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Inflatable repaiir

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Since I have built a wooden dinghy to replace the detestable deflatable I thought I was done with it, but the Keeper of the Purse sees value in it and wants it repaired.

The problem with small air leaks under overlapping seams (which is the fault in my deflatable) is that they are almost impossible to repair with adhesives so some sort of alternative is required.


I have been experimenting with joining deflatable fabric using a low wattage soldering iron. See photo. I know that the seam looks butt-ugly but the adhesion of the joint it good, it retains its flexibility, it's absolutely airtight, can be done in-situ and without disturbing the existing seam and is more or less easy to do.

I don't know how long the repair will last but on the other hand I can't see why it should fail.

Worth a try if you have a small troublesome leak.

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Good idea!

From experience, mending rips in the fabric is relatively easy. The trouble with leaking seams is that the patch needs to go from the base fabric and then up and over the seam. It is impossible to get the patch to lay into the edge of the seam. A tiny gap remains and therefore, the air leak.

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Chris, go to any place that sells BBQ's and associated stuff. Look for a black foil stuff that you use to place on the hot plate and cook on. It's some kind of high temp stuff. Use that between the iron and the PVC and the PVC will not go all horrible looking. This stuff is used between heating elements on Plastic bag sealers etc to stop the plastic bag sticking to the element.

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If access to the spot is easy use a hot air gun and heat weld them back together with that. Blast both surfaces to be rejoined with the heat gun until the surface goes very soft, then press the two faces together and squish. For that step I use a hard roller.

The material can take quite a lot of heat before melting or bursting into flames, it gives off smoke long before the flame part. Practice first.

If you are in AKL I can send you some pvc off cuts to practice with if you like.

If you are feeling confident you can also use hot air to soften the glue and open and close seams so patches can be applied inside. Won't work on HF welded seams though.

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What I love about this forum is the experience, skills and just darned good ideas that always surface in response to a problem.

I have a little PVC deflatables fabric so am going to try the suggestions proposed above.

Thank you for the replies.

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Well the whole repair thing is now a bit immaterial.

I have always looked after my deflatable, washing it whenever I could and storing it under cover when not using it.

So I was a bit peeved when it developed a leak.

Today I took it out of storage and put it on the lawn in the sun in preparation for having a go at the leak, but, lunch time!

After lunch, what a surprise. The entire dinghy had just fallen to bits. By this I mean that when I went back to work on it, the four lifting handles, the rowlock blocks, the oar restraints and the rubbing strip were all lying on the ground. Also, the transom attachments had let go as well as a number of seams. It now looks like a kitset deflatable.

Not very good for a three year old boat.

I wrote Aakron and told them I wasn't too pleased, but I imagine it wiil be a case of outside the guarantee, can't control the usage blah blah etc.

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The pvc glue is meant to be good for around 10 years plus or minus 5, the glue is very susceptible to heat but even a perfectly stored one will fall apart eventually. Aakron and Java are supplied by the same guy, he's friendly and approachable but his boats are not known for their longevity. Apparently he's now supplying a new line of welded seam boats.

This list of well built Chinese rafts is not all of them but some well known ones; Terminator, Maxxon, Quiksilver, Honwave, Takacat, some Zodiac. They all have glued seams so when the handles and fittings start to come off it would be a good time to start saving your pennies for a new boat.

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The Eastport nesting praam I now have is proving to be a little beauty.

She is stable, dry in a chop and rows like a dream. And most importantly I can get it up on deck by myself with the aid of a halyard and whisker pole.

On deck the smaller bow section stows under the boom and the stern section sits on the foredeck, leaving plenty of room for anchor work etc. And the foredeck of an H28 is not large!

So, annoyed as I am with my rubber dinghy I am glad to see the back of the Java and all deflatables in general.

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When the deflatable fell to bits I was bit miffed and fired off a somewhat terse email to Aachron, not expecting anything to come of it.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to receive a nice reply from Aachron offering either reimbursement on part of the original purchase price or a sizable discount on a new boat.

My boat was outside of its guarantee period.

Now that's customer service!

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