Our sweet 20-year-old dinghy has had a slow leak for a few months. However, she has required air 2-3 times per day over the last few weeks which is simply unacceptable. One it is annoying and two it is not good for the velcro holding the chaps (chaps=sunbrella dinghy cover). We decided it was time to take Sweetie out of the water.
Getting Sweetie onboard Sugar Shack
Our Yamaha 25hp outboard is a beast weighing in at 50 kilos (110lbs). Way too heavy and awkward to lift by ourselves. We used the main sheet and the boom to hoist the outboard over the transom (stern of the boat). Matt was in the dinghy, in the water, holding the outboard steady as I hand cranked her up over the lifelines. She is secured on the stanchion while we work on the dinghy.
Next, we had to find out how to get Sweetie onboard Sugar Shack. Matt decided it was best to copy our monohull friends. Using the spin halyard that comes from the top of the mast, hoist her over the side of the boat. Our dinghy is an Avon rib with a hard bottom. She weighs in at 82 kilos (180lbs) and is 3.4 meters in length (without the outboard). Matt cranked this time raising the main sheet as I attempted to keep the dinghy off the side of the boat and over the life lines. Once onboard and safely resting on towels (to prevent scratching the deck), we deflated her. She looks so sad.
She IS 20-years old which is remarkably old for an inflatable dinghy. We’ve been very happy with her and hope to get a few more years out of her before having to buy a new one.
Patching Sweetie – Slow Leak
One day while snorkeling, we noticed a leak on the port side bow (just below the attached line hold). The valve cover also has a slow leak. It was time to repair them. But first, Matt took dish soap and water to the entire dinghy to see if he could find any other leaks. Luckily those were the only ones that were found.
The pontoons are made of Hypalon (it like a heavy-duty rubber). Matt had purchased specific glue made for Hypalon. Unfortunately, it was a few years old and had dried up making it unusable. Of course! You try to be prepared by purchasing necessary items in advanced – but it doesn’t always work out. Instead, he used G/Flex waterproof, flexible glue which we had used before. Matt cleaned the area, applied the glue to the patch, then applied the patch to the dinghy, and added weight to it. Now we wait 24 hours until it is dry.
The valve leak repair is only temporary as we are waiting for our new valve covers to come from the States. We need a visitor (or as we like to call them “pack mules” – you know who you are :).
The first image shows the exposed or weak area causing a leak. The upper right photo shows the glue during with “weight” and the last is the new patch.
Sealing Up another Leak
Our dinghy has a false floor. The floor inside the dinghy is a flat surface and is called the “false floor.” Which is great as the “V” shape floor makes it hard to stand, walk, keep your gas tank, and groceries flat and dry. Back to our false floor. Between the false floor and the actual bottom of the dinghy is a space that would periodically fill up with water. Not a big deal as you simply pull the plug to drain it (see bottom right photo with 2 plugs). The top plug drains water out of the dinghy (above the false floor) and the bottom plug drains water between the false floor and the bottom of the dinghy. But how did the water get in there?We also would get water in our forward locker where we stow our dinghy anchor chain, tools, and inflate pump. Everything can get wet, but they rust and make a mess. How did water get in there?
With Sweetie out of the water we are able to explore all possibilities. Matt decided to remove the tow eye (bracket) in the front of the bow that holds our painter (long line that we use to tie the dinghy up). He noticed that it was not sealed properly which is not a surprise considering it is 20-years old. It appears that water was getting in through these two holes filling up the bow locker and the space under the false floor – ah ha!
Photo: top right is the bow locker. Top photos show the holes that hold the tow eye. Bottom row shows the tow eye out and then secured back in place with new sealant.
Gluing Velcro to Hold the Chaps
Sweetie has a blue dress that covers her pontoons to keep them safe and last longer. The dress, aka “chaps” have been sewn and patched several times over but are still in good working condition. The chaps are attached to Sweetie using velcro. The velcro is stitched to a small strip of Hypalon which is then glued to the dinghy. Glue adheres better when it is Hypalon to Hypalon. Part of this strip needed all new velcro. No small task as the thread/stitching is smothered in glue. After a few hours of picking, I was able to remove the old velcro and stitches. The new velcro was stitched to the strip which was then glued back on to Sweetie.
The top image shows the old velcro (white) just above the rub rail. The new velcro (black) was sewn on to the strip of Hypalon which was then glued on to the pontoon (bottom photo)
RE-ATTACHING THE RUB RAIL
Every dinghy has a rub rail as the rub rail takes a beating to protect the pontoons. It is not us ramming into things, but rather the dinghy bumping against docks while we are at shore. Also, the glue loses its adhesiveness when the dinghy deflates as there is no pressure holding the rub rail to the pontoon. So, we had to do lots of gluing with special epoxy to get the rub rail back in place.
SCRUB AND SHINE
The last part of Sweetie’s spa day is a scrub and shine. I know she looks really disgusting with the green growth, but I have to tell you this is nothing compared to most dinghy bottoms. However, this is bad for us and for our dinghy. It is really difficult to clean her bottom as she has to be out of the water. Our dinghy and outboard are too heavy to lift by ourselves unless we bring her on deck which is a huge ordeal.
It takes a lot of muscle and several products to clean the growth off. We use “On Off,” bleach, and soap and water. Some of the products we can only use on the hard-bottom surface while others we can only use on the Hypalon. I’m pretty darn pleased with how she turned out. The hard-bottom is white again and the green, black, and brown spots are done.
The hard bottom of the dinghy was a little banged up. Partly from us dragging her on to the beach and partly just wear and tear. So, Matt added some fiberglass and epoxy to some of the worn areas. Almost good as new. Top left photo is the “before picture” and bottom right is “after.”
After a week on the deck, she was finally ready to go back in the water. Lucky for us, we did not need our “car” while at our current anchorage. We swam to shore a few times. Remember, Sugar Shack is our home and our dinghy is our car to get from our home to everywhere else. Putting the outboard back on the dinghy. Matt tried a new method using a dynema line and 3:1 purchase which reduced the rubbing and pressure on the main sheet and boom.
It was really good to be mobile again.
Dinghies can be very expensive so it is in our best interest to make our little girl last as long as possible. Check out new dinghy rates.
Events from this blog post occurred during the month of January 2021. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.