This Blog is about customer participation in designing a customized self-bailing whitewater raft. I have attempted to inject some humor and history into it, to make it easier to read thanks for indulging me. If you care to skip to the main points behind this article, please go to the first meeting.
Animas Amazons Design Team
Animas- Without a soul. As in “Rio de los Animas De perdida in pergatorio” the official name of the river that flows through Durango, Co and Aztec, NM. It was named by Escalante and Domingues, two Franciscan Spanish priests trying to find a better way to get from Santa Fe NM to Monterey CA in the late 1500’s. It means river of lost souls forever stuck in purgatory. It received that name when they came to Bakers Box, (link is a video of kayaks in the box**) and they could go no further. They abandoned hope of baptizing any more Natives that lived upstream. They turned to the west and found the Delores River (our lady of sorrows). These days, the Animas River has a lot of soul, and there is a lot of happiness generated around it. However that is another story. We have just shortened the name of the river to the Animas. That is how the Animas and Purgatory Ski resort got their names.
Amazons- a tribe of wild women – a matriarchal society- Women warriors. They would often cut off their right breast so they could throw the lance better. Legend has it that men were taken as slaves. I do not suppose that was too much fun for the men, but you know men may fantasize about such things anyway.
Put the two together -Animas Amazons- A wild tribe of women that have no souls. Once again the definitions do not fit the team. The team is instead a collection of local ladies that like rafting, and down river race competition. Most if not all have been customers for years, and Cody and her Father took a trip down the Nahanni River in N W territories Of Canada using our Culebra frameless catarafts (with break down row frames), last year. Stacey has paddled our Dragonfly raft in Westwater Canyon. There are a host of other connections to the group, because I do not know all the women. There are about 20 of them in the group.
On with the story- Why did we decide to create a down river racing raft? What knowledge to these ladies have that we can use to build a better boat, and is there a reason why Jack would put out so much energy to see a project finished?
We have been building customized Self bailing rafts since 1993. The first ones went to San Juan College in Farmington. In these past 20 years, we have learned a lot about raft design, and the largest lesson is that we do not have a handle on everything there is to know. Therefore knowledge from experience is valuable to us, and we want this product to be a floating advertisement to our ability to create what our customers want. We put that much energy into a product to see if it will work, but also to show that what we design is what you will get. It is that simple. This design was not easy. It has all the components that make a Self-bailer design difficult. Yet we pulled it off the first time, and to the exact specs that they required.
What knowledge do the Amazons have that would make them great boat designers?
In 2013 we had a 13 ft. boat that was returned because of shipping damage. The Amazons used this boat to race with. They called it white lightning, and they thought it was pretty good, but we all thought we could make one that was faster on the water. Their experience in racing, their experience with inflatable boats in General, and the fact that we could meet at my house and discuss this made them the obvious choice for a demonstration of capability. The fact that they are racing with our boat and promoting the design and racing experience are frosting on the cake. Please read about the 2013 experience. The Piedra River had some surprises for them.
What makes this boat unique?
I have been working on drop stitch inflatable floor designs since 1993, and with the addition of Inflatable Stand Up paddle boards, we have learned how to curve them. We know that one of the big problems with hull speed, in a self-bailing whitewater raft, are the ribs in the I beam floor, grommets, bail holes, and anything that resists the flow of water under the boat. The reality is that a non-bailer is usually faster on the water until it gets water inside. Before last year, drop stitch floors did not curve upward to fit inside of the bottom of the raft. Many rafts actually take in water at the bottom and hold it inside of the floor of the boat so they are heavier on the water. This makes them harder to accelerate. What we wanted to do was make a self-bailer that maximized the flow of the river under the raft, maximized the flotation of the self-bailing floor, and minimized the amount of water that was taken with the boat down river. Then I met with these ladies, we addressed those issues, and we added even more features.
The first Design meeting:
We had been talking about designing a new boat for the Amazons for about 6 months. I thought we had some production time coming up soon. I called a meeting to get ideas for the design. We took a serious look at the original boat (white lightning) that they used in 2013, and used it to discuss what should change and why.
Smooth floor design:
The smooth floor design was an idea that I was keen on from the beginning. White Lightning (the 2013 race boat) had about as smooth of a floor design as we could get at the time. But when that boat was built we did not know how to curve the drop stitch into the space properly, and I wanted to showcase that capability. The Amazons agreed with that proposal, but were concerned about the ability of the boat to bail fast enough. That is when we decided to have cutouts in the middle of the floor to enhance bailing.
Other floor performance issues:
We wanted to have the maximum amount of flotation from the drop stitch floor as possible. We know that a shallow draft can enhance speed. We also know that the boat needs to track well. So there were some tradeoffs. To increase floor flotation, we made the boat as wide as we thought possible, and we filled the entire cavity of the floor area with drop stitch floor to increase flotation. To increase tracking effect, we raised the floor as high as the floor on a dragon fly raft. Stacey had used one in Westwater canyon, and was impressed with the tracking and speed of that boat.
The floor fits very snuggly between the main tubes. So much so that we feel foot entrapment between the drop stitch floor, and the main tubes is not an issue. I want to follow up with the team at the end of the race season about this to see if there were any issues. However let it be known that we are not stuck on designs that use this concept, and we can build any kind of floor system that a customer would like. To us this seems to be the best of both worlds, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss this with anyone who would like to give us feedback on this design.
We tackled this performance issue by making the main tubes a small diameter of 19 inches. We also decided that a low kick would be beneficial, but that it would not be beneficial in big waves. The compromise was to give the boat an 8 inch kick, (white lightning had a 9 inch kick and 19 inch tubes) and to make it with tapered tubes to reduce the amount of kick on the end at the top, where the wind would effect it, but allow for the 8 inch kick on the bottom so the boat could get over the waves. The taper was not extreme because the team wanted the paddle captain to have a strong and wide enough seat in the stern. The main tube tapers from 19 inches to 15.5 inches at the bow and stern to accomplish these tradeoffs in design.
D ring and handle placement:
I know that chicken lines around the outside of rafts can present a problem for someone who wants to paddle, and especially when the line runs right under a paddlers butt. That is not comfortable. We designed the D rings low enough so that would not be an issue, but high enough so the ropes would be obtainable if someone needed to grab them. The Amazons wanted 3 handles on each side to make running starts to the water with the boat more efficient.
Foot Thwart design:
We finally talked about the original foot thwart design, and the team agreed that the 9.5 inch diameter tubes used on white lightning, made great foot holds. We then talked about placement, and we designed a tapered end tube in the very front to get the most comfort and support for the front paddlers. Adjustability for the other 3 foot thwarts was also another issue that was addressed.
We did not have a second face to face meeting:
With all of these issues, it may seem impossible that we did not meet again. However this is the power of Edrawings. I did the design, and I showed the team a number of Edrawing files that they could rotate around to visualize what we had accomplished in our first meeting. When they agreed that these concepts were sound, we moved on to the next step.
This is how it proceeded:
In the first meeting we agreed on what the general design concepts were. I designed these concepts into the computer model, and I explained some things about tapered tubes vs straight tubes kick and cargo, and in this case paddling capacity. We used the boat that they were familiar with (white lightning) to give a comparison to what they were accustom to and what the new design offered. I designed a cutout in the Drop stitch floor, and showed them how we would cover the bail slot to minimize foot entrapment issues. The design team was show a number of different edrawings or Jpegs that show the issues, and how we intended to deal with them, they were offered options to change things, but in fact we changed very little. We did add the tapered tube at the end for the foot thwart, and made 3 handles per side. The d ring placement may have been a small issue, but the overall look of the profile and top view and floor were accepted almost immediately.
I think it is important to note that with both raft designs the inflatable floor is removable. That means things can get under the floor. We have made it easy to clean under the floor. We also feel that having a removable floor will make maintenance easier. The inflatable floor on any self-bailing raft has usually been the first maintenance issue, and we wanted to make it easy to send this part back for repair if necessary.
System 6 Urethane:
One of our suppliers is Man of Rubber in Tennessee, and we wanted to try putting a urethane coating on the bottom of the raft to make it slicker in the water and add abrasion qualities we cannot get with PVC. We also thought that in the long run this would make the boat lighter than putting a 42 oz. double bottom on it. I talked the team into trying this out, and when put in those terms they all agreed to give it a go. Besides I had never used the product, and wanted to know how easy it would be so I could recommend it to my customers.
I found it easy to use, but did not expect to have it as thin as it first started out. The instructions were good, and I followed them carefully, and I received good results. We used a blue and red pigment to get a maroon bottom. We were shooting for purple, but I was unwilling to be too careful with the color and compromise the application. So I took the resulting color, and it was beautiful.
Now it is up to the team:
I asked the design team to be honest with me about this design. It is entirely possible that we all had some bad ideas and it will not work well, or some parts will work great while others will not. I asked the Amazons to give me good honest feedback, and I am confident that they will. Most importantly I hope they will all have fun in this competition.
Above all this is an attempt to prove that when we design something, that is what you will get, and we have a way of letting you know that is what you will get. The design technology is there for our customers to use. There may be a cost, but for some customers, that design cost may be worth it. That is what this experiment was all about. If the boat works well that is also frosting on the cake.
Images of the Design Process:
This first image shows the White lightning design, and the new boat “Blue Thunder” superimposed on top with a transparent feature so we can see the differences. One end is tapered only, and the other end is both tapered and not tapered to show the difference. On that end there are a lot of dimensions that explain the design with numbers.
This image shows a ¼ section that is not tapered so one can see the amount of space that the tapered design gives inside the front area.
This image shows the difference between White lightning, and Blue thunder so the team could get an idea of capacity from length and form taper. The Blue thunder tubes are the transparent main section only ones overlaying the solid color.
This image shows how the inflatable drop stitch floor fills the middle of the raft and actually puts pressure on the main tubes.
This image is a section view of the boat showing how the floor fits lengthwise in-between the end tapered tube sections
The floor cutaway section that exposes the middle bail holes for more rapid bailing
The finished design with the tapered end foot thwart
I laid the finished main tube model over the finished product to see how close I was able to get it. The camera is taking the photo from slightly above, and there is perspective in the camera shot (depth), but the accuracy of the design is there to see.
Before the bottom “main” floor is installed the drop stitch floor is laid in place notice what a tight fit it really is. One can see the cutout in the drop stitch floor for enhanced bailing.
A computer model of the ds floor in place and bail holes
The curved feature of the Drop Stitch floor is visible in these two images.
Finished boat on top of the old tundra
Edrawings for those who would like to dive deeper: read about edrawings and how to use them at this site
Down load edrawings at this site
Then download this edrawing document to see the edrawing of the main tube superimposed on the whight lightning jpeg design.
You may also download the entire assembly of the boat by clicking to download this file.
There are interesting things you can do with the assembly file like move parts of the assembly around you can also zoom in and out and do section vies. A mouse with a scroll button is handy. These are probably computer only activities.
** Bakers Box should not be attempted by anyone but the most experienced kayakers who know what the risks are, and are in the best physical shape. JPW does not recommend it, and did not participate in any kayak trips through the box.
If there are any comments to this blog, you must email me at this email address. firstname.lastname@example.org There is a lot of spam in blog comments and this is the way that I can keep it to a minimum.
What Cody from the Amazons says about the New Boat “blue thunder”
Blue Thunder is awesome! I took it down Browns last weekend at about 2,700 CFS and it ran great! (unfortunately I wasn’t able to take it down the Numbers or the Royal Gorge) The Amazons took it out today and again it was great!
Here what we noticed:
- It handles well in big waves. Even with the low profile in the front the boat wants to punch through waves. The raised floor seems to have a trampoline affect like water bounces out and/or the work you did on the floor makes it drain very quickly. Either way it’s good!
-It handles beautifully in wind! It was windy as hell in Brown’s and the boat moved quickly downstream. FYI- I was out with a guy named NIck (who has one of your White Lightening boats) and Blue Thunder was way faster than White LIghtening even with one fewer paddler. Some of that I’m sure was me guiding versus Nick, but I definitely think the boat wants to move.
-After loading a WL and then BT, BT is so much lighter!
-We love the mini thwart in the front! LOVE LOVE LOVE! Mia thinks we are going to start a new trend.
-Today we thought Blue Thunder handled a lot more like the Culebra than a traditional raft in that it really wants to keep turning once it has started. That might have been because the floor was a little soft or maybe it’s because the floor is raised. We’ll try again with a harder floor and get back to you. I do remember thinking how well it tracks this weekend.
-We are all interested to see what the extra width affects us. It kind of feels like there’s a dance floor in the middle of the boat!
We are going out again on Monday and will do a little experimenting with thwart placement. We might try the mini thwart in the back and put the third thwart in the front to try having the front paddlers’ weight more towards the center of the boat.
We all feel so incredibly privileged to paddle your amazing boats! This is such a cool process!
Many thanks and more feedback soon,
Cody & the Amazons