Salvaging Our Inflatable Dinghy

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.

Better Days

Better Days

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.

Bloody termites

Bloody termites

As you can see, the transom is nearly completely eaten away and there is extensive damage to the rubber skin as well.

Even the ruuber skin was damaged

Even the ruuber skin was damaged

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.

Cleaning out the debris

Cleaning out the debris

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.

Wood putty filled into the gaps

Wood putty filled into the gaps

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.

Fixing the transom

Fixing the transom

Finally two layers of black epoxy paint completed the work on the transom.

Transom repair completed

Transom repair completed

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.

To fix a leak that could not be repaired from the outside, I cut a long slit, and passed my hand through it. I fixed the inaccesible leak from the inside and then sealed up the slit. It was a risk, but it worked.

To fix a leak that could not be repaired from the outside, I cut a long slit, and passed my hand through it. I fixed the inaccesible leak from the inside and then sealed up the slit. It was a risk, but it worked.

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.

Sugru sealed leaks in the rubbing strake

Sugru sealed leaks in the rubbing strake

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.

A little extra sugru over the repaired patches

A little extra sugru over the repaired patches

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.

Seaworthy again!!!

Seaworthy again!!!

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3 thoughts on “Salvaging Our Inflatable Dinghy

  1. Happy to hear of that repair. I under stand Boatics better that robotics. So connected better. Curious to know how you keep the OBM ticking. With backwaters a stones throw away from my home I have always been tempted to own one. Will watch this space closely. Some day share the backwater trip story with all. I’ve just had holiday at alapuzha and hired a ‘shikara’ for a day. (Well a shikara is a boat with a drawing room and no bedroom) . interesting to see the water world transform in that area. Been monitoring that area for last 15 years. Happy boating. And thanks for this inspiring post.

    • Thanks for reading sir! To keep the OBM running, I start it every every three months, in a bucket of water with its prop declutched. Whenever I enter the garage, I also pull a few strokes on the starting cord….just to make sure all the movements are free and there is no sign of the piston jamming in the cylinder.

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