Boat Work: Repairing a Dinghy Leak

When you think about living on a boat, you probably think of beaches, snorkeling, sunrises and sunsets, but one thing you may not realize is that live aboard boats (and well, all boats in general) require a LOT of work. Some other sailors had warned us that owning a boat is just having the privilege of working on it in exotic places. We have quickly realized that there is some truth to this statement. We have been fairly lucky that we haven’t had to do many big projects on the boat, but as we think about possibly moving again, we have a lot of routine maintenance that we need to do in order to get this boat cruising ready again. 

We've made our “post hurricane season to do list”, now we just need to start checking things off! 

For the longest time it has been, “ah we will get to that at some point” and well….. 'some point' has descended upon us and now is the time for boat jobs to be done! Thursday we tackled one that has been haunting us for a while. 

Boat Job: Patch the Dinghy

We’ve had a small leak in our dinghy since I returned from the states in September, but just haven’t gotten around to pulling the motor and getting the dinghy out of the water, until last week. It turned out to be a relatively easy task, but we sure did bake in the hot sun. So if you have a dinghy repair kit, which your dinghy most likely came with when you bough/ acquired it, all you really have to do is 1. find the leak and 2. patch the spot. 

Common Dinghy Repair Kit

Common Dinghy Repair Kit

Things you will need:

  • dinghy repair kit (a few pieces of hypalon fabric, hypalon glue, sandpaper)

  • spray bottle with soapy water

  • space to inspect your dinghy

How to Patch Your Dinghy

1. First you need to get your dinghy to a place where you can fully inspect it for leaks. We pulled ours up on the dock so that we could inspect all sides. Then we filled all the chambers with plenty of air.

2. Now it is easiest to find a leak if you have some soapy water. We had a spray bottle with soapy water and we sprayed the entire surface of the dinghy.

Do you know what to look for next? In order to find the hole you look for where air is escaping and bubbles form on the surface. You will obviously see small bubbles from the soap, but it will be very noticeable where the leak is, bubbles will form in one localized area. Once you have identified the hole, you can deflate that chamber in preparation for applying the patch. 

3. After you locate the leak you will be ready for the patch process. We had just a small puncture in the front section of the dinghy, so we went to our handy dinghy repair kit and cut a piece of hypalon fabric that would adequately cover the hole. The recommended size is a 3” circle to cover the trouble spot.  

4. Next you will need to rough up the patch as well as the spot on the dinghy that is leaking. Our repair kit didn’t come with sandpaper, but we happened to have one lying around from another project. Any sandpaper or material that will cause a slight abrasion will work. You are just trying to create a little abrasion on each piece so the bond will be tighter when you apply the patch.


5. Now it is glue time. The glue generally comes in the dinghy repair kit (ours did), so if your’s didn’t come with any make sure you have proper glue/adhesive for hypalon fabric. Apply a layer of glue to the patch and the puncture spot and then wait 5 minutes. Repeat this adding another layer and waiting 5 more minutes. Then finally add a third layer of glue and then wait 10-15 minutes.

6. Then oddly enough you just apply the patch to the dinghy, WITHOUT APPLYING MORE GLUE! Do not put more glue on, it should be two dried surfaces being joined. Weird I know, but that is how it works, and you will be surprised to see how strong the bond is. 

7. Finally clean up around the patch site and let the patch sit for at least 24 hours before re-inflating the chamber. Once you do re-inflate, make sure to spot check the patch with more soapy water to make sure no air is still escaping. 

8. Once you have confirmed your patch is holding strong, you can return your dinghy to the water and enjoy normal use again! 

Happy Cruising!

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Stacy RiboliniComment