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The Grizzly Boat, post-surgery.

Grizzly bears love to chew up rubbery, flexible, boat-like objects. In the spring of 2007, an enterprising Grizzly attacked a brand-new Alpacka raft and destroyed it. The owner brought the shredded remnants to us. We were overjoyed.

The Challenge: Repair a bear-shredded boat in simulated field conditions.

The Tools: What we normally carry on a day-trip:

  • Tyvek® tape, about 20 meters (used off a larger roll).
  • Patch-N-Go®, two approximately 12" strips.
  • A single 1-ounce tube of Aquaseal®

The Damage: The worse we've ever seen. Multiple massive rips, hundreds of bite-holes, missing fabric.

The Scenario: We assumed a field-repair situation: No fancy equipment, minimal supplies. We used a paddle blade as a flat surface. We used a pair of scissors, but a knife would have worked too.

The Results: Sheri made a workable, floating boat. Is it 100% airtight? No! Would it get you home? Yes! Is it pretty? No!

The Video is the best explanation of how it's done:

Raft Triage: The Cool Skill you'll never need...

Grizzly Boat Interior. The white tape on the mouth valve is covering a bite-hole. Note that the seat has been cut out for patch material.

Our discussion of Raft Triage is a bit like Boeing giving instructions on how to do a Flight of the Phoenix job on a wrecked 727, transforming it into a DC-3. But we can't resist, because it's so cool! Raft Triage was performed on the bear-boat, above - and that's the only time we've ever had to do it. Really? Yes. In another case, one of our boaters literally lost his rolled-up boat in a river. Months later, someone pulled it out of the riverbank and returned it to him, and it was still 100% seaworthy. Yup, we aim to build'em tough. Even for the most advanced boaters, this is an esoteric, worst-case-scenario skill. That said, it's pretty interesting.

What is Raft Triage? Triage is a medical term, originally French, used in major catastrophes to 'sort' victims for appropriate treatment. Structural Triage is done after a catastrophe like a tsunami or earthquake, when experts go through a determine which buildings are fine, which to fix, and which to condemn & raze to the ground. Raft Triage is our version of structural triage on your raft. It is:

  • Prioritizing your repair actions after a major catastrophe hits your Alpacka.
  • An advanced, "Mad Max style" repair skill.
  • A skill you'll probably never need.

Everything on your Alpacka is there for a reason. However, in an emergency, there's a specific order you'll want to sacrifice parts.

Patching a Hole: sandwiched between tape is a mess of shreds, a big hole in the middle, and a piece of the seat over that hole.

RAFT TRIAGE PRIORITIES, listed in order of criticality:

  1. Save the Tube. Save the tube first. It is the critical component. Without the tube, there is no boat.
  2. The Tube needs a Valve. You need only one tube valve to inflate the boat to a 'floatable' degree.
  3. The Floor holds you in the Boat. It also protects the tube and yourself from impacts - and in cold waters, a watertight floor prevents hypothermia. This makes it the next priority after an intact main tube.
  4. Eat the Seat. The seat is generally priority 4. It's a piece of safety & insulation equipment, but less important than the above items - and its material and valve can be used to fix the tube & floor in an emergency. Remember that having something to sit on, even if it's just a pack, protects your pelvis and spine from impacts with rocks. This is why having a seat of some kind is generally more important that a deck or seat-back.
  5. Spray Decks are highly expendable. Saving the deck is the second-to-last priority. Unfortunately, there's not much to 'cannibalize' out of a deck either. The lightweight material is not designed for pressurized air-retention and should be used cautiously and in multiple layers for any reinforcement of tubes or floor. The inflatable pillow-piece (on 2008 and later decks) can be used as a seat-pad if your seat is destroyed, or can be used as patch material & a valve for emergency fixes on the tube.
  6. The Back Rest is repair-fodder. The back rest is the last thing to save and the first thing you should consider cannibalizing. It can also be laid-down to replace a destroyed seat. In that case, cannibalize the damaged seat, and sit on the seat-back for insulation and for protection of your pelvis & spine from impacts. If you need the material and don't need a seat or have no choice, cannibalize the back rest.

In real application, this is just a set of guidelines. The nature of the water obstacles between you and a safe, secure destination will determine what boat performance you need, but this is the 'basic triage template.' With this knowledge, you and your Alpacka are much better prepared to survive the worst the world will throw at you: a grizzly bear with a yen for urethane, an accident with a big bonfire, the zombie apocalypse...

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