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Provision a large quantity of patches for the inflatable dinghy before leaving

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What is the issue?
A dinghy that will be used for an extended cruise will have a hard life. If it’s an inflatable, a large amount of glue and patches will be required to sustain the expedition. The meagre patch kit supplied is not enough and beguiles you into overlooking this provisioning. In remote places it is very difficult to acquire the correct materials. A variety of materials are used in the construction of dinghies and they all require specific glues and patches for a sustainable repair. Worse, some glues have controlled substances in them. This means they may or may not be obtainable depending upon the regulation of the countries visited.

Why address this?
Without a tender you are quite simply lost whilst cruising, so the dinghy has to be kept serviceable. Without it, a vessel and crew are forced to go into a marina or alongside port walls which are far from readily available and less than desirable.

How to address this?
Contact the manufacturer of your particular dinghy and provision a large amount of patching material and associated glue from the outset. Take what you have and essentially quadruple it. The last thing you need to do is to be trying to have it shipped in, as I can sadly testify as we just could not get the correct repair kit for our Zodiac in distant lands.

Patching whilst underway
Photo: Michael Harpur
Make certain to explore the shelf life of the glue and the conditions of storage. If it has a short shelf life contact the manufacturer to get a list of the outlets en route from where it can be obtained. If this is not possible make special provisions with a friend or relative coming out to visit to replenish stocks.

When repairing dinghies I found a patch was only going to be a long-term success if:

  • • I had the original manufacturer's glue and patching material.

  • • Only used the glue if is within its usability date.

  • • I followed the instructions to the exact details.

  • • I rolled the glue out and clamped it down, and

  • • left it clamped for at least a day.

As our dinghy was always in use we tended to repair and clamp it whilst on passage. The journey then gave it the requisite time to adhere successfully. We found trying to improvise a solution by using general repair glues in the tropic heat only resulted in the patches lifting and finally peeling off. Stripping the residual glue off to repair it once again was then a real chore.

Finally, do not place a heavyweight on the floor of a dinghy. We placed our secondary anchor and chain in ours which sadly pulled the floor out of it. That was impossible to successfully repair and it was a wet foot experience from there on during the last days of our circumnavigation.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

Inflatable Boat Repair to Patch a PVC Inflatable Dinghy or RIB

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