A common problem affecting aluminum boats are leaks. Collisions with underwater obstructions, beaching boats, and years of pounding waves are the likely causes of loose or missing rivets, widening of seams, and hairline cracks and tears.
Generally regarded as simply a nuisance, the hard facts are that a leaky boat left unfixed can quickly become a sinking ship. Although major damage should be left to the professionals, those minor in stature can easily be fixed with a bit of DIY.
Locating the Leaks in Your Boat
Ascertaining where water seeps in can be a tough chore. Problematic areas are often not noticed with a visual inspection, meaning a water test is your best bet.
Keep your boat level and hooked up to your tow vehicle for this step. With a garden hose, fill the boat with an inch or two of water, paying careful attention to the aluminum underside for any drips or leaks. Once found, use a waterproof marker to highlight areas that need attention. If none noticed, continue with the filling process.
Prepping the Boat
Once leaks are located and marked, pull the drain plug and raise the bow. To ensure best results, leave the boat in this position for two days in order to completely dry.
Use a stiff wire brush to lightly rough up the surface of areas that need repairing. This step will allow the bonding agents to better adhere to the aluminum, especially if the original area is shiny and smooth.
Tools for Fixing Leaky Boats
Two products that work well for leaky boats are Epoxy Putty Sticks and Marine Adhesive Sealant. The latter is best used for filling in joint seams that have lifted or when sealing transducer holes. Epoxy is an excellent product for rivets, small cracks, or holes.
Following the product directions is crucial for best results. Epoxy requires hand kneading for one minute in order for the two compounds to mix. It then must be forced and flattened on to the aluminum within two minutes. The work time allowed is quite short, so knowing where you are applying it and how should be figured out in advance. Once cured, a permanent steel hard shell is left.
When repairing rivets, cover the entire area including a half-inch overlap. The same goes for cracks or holes. When filling seams with sealant, ensure a generous amount is squeezed into the opening, and after, run a finger or cloth along the edge to clean up excess and finish off.
Allow sufficient time for either compound to cure before getting wet.
Boat Safety Concerns
Safety glasses should always be worn when working underneath a boat. You don't want any of these compounds in your eyes. Wearing latex gloves to knead and apply each product is also recommended. The Epoxy in particular takes a vigorous scrubbing to clean off bare hands.
A leaky boat can become a thing of the past with just a few simple steps. Follow them this season and save yourself from going down with the ship.