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On the water: Testing the raft

Finally — after staring at the cardboard box in which it came, in the middle of my living room, for the past six weeks — I was able to test my new 12-foot inflatable fishing raft Saturday at Ruedi Reservoir.

The Intex Excursion 5, as it is called, is a relatively inexpensive raft that holds as many as six people, or 1,000 pounds. My main objective in taking it to the far side of the reservoir and dealing with the super-crowded Dearhamer Campground (and the sassy campground host who presides over it) was to do a simple test where a launch would be easy. Would it float? After all, it was made in China, and the Internet is filled with tales of foreign-made rafts that either A) sink upon launching or B) never hold air in the first place.

I had done my homework, though, and chose the Excursion 5 because it seemed a majority of the online reviews were favorable. The raft itself can be purchased in the $150-to-$200 range; add a mount and trolling motor, and the total cost rises to about $330, not counting shipping.

For float-test purposes, I left the motor at home. I wanted to make the test as easy as possible, so I went to Walmart on Friday and bought a small electric air pump that operates off a car battery. On Saturday morning, I was amazed at how quickly the three chambers of the raft inflated. In a matter of minutes, it was ready to be carried down to the water’s edge.

With four people inside, we didn’t exactly test the weight limit. The raft comes with two cheap plastic paddles that we used to get away from the shore and out into the middle of the cove on the eastern side of Ruedi — but not much farther. The truth is, we were all hung over, and the wind and the current were working against us, so we didn’t feel the need to press beyond a certain point. The goal was to see if the raft would float — and get a little sun.

She was a sturdy little vessel and comfortable, like a big floating plastic mattress with sides. We worked it to the northern shore of the reservoir and bounced up against some jagged boulders and large branches, and it held up fine. We tied up to a rock for a spell and relaxed, taking in the sights of water-skiers, sailers, butterflies and fishermen in small bass boats. It was relaxing.

But short-lived. Thunder clapped from a stormcloud in the distance, and the wind picked up. I would have ridden it out, as these Colorado storms pass quickly, but nobody else seemed game. I untied us from the rock, and we started back.

Riding the strong current back to the campground was a blast, maybe the best part of the short trip. We hardly had to paddle, except to steer. It was as though the trolling motor I hadn’t installed was propelling us to shore — a ride not unlike that of a surfer who’s caught a wave and can take it as far as he chooses. The trip into the wind took around 30 minutes, while the distance back took less than 10.

Of course, as soon as we were safely on the shoreline grass at Dearhamer, the wind died down and the sun came out. Sort of a version of Murphy’s Law, I guess.

I can’t wait to take the Excursion 5 to another location this weekend but not to goof off. With the motor attached and with the knowledge that the raft is lake-worthy, some serious fishing will be going down somewhere.

Somewhere far, far away from the rule-stickling campground host. (Yes, we drink too much and laugh too loud — it’s called “fun.”)

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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