a decent nightly ration of Bushmills, a Single Malt or whatever fine spirit you prefer to enjoy around the campfire each night. The British conquered a vast empire with said strategy. Cigars too, among other indulgences, if you enjoy them too.

    A trial float is an excellent idea. Do it with your buddy(s). Find a river stretch with similar features and do an overnight trip with the gear you think you'll bring to the Smith. Maybe someone on the board can recommend a river stretch that's like the Smith. Its amazing what you'll learn. You'll get a chance to feel how your fully loaded boat maneuvers. You'll know better what to bring and not bring. Plus, you'll figure out how well y'all work together or maybe not at all and thus what to work on. You'll be much more prepared for the big trip.

    Don't forget a good PFD and wear it as much as you can especially going down rapids. How about a throw bag?

    Definitely bring an extra oar each and have it stowed on your boat where you can get at it immediately. I remember on our first tip down the MF Salmon, the pin/rivet fell out of my paddle/oar connection not a half mile from pushing off the first day. WTF!?!?!? So there I was, right paddle essentially rolling over uselessly and my boat spinning helplessly around and around bouncing from rock to rock. Add tethers to your oars too if you don't have them already.

    Along with a good first aid kit, bring a patch kit with extra parts. Think about having something that will repair or replace anything that you're gonna need to get you down river safely. Plus, I would bring plenty of duct tape & zip ties in various sizes/lengths. Like duct tape, you can't have enough rope as well.

    WWLSD - (what would Les Stroud do) do you have emergency fire starters? Seriously, all in a mater of minutes you can get flipped, soaking wet, get hypothermic and then it dumps torrential cold rain on you. Or better yet, it starts snowing. It's happened to us in the middle of summer out in Montana and Idaho. When that happens I hope you know how to get all Bear Gryls like or better yet, pull out the Les Stroud funky chicken.

    Gimme shelter - hope you're bringing a tarp or something for shelter/cover. Even a small 8' x 10' tarp (w/rope) can be a life saver. I would say more that more than a majority of our river trips we've had to pull it out and set up to keep dry and warm.

    Also - not a gear thing but rather a river man thing - don't hesitate to get out and scout out every major rapid when you hear or see one coming up. You never know if there's a hazard such as a low lying sweeper just waiting to take you out. When you get to a good observation spot, discuss the best route with your buddy, where to pull and where to push on the oars and how spaced out you guys should be. Then pick a Plan B route if there is one. Like champion downhill skiers, you and your buddy gotta pick the right lines and visualize running the shoots anticipating every rock and current. We learned not to be shy and make the extra effort to talk to guides (or anyone who looks like they know what they are doing). If you see a guide/guided party along the river, pull over and talk with them. Most guides are quite friendly and even though they have their clients to take care of, they will most likely give you good and/or important river info or conditions. In a way, they have a vested interest you get down the river safely too. Nothing says party pooper more than throwing a body bag onto your party boat. Probably puts a big damper on their tips too.

    Nothing finer that a float trip and it's made much more enjoyable if you're prepared. We've wanted to do the Smith for years and hoping one day to finally win a permit. We've had awesome trips down the MF Salmon, Snake, etc. I hope the fishing is as good on the Smith in June as it is on the MF during August/September. The fishing isn't as hot during the higher June flows on the MF but maybe it's better for the Smith. Get prepared, best of luck and happy travels down the magical river. Please take lots of pictures and post a detailed report, ok?


  5. Good advice has been given here already. I had a Kodiak, then moved up to Scadden Assault XX. Both are fine fishing vehicle for day trips on rivers with constant traffic. But, I would never take them on a river for multidays without having proper support. These boats really excel as river taxi getting you from one hole to another. Multiday trips are possible, but not preferable. You will have to be ready to live like kayakers. But, even kayakers usually have a gear boat that support them on multiday trips.

    The problem with these smaller boats are load capacity. David Scadden advertises his assault XX as 1500lb. capacity, class V raft. I am surprised he hasn't been sued yet. My 16' Aire raft with 22" tube has the rating of 1870lb, so I don't know how in the world a 10' with 16' tube can be loaded with similar weight. Boats should never have class rating. It's the skill of the boater that determines which class it should be taken on. I would never ever load the Kodiak or Assault with more than 500lb. including myself. Even then, the boat will be sinking below optimal waterline. My biggest fear for multiday float would be the oar/oarlock system. You can literally rip the flimsy glued in oar patch in one big hydraulic or rocky bottom if your oar gets caught. It also wont take much force to break the cheap aluminum/litespeed oar that they come with. Unless you are willing to put some sort of rowing frame with proper brass oarlocks, keep the boat for day trips for fishing.

    If multiday expedition type of camping fishing is what you are looking for, eventually you will have to spring for a proper raft. If I were you, I'd rent a minimum of 13' for your multiday trips, and enjoy your kodiak on day trips. Rafts with properly rigged gear get very expensive, and may not make financial sense unless you run multiple trips each season for the next 10-15 years.
  6. The last several miles are a complete row-out, but by then you should have lightened your load quite a bit if you've planned correctly. That's a long trip on a personal boat.
  7. Thanks all for the great advice. Ellis - it means a lot to hear your personal experience with not being prepared on your earlier trips. I appreciate the input. While I am no expert at running rivers, I have spent enough time whitewater kayaking and rafting that I am pretty respectful of how even class 2 rivers can turn on you in a heartbeat. I share your thoughts on wearing a PFD - and am pretty religious about doing so. In terms of survival gear/ tactics, I couldn't agree more.

    Verendus - I will definitely think long and hard about the concerns you expressed. I agree that the durability and ability to carry a large amount of gear make the WM (or any personal watercraft) less than optimal. I might explore the option of renting a larger raft for support - that way we can switch off rowing support while the others float their Watermasters- and just maybe we could have that cooler full of beer.

    Derek, maybe you can lend me your Green Drake, and I'll be set :). Seriously, is there anywhere you could rent Stream Tech boats?

  8. Dave,

    Congratulations on getting the permit; I keep trying and wishing. From the people I've talked to and the photos I've seen, if you are on during normal flows you should not have any problems with the WM's if you pay attention. During low flows, you'll do some dragging. If the flows are high, well, yippee ki yea, right?

    One thought you might consider is adding D ring patches to your boats. You can get them at NRS and several other sites.

    If you don't have extra oars, PM me; I may be able to help you with a loaner. And, you're right--doing that river or any other in one of Linc and Derek's Green Drakes would be a little bit of Heaven.

  9. Dave,

    Regarding packing gear on the bow of the WM, I laid my small wooden folding table on it as a foundation, and placed the large Duluth dry bag on top of that. Then lashed it all down. I think I might add a couple more D rings fore and aft to have more lashing points this year.

    Regarding the suitability of the WM for multi-day river trips, I use the analogy of backpacking to trailer camping. Some don't feel comfortable and safe with anything less than a 5th wheel trailer and associated tow rig. Some people hike and camp the length of the 2700 or so mile Pacific Crest trail for months with a backpack, with regular re-stocking of food, of course. The WM sales video shows the rafts with drybags being used on Alaska float trips. WM are rated for Class IV water, but I agree with Verendus that it's the rating of the boatman, not the boat, that counts.

    I bought my WM Kodiak specifically for multi-day wilderness float trips. It packs small, and 3 can fit in a Beaver float plane or helicopter, yet are large enough to carry all that I need except a beer cooler.

  10. Dave, of course. I am included in the rental package, and I suppose I'd let you row if you wanted to.... ;)

    Have a great trip - I did it last May and loved it!
  11. Thanks guys. Bill, I appreciate the offer of lending me an extra oar but I should be set with an extra pair. Salmo, I tend to agree with you on the analogy of backpacking versus trailer camping, and I appreciate your advice and experience. Would love to hear about some of your trips. I am guessing you have had some amazing ones.

    Derek, not sure I could afford you for 5 days (though it would be worth it) but you are welcome to join and yes I would share in the paddling.

    This forum is the best. I wi do my part and post pics and details after our early June trip


  12. Aw, Dave, Derek's wife can't afford him for 5 days either.
  13. Dave, are you serious? What are the dates? Hmm...
  14. Derek. He'll yes I'm serious. An opportunity to drag a guide like you along for 5 days? No brainer. PM sent
    Bill Aubrey likes this.
  15. I have done quite a few 2-3 day trips on my pontoon boat and we also scored a June Smith permit this year. We have scraped the minimalist approach and are leaving the toons home. We now have 3 rafts, a cat, and a aluminum drifter. We decided we may never get this permit again and wanted to do it with all the luxuries;i.e. Gourmet food, plenty of cold beer, and firewood for evening fires. That was probably the two biggest kickers towards the big boat approach..not enough beer and packin firewood for campfires..gotta have campfires.
  16. As far as firewood goes, we took 3x4' bundles of wood, untreated 2x6" planks cut to size, and wrapped in heavy-gauge shrink wrap, which was used for trash/recycle bags after unwrapped. I think they were purchased in Billings by the group that came from there.

  17. Nirodneck: If your put in date is 6/2 let me know so my buddies and I can find your campsites, and pathetically stare at you guys eating gourmet food and drinking beer until you feel sorry for us and throw us something to eat/ drink.

    Derek - I will be PMing you soon to get even more advice. Thanks for doling out so much already


Share This Page