Rafts for Fishing & Floating
Inflatable Rafts Benefits

Inflatable Rafts - Benefits & Limitations

Guess what this page is? This is a "truth" page. You see, I own two Sea Eagle products (a Sea Eagle 8 Inflatable Raft and a Sea Eagle 380 Inflatable Kayak). And I've used them extensively in all sorts of conditions in Montana and elsewhere. So, to make doubly sure that people actually get the right boat for what they want to use it for, I thought it would be a good idea to do two things.

First, I'll list the general benefits that a inflatable raft provides and who might like those benefits.

And secondly, I'll list the limitations of the Sea Eagle inflatable rafts - in red. These rafts are truly wonderful vessels, but they DO have some limitations. If you need a raft that goes beyond what they were designed for, you obviously won't like it.

And, to sum it up, way on the bottom of the page, is a quick paragraph on Who This Boat Is For, in the event you don't feel like reading through this rather lengthy page.

So, let's get started.

Sea Eagle Home Page
Buy the Sea Eagle 9 Inflatable Raft
Buy the Sea Eagle 8 Inflatable Raft


Inflatable Rafts - Limitations and Benefits

The Sea Eagle 9 with Floorboards and the Motor Mount Options

Whiterwater : Every other inexpensive (less than $500) inflatable raft I've ever come across is only able to handle Class II whitewater (which is nothing special - most inner-tubes can go through Class II without problems!). The Sea Eagle line of rafts (the SE 8 and the larger SE 9) are rated to handle Class III whitewater due to their substantially tougher fabrics and the way the seams are put together. This rating is no "pie in the sky" rating either - I've taken my own raft through countless Class III rapids without problems.

So what is Class III whitewater? Class III is whitewater that contains waves in excess of 3-4 feet in height. We aren't talking big ripples here. Instead, we are talking waves that are caused by underwater rocks.

  • Important note for whitewater use. Sea Eagle rafts are NOT self-bailing. As such, if you hit a wave wrong, the raft can indeed fill up with water, sort of like a little bathtub. That's the bad news. The good news is that even if it completely fills up, you won't sink. Instead, you'll just be wet and lose some maneuverability.

To counter water entering the boat, just cut a milk jug in half and presto - you have an instant bailer that can empty the boat of any/all water in no time.

By and large, you shouldn't have much use to bail out the raft. However, when going through Class III waves, hitting a wave wrong can lead to lots of water in the boat. So it's best to bring a bailer - just in case.

Maneuverability : Due to the light weight of all sizes of Sea Eagle rafts, they are remarkably easy to maneuver. Just give a tug on the oars and the boat responds instantly. The oar locks aren't the greatest invention ever made, but they work quite nicely for general rowing that does NOT cover long distances (see below).

Paddling : If you will primarily end up paddling on rivers (such as to maneuver around), or end up paddling on small ponds, Sea Eagle rafts are remarkably easy to paddle and will post no problems for anyone.

  • However, paddling these rafts across vast distances of flat water is NOT fun. The boat is simple enough to paddle, but, for covering vast distances of flat-water paddling (like across a windy lake), get a real rowboat or a Catamaran Kayak or an inflatable kayak instead. In short, if you want a boat to paddle across a big body of water - get something different. The reason for this is because these rafts are a far cry from "aerodynamic". They really push the water in the front of the boat, making a long paddle across flat water a rather tiring and slow proposition.

Now, that said, if you will primarily use this on small ponds or in rivers, the story changes as you won't be doing extensive flat-water paddling. This boat is very maneuverable and quite easy to paddle over short distances. Likewise, if you get the motor option for the raft, the paddling characteristics are not of concern (unless your motor dies in the middle of the lake).

Thus, for river floating, don't even worry about the paddling. It will work just fine. But if you see big lakes in your future - and you won't be using a motor - go with an inflatable kayak instead.

Fishing & Floorboards : Sea Eagle Rafts (both the SE 8 and SE 9) make for a great little portable, fishing vessel. For fly fishing on rivers, the raft is quite easy to cast from - particularly if you get the "fisherman's high seat" which gives you a boost of elevation.

Now, for spin fishing on lakes, be sure to get both the floorboards for the boat as well as the motor mount package. The floorboards allow you to actually stand up in the boat - making spin fishing not much different than fishing from a more normal fishing boat. And the motor allows you to motor around the lake, not paddle around it.

  • Note about Floorboard Use - Floorboards are meant to be used on flatwater - only. In other words, use floorboards only when you'll be on lakes. NEVER use them when floating rivers.
  • Floorboards for the Sea Eagle Raft
    Why No Floorboards on Rivers? - The floorboards make the boat fully rigid - perfect for standing. However, by having the raft rigid when floating on rivers - particularly on those with rapids - you are creating a nice recipe for flipping the boat over (if you hit something from the bottom) or submarining it into a big wave or under a log. For whitewater use in this raft, you want it to be flexible - not stiff. The flexibility allows the raft to go up and over waves, rocks, logs and anything else without problems. If the boat is rigged, and flexibility thus lost, instead of flexing/bouncing over/off stuff you'll barrel into it/under it instead.

Massive Capacity : Of all the surprises of these rafts, the massive capacity had to be the big one. The Sea Eagle 9 has a capacity rating of 1000 pounds. This allows lots of people or lots of gear to be hauled around. The Sea Eagle 8 has a capacity rating of 900 pounds, which isn't too shabby either. If you need a veseel to haul LOTS of gear, look no further - as these two rafts fit the bill perfectly.

  • How Many People? That is really the best question. In theory, you can carry 5 in the Sea Eagle 9 and four in the Sea Eagle 8. Yeah, if you REALLY like each other and are very small.
  • True "people capacity" is best summed up this way - 2 people plus some gear or 1 person plus a ton of gear for the Sea Eagle 8. And 3 people plus some gear or 2 people plus a ton of gear for the Sea Eagle 9.

Quick and Easy Set-Up : Sea Eagle rafts are exceptionally simple to setup, especially if you use a automatic inflater. But even using the boring but always reliable bellows air pump, I've always been able to full assemble my raft in less than 15 minutes. Just dump it from its bag, roll it out and start pumping up the air chambers. Then put the oars through the oar locks and off you go. There are no surprises waiting (like assembly) of the raft. Just inflate and go.

The Storage Bag for a Sea Eagle Raft

Portability : The rafts come in moderately sized, but relatively easy to carry, bag. The bag is large enough to carry everything, although you do have to work at it if you want to smash the bellows pump and other stuff into it.

  • To Get the Boat Back Into The Bag - Lay boat out flat after fully deflated. Dry boat too. Fold in half, width wise. Then fold in half, length wise. Then roll. The boat will slide right into the bag.

Multitude of Options - The Sea Eagle 9 and Sea Eagle 8 both have countless options available. Everything from a windscreen (which also helps keep water out of the boat,by the way) to a full canopy are available as things you can add to these rafts. The boats can also have a small motor added onto them as well.

  • Suggested Options - Make sure you get the fishermans high seat. It's not just good for fishing, but it also makes paddling more comfortable too. Also consider getting the kayak bow bag. It doesn't fit perfectly (as it is designed for kayaks, not rafts), but it does fit ok and makes a perfect place to store the bellows pump, carry bag, repair kit and other raft related stuff. I tie mine on to the front of the raft with some rope so it is out of the way.

Temperature Use - Above Freezing Only! : As Sea Eagle Rafts are not rigid inflatable boats (fully inflated, you can depress your thumb about 3/4 of an inch into the fabric), the boats are NOT meant to be used in temperatures below freezing. Freezing temperatures will make the fabric brittle. This is no big deal if you don't fully inflate the boat or just have it stored outside. However, when you fully inflate the boat and drop it in the water on a sub-freezing day, if the temperature is below freezing, you run the real risk of seriously damaging it.

Thus, if you see yourself using this boat in sub-freezing temperatures, get a inflatble kayak instead (which is not temperature limited due to different types of fabric used).


So.....Who Is This Raft For?

Well, I'll make it simple.

If you do NOT need a boat to be used in below-freezing weather, and you'll either use a motor (while on a lake) or primarily use the boat on a river or small pond, then this is an ideal - and very affordable - boat to own. Get the Sea Eagle 9 for more people and tons of gear. Get the Sea Eagle 8 if you'll be doing most floating alone (better maneuverability).

Hopefully you found this information useful.

Web Resources

Sea Eagle Home Page
Buy the Sea Eagle 9 Inflatable Raft
Buy the Sea Eagle 8 Inflatable Raft


Copyright 2002-2015
Big Sky Fishing.Com


Top of Page

Montana Web Cams | Montana Information | Fly Fishing Gear | Fishing Boats | About | Contact Us | Advertising Information | Privacy Policy
Explore the Rivers in Montana Explore the Lakes in Montana Mountain Fishing in Montana Explore Montana National Parks Books about Montana Fly Fishing and Other Outdoor Gear Photographs of Montana Explore Montana Cities and Towns Talk about Fishing and Montana in our Forum