Every year as the whitewater rafting season begins to come to an end, outfitters across the nation begin to prepare their facilities, rafts and other equipment for storage throughout the next 6 months or so. One of the crucial aspects of the closing process is the proper end of season maintenance of the inflatable fleet; also known as “Washing Boats”.
Although washing a raft is not one of the more glamorous jobs of being a river guide, it is a very important one. Following is an overview of the various steps that Three Rivers Whitewater uses to keep our gear in the best shape for our beloved guests.
The first step in getting the rafts ready for winter is to inflate the boats and give them a thorough scrubbing. We’re not talking a mild rinse here. We are talking about a power washed, down and dirty, soaked to the bone cleaning! Scrubbing every inch of a raft; top and bottom, takes some time and this process is always best done as a team. Bleach, Dish Soap and the magical “Purple Stuff” are common in a guides’ arsenal as they work hard to get every boat looking like new again!
Have you ever gotten into a whitewater raft and it feels like someone spread grease all over and you can’t seem to stay in your seat? That boat has been recently 303’d to protect the material from the sun. Although it is the provider of life, the sun can do some impressive and scary things to outdoor gear if left unprotected. 303 is an Aerospace Protectant that is used to protect a variety of materials that are subject to UV damage. It is a spray-on and wipe-off process that leaves the rafts shinny and slick!
No matter the type of inflatable; whitewater raft, Inflatable kayak, Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP), Tube or whatever else you put on the water, eventually water will find its way into the craft itself. Leaving water inside a raft for an extended period of time can cause damage to the inner parts of the raft and can even puncture a raft as water freezes over the winter months. The solution; put a shop-vac to it and simply suck it out.
Proper storage of outdoor gear throughout the off season can be the difference between a casual early season opening and a nightmare! Here are some tips that we use to protect our equipment from damage during long term storage:
- Store in a dry and secure building.
- Store off of the ground if possible.
- Thoroughly cover equipment with clean tarps or cloths to protect from critters and debris.
- Use moth balls and rat traps to discourage critters from making your nice, clean raft into a winter home.
- Make notes on order and how things are stored so that those first trips go as smoothly as the last.
There you have it. The quick synopsis of what it takes to store a raft for the winter.