Eighteen Leaks and a Dozen Patches

Some time in June …

I know it every time I hear it.  The gurgling sound it makes is unmistakable.  It’s like Shrek slurping soup or swamp stew or whatever it is ogres eat.  Sllooo-gurgle, gurgle-oop!  Phillip is working the Thirsty Mate again on the dinghy.  We keep a small one in the dinghy bag for just such an occasion.  But every time we would pump the bottom out, it wasn’t but a few hours later and we had another two inches of water back in it.  We knew it was time to do a bottom job on the dinghy.  What we didn’t know was how many patches it would take and where the duct tape would end up.


And, you might be thinking: duct tape?!  Are they seriously trying to patch their dinghy bottom with duct tape?  Amateurs!  Alright, we didn’t try to patch with duct tape, although they do say cruising knowledge comes from experience!  We went and got the fancy hyphalon patch kit from West Marine, where everything costs $12.00 more.  We just used the duct tape to mark the location of the leaks─during our first attempt at patching.  But, how it ended up where it ended up, I can’t tell you.

Our initial idea for finding the leaks was to fill the dinghy with water and lift the bow while the other member of the Patch Team kneeled below to look for leaks.  Then we repeated the same process with the stern, with each Team member serving once as lifter and once as kneel-and-pointer to ensure double inspection.  We then marked the leaks we found with a sliver of duct tape.


We located four leaks but two were close together so they could be covered by one patch.


Once the locations were marked, we set to laying three patches.

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Now, anyone notice anything out of place here?


Not yet?  Okay, we’ll continue.

The patch kit mandated we “rough up” each patch area on the dinghy as well as the patch itself to ensure good adhesion.  We then had to apply a thin layer of the magic glue to each and let it dry for twenty minutes.

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Gluing is such fun!


We had to repeat this process twice, letting three layers of glue on both the patch and affected area dry for twenty minutes (so, a one-hour project total) before we could stick the patches on and let them dry for twenty-four hours.


It wasn’t until we wrapped her up for the night that we found the missing piece of duct tape.  Did you spot it?


‘Twas in mee hair!  [And, yes, I always employ a colloquial Irish accent to note the discovery of things in my hair.]

We were hopeful my hair hadn’t snagged an all-important leak mark but if it had, the damage was done.  The three patches were on and drying for the night, so we would find out tomorrow.  We came back the next day to repeat our fill-lift-kneel program (patent pending, for leak detection.


Despite our promising patch efforts, we were disheartened to find a few more leaks.  Perhaps it was due to my snatchy hair.  Personally, I think we needed supervision.

Cue Dan─our dock neighbor and purveyor of all solutions obvious.


He is wise with the drink.

Dan had the great idea to set the dinghy up on two dock boxes so it would sit flat and even while we filled it to look, yet again, for leaks.


That Dan, he’s a smart one.  Using his method, we found many more leaks.


There were so much easier to spot with the dinghy up overhead and with sufficient time to allow and watch each droplet form.  Can you see them here?


There are two leaks forming.


We located each leak and marked it, this time, with a Sharpie circle─way more effective than the duct tape.  Sorry old friend.

Try to guess how many leaks we found!


Sheesh!  This called for another three rounds of glue-and-wait─this time with eleven patches.  While it may not be a dozen, the song is still fitting. Here, sing along while I work:

I cut the larger patches into smaller ones to stretch our hyphalon repair kit as far as it would go.  The magic marine stuff gets expensive quick!


Another hour of gluing and drying (such fun!) and the patches were on─all eleven of them.


We did another fill-and-kneel test (this time using the advantage of the dock boxes – thanks Dan!) the following day and things looked good.  We’ve taken her out one time since this patch job and all seems to be holding well … so far.  I haven’t yet heard any ogre-slurping from the Thirsty Mate.  We’ll let you guys know how she holds up.  Hopefully she’ll last another “Eighteen years and a dozen islands … ”

Have any of you been dealing with a leaky dinghy?  Got any thoughts on a better way to repair?  We’ve also been thinking about trying out one of those Port-a-Botes.  We’ve been seeing more and more of them around.  Any thoughts or pros and cons on those?  Feel free to share.


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