Repair advice in a couple of paragraphs is simply not practical.

Like writing a grand canyon river guide in one page it would only skim the surface of the complexity of the river and a one pager on repair is the same.  This section of the site is intended to be a quick primer on doing a repair on the water to get you home.

Boat repairs are dependent on the material the boat is constructed with.  PVC, or hypalon or urethane rafts, polyethylene canoes and kayaks, and composites boats all have unique repair processes and challenges.  This primer focuses on doing a patch on a raft, the most common field repair undertaken in the river recreation world.

The one universal thing about all repair work on any boat is that like painting, most of the work is in preparation before the actual repair is done.  As much as possible make sure your work area is clean and dry.  If needed take the time to set up a tarp to cover the work area.

The most common repair that boaters need to make on the river is a raft that has gotten a tear or a hole from hitting something.  All raft repairs use glues that work as a contact style adhesive,  That is both the patch and the boat have glue applied and when ready are adhered on contact and cannot be easily repositioned.

The general  process is to clean the area around the hole with rags or a tshirt and let dry (this is why taking the time to set up a tarp to work under is worth it in wet weather).  Sand both patch and boat lightly and clean again with solvent appropriate for the boat.  (Toluene for Hypalon and MEK for PVC) both the patch and the boat should be cleaned and sanded and re-cleaned.  The patch should extend beyond the hole or tear at least 1” on all sides.  We like to use a can bottom to trace the patch and the area on the boat where it will be applied.  If the patch needs to be odd shaped make marks on the patch and the boat as indexing marks for when the patch gets laid down.

Once the boat and patch are cleaned sanded and re-cleaned with solvent, apply a coat of glue to both the patch and the boat, trying to apply a thin coat with minimal overlap past the marking template on the boat.  Let that application of glue TOTALLY DRY (go take a walk or a nap but let it dry completely).  Then apply a second thin coat of glue to the boat and the patch (thin to win) and let dry until it is dry but still tacky.  The time it takes for glue to dry depends much on temp, humidity and how big of hurry you are in, be patient its worth the wait time if its cool and damp out the glue can take a lot longer to dry than when its warm and dry.

Once the second coat is dry but still tacky use the template marks on the boat to line up one edge of the patch and carefully lay it on the boat.  It is nice to do this on a flat surface like a cooler or dry box if you can.  Once the patch is applied, use the roller in your repair kit to press the patch and the boat together as tightly as possible.  If this is a major repair and you have the time (or need to take it) get out the stove and heat a pot of water to hot but not boiling and set a pot of very warm water on the patch to help it cure more thoroughly.  The water helps to gently warm the area on that cold rainy spring trip.

As for repairing many other kinds of watercraft never underestimate the usefulness of some duct tape.  We like to keep a few feet wrapped around our water bottles for the “just in case I really need it” situations.  We also carry a product called Tear Aid in our repair kits.

One page primer on boat repair is not enough? Stay tuned for more detailed repair info and videos.