This is our Russian rubber inflatable dinghy that we used during our little camping trip in 2010. Its just the right size for the three of us, has a cute little 2.5 HP outboard motor and is great fun to motor around in. We fashioned that little canopy out of calico cloth and electrical tubing, and while it might look flimsy, it did its job quite well, keeping us out of the blazing sun as we meandered our way through Kumarakom lake and the maze of Kerala’s backwaters.
We haven’t really used this dinghy much in Vizag, the water here is just too polluted (and smells of ammonia and sulphur) to want to go sailing in harbour and the beach surf is too rough to risk putting to sea from the beaches. So most of the time, the dinghy has been in storage in our garage. While I did spray anti-termite over it at regular intervals, a long holiday away from home left it at the mercy of the little buggers and this is what happened to our dinghy when it was attacked by termites last year.
As you can see, the transom is nearly completely eaten away and there is extensive damage to the rubber skin as well.
To fix the transom, I first used a sharp pick to clean out all the debris and damaged bits from within the layers of wood.
Once I had cleaned out as much loose material as I could, I used wood putty to fill the gaps, and then left it to dry. The putty would shrink as it dried, so I had to repeat the filling process every five days or so. This whole process took about 3 weeks to accomplish.
To strengthen the transom, I needed to add some sort of rigid backing to the putty filled ply. There is no marine plywood supplier anywhere near where I live, so I decided to use teak instead.
I cut two pieces of 1/2″ teak to the required shape. Next I planed and sanded them. After clamping them in place and carefully marking them, I drilled holes and bolted them into place. If you look closely, you can see that the bolts are recessed into the teak. This prevents any sharp bits from protruding outside.
Finally two layers of black epoxy paint completed the work on the transom.
Most of the holes in the skin were easy to fix and these were sealed with a standard dinghy repair kit. The only problem was one small leak that was completely inaccessible from the outside. Using soap solution to localise the leak, I took a massive risk and cut a long slit through which I could insert my hand to fix this leak from the inside of the tube. The slit was then sealed using the repair kit and a little Sugru.
Sugru was also used to fix termite eaten holes in the rubbing strake. The shape of the rubbing strake made it impossible to use any sort of other sealant.
The Sugru website does not guarantee that it adheres to rubber, but having exhausted all other options, I decided to give it a try. Thankfully it held perfectly and I was able to seal all the holes in the rubbing strake.
I had a little sugru left over and I used this to fix a protective layer over the leaks that I had patched up earlier with the repair kit.
Here is a pic of the dinghy after all the repairs were completed. Washed with fresh water and a little soap, it finally looks ready to put to sea again.