Sustaining a gash on your boat need not be the end of your boat, you can repair your inflatable boat at home. Using a fine needle and a strong polyester thread you can use a baseball stitch to close the slash. The repair does not end there though. You need to patch the stitched slash. Since repair kits normally contain small patches only, you might have to look for a bigger patch that matches your boat’s fabric from major boat distributors. You need to have at least 2 layers of patching materials for permanent repairs.
Most professional repair shops do not use stitching but proceed with patching the tube from the inside. This works fine but not every boat enthusiast has the tenacity and the talent to do this. The use of glue from the inside may just be too much for home repairs; that it is best if you leave the interior gluing to skilled repairmen. However if you think you are adept in using glue for major repairs, why not?
Note though that not all glues are created equal and therefore not all glues will work on inflatable boat repair. There are two types of glues: single-part glues and two-part glues.
One-part Glue is the “glue” itself. It is not as strong as two-part glues but it has its advantages. It is cheaper, easier to use and has a longer shelf life. This type of glue can be used for both Hypalon and PVC boats. Generally known as contact adhesive, notable brands are: Elmer’s, Barge Cement, and Dura-Bond. These and other marine contact glues are available in most marine supply shops.
Two-part Glues cure with the use of a catalytic agent. A kit comes with two tubes: one contains the glue while the other contains the catalytic agent. Two-part glues are stronger but aside from being expensive, it is not as easy to use and has a shorter shelf life.
It is a must to select the type and brand of glue most appropriate for your small boat. Check with your boat manufacturer guidelines. For two-part glues, here is a general guideline on application.
Mix the glue in direct proportion to the catalytic agent. It is best to mix half the can’s content as it is easier to gauge the proportions this way, but if you only need a small amount, carefully measure the needed amount of glue making sure you add the proportionate amount of the catalytic agent too. Do not buy a large can because of its short shelf life. A 250 ml can is the smallest one available. The activator usually comes in glass bottles or tubes.
If you want to use half the can of the glue, then add half the amount of the activator. Use a graduated beaker for measuring the glue. Mark the activator’s bottle in half then divide and mark it again to mark the bottle in 4 equal parts in case you only want to use ¼ of the glue. Mix the two gradually while stirring constantly. The mixed glue should last about 4 hours.
Apply the glue after you have prepared the area – trim the patch making sure it overlaps the area to be repaired; clean the fabric with either MEK (for PVC) acetone or lacquer thinner (Hypalon); roughen the area with sandpaper. Let the area dry before glue application.
Use an acid brush for a thin coat of glue. Make sure you keep to the edges of a PVC patch since glue stain does not come off PVC fabric. Let the first coat sit for 10 to 30 minutes before applying the second coat. The second coat should be tack-free before your apply the patch. Position the patch and then press with a roller. Bonding is instant so be careful. Allow at least 24 hours for the first patch to set before you apply the second patch. Note to clean off excess glue on Hypalon two hours after application. Allow at least 48 hours (a week is best) before you inflate the boat. If there are no leaks then your inflatable boat repair is done and your boat is good as new.