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The Evolution of the Grand Canyon S-Rig

Motor boating in Grand Canyon has come a long way over the years to get us to the comfortably rigged boats that we run today.  Ceiba Adventures has a fleet representing the best of what is available; two S-rig motorboats, a snout rig and transoms to run on our 18’ rafts for the run-out.

Our S-rigs get you downstream in maximum comfort with 1100 quarts of cooler space, a shade bimini, padded seats, a two-piece aluminum frame, and many more little perks that assure both passenger and crew comfort.

Motor boat

Ceiba’s S-Rig with Shade Bimini

It wasn’t always this comfortable though.  Grand Canyon motorboats were and still are built around military surplus bridge tubes; 37’ doughnuts and 22’ foot outrigger pontoons.  This began following WWII and The Korean War when the military made tons of excess equipment available to the public.

There were a few motor pioneers in the Canyon in the early fifties, all of which seemed to have their own take and contribution to motor boating in Grand Canyon.  Rod Sanderson, the founder of Sanderson River Expeditions was a pioneer in being one of the first to use outboard motors in the Grand Canyon.  Following Ron’s advancement, Georgie White took it a step further into the future of Grand Canyon boating by taking Sanderson’s outboard and strapping it onto the stern of three 33’ military surplus bridge tubes lashed together at their d-rings, making the “G-rig.”


Georgie, Motor In-Hand, in Her G-Rig (behind row boats)

Once the outboard motors and the surplus bridge tubes came together a multitude of variations sprang fourth.  One of the most striking was Hatch’s Tail-draggers.  These boats had an outboard mounted on a transom that was hanging over the back of the doughnut tube.  The boatman would then sit on the back of the boat, “dragging his tail behind” the boat.   Aside from the outboard, the Hatch tail-draggers had two rowing stances forward of the motor for assistance in navigating through the rapids.  Un-like Ceiba’s motorboats, the tail-draggers were not self-bailing and the new crewmembers had to spend their days bailing out these giant swampy boats.  This time-honored position led to the noble title of “swamper.”


27′ Tail Draggers in 1962

Ron Smith, founder of Grand Canyon Expeditions was perhaps the most prolific player in the evolution of Grand Canyon motorboats.  He ripped out the floors of the doughnuts making them self-bailing, dropped in two-piece aluminum frames to allow for flexing and, brought the motor and boatman into the doughnut, so as to be protected by the rubber tube, all among other innovations.  The resulting “S-rig” (S for Smith) became a model for what has become the most widely used motorboat design in Grand Canyon today.

The Ceiba S-rigs have stayed true to Smith’s vision, but we have added a few innovations of our own.  For staying cool, we have added a large bimini to the stern portion of both our S-rigs and Snout boats.  We also have the option of a dedicated beverage cooler on deck in the motor-well.  We also run either jackass or straight transoms and tilt-jacks on the motor cowling to allow for pulling the motor out of the water quick and easy in a pinch.

One of Ceiba's S-RIgs with the Bimini Retracted

One of Ceiba’s S-RIgs with the Bimini Retracted

Ceiba Adventures’ motorboats offer the best available in Grand Canyon motor boating.  They are ideal for any type of trip from a personal adventure trip, science work, support boats for kayakers and paddle boarders, to production work for the film industry.  Ceiba has the boats you need!



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