You payed too much...
My partner who I still fish with and communicate with regularly bought a surpluss military life raft from a young fellow in the USCG stationed in Port Angeles back in1962 for $15.00. We were too young to drive so we conned old guys (Kids in there 20s& 30s) to go fishing with us so we could get the raft to the river.
There were dam few steelhead fishers back then and only a mere handful that used any type of boat or rafts to float down the rivers. We had been told that if we could get out to the Sol Duc River west of Lake Crescent we would find plenty of fish and that the river was big enough to operate our raft in, sounded like a good plan to us!
We found a fellow with a vehicle and made the plan to float from the east Sappho bridge to Chuck & Marys Cafe that would be the last Highway 101 bridge near Forks.
We got going at first light and were all excited about our new adventure we were equipped with the two little tiny blue aluminum paddles that came with the raft and a couple of ropes for tying the raft on to the top of the old guys VW micro bus. We also of course had a couple of chocolate bars for breakfast and lunch and a fishing rod for each of us.
The river in retrospect must have been perfect for floating that day as the mere fact that my partner and I are still fishing together will atest. (if our mothers had known the dangers we were exposed to they would never have let us leave the yard.)
Our equipment as you may have noticed did not include mention of anchors or bailing buckets or hand pumps or life jackets or..... how about expierience.
Without the ability to slow down or stop it was a fast ride with alot of yahooing and many futile attempts to get the boat over to the side of the river to bail it out so we could have at least a minimal chance to steer or slow it down to "Fish".
Somehow at the head of a Rapid near Lake Creek I managed to hook a really snotty hen of about 12# and as luck would have it we got close enough to an overhanging Alder branch that was grabbed to hold us steady in the current long enough to play the darn thing. After about 10 minutes the fish was laying on its side ready to be landed and since I did not mention having a net we did not have one so I grabbed my leader and tryed to lift the fish into the raft this was my first ever "Release" of a wild OP native steelhead.
Somehow we managed to finish the float down to our takeout and and the old guy who had driven us out and rode down river with us was a bit of a wet blanket the first thing he wanted to do when we got the raft loaded was to go to forks and get the hook removed from the back of his head. Oh I failed too mention that The Old Guy got in the way of a errant back cast and got hit so hard it broke a 12# leader (I think he introduced us to a few niffty new cuss words.)
We were done with forks and there was plenty of daylight left so we were dropped of by The Old Guy and my partner and I launched at Leyendeckers County Park and made a float down the Quillayute to Lapush where he had friends and would pick us up at dusk. The flat water of the Q was pretty boring and went by very fast my partner managed to hook a beautiful chrome bright buck and the current was slow enough that I was able to get the boat over to the side of the river where some fellows were plunking. These guys had a net and were as excited to net the fish as we were to see it get netted. The operation was a winner and we floated on down to Lapush the tide was ebbing and we almost did not make it to the beach with our scrawny little toy paddles, but we did make it and we did learn from all this.
Today with how to books on everything from rock climbing rafting and of course fishing I sometimes wonder if "Kids" get to test there stupidity as well as we tested ours?
Well thats the short version of the first raft and the first trip using it. Wow that was 41 years ago no wonder my joints ache so much, there getting old.