One of the things I love about our plywood pram is that it endlessly repairable. Not so with a hypalon inflatable. There comes a point in every inflatable’s life when the only thing left to do is pitch it in the dumpster. 10 years? Is that the average life span of an inflatable? I don’t really know.
I think we built this little pram in the winter of ’98, so it’s 17 years old, and on it’s third or fourth refit. Were I to build it now, I would certainly do things a bit differently, but as it is, it has held up extremely well, especially considering that it’s lived the bulk of it’s life outside. I have about $800 dollars in materials in it, and it’s been a tremendous value and a hard working yacht tender.
Today I fixed two corner joints that had opened up. I think this damage occurred because of how I sometimes maneuver it – pivoting on the transoms – and hauling it on board the yacht by the bow ring with a halyard. For repair, I mixed some epoxy and added filler, thickening to a soupy consistency. I drew up the soup into a large syringe and squirted it into the opening joints. I used liberal amounts of soup and refilled the syringe several times. There was lots of drippage, which I wiped up. Then I used a band clamp on the stern section to hold the joint together, and a pipe clamp on the bow transom. These two areas will also receive several layers of glass fabric inside and out.
I thickened the remaining epoxy soup into peanut butter, and applied it to various gouges and voids I’d opened up while chasing small areas of rot. In fact, I had to mix up several batches of peanut butter, as I found a fairly large area (not surprisingly) underneath the repaired stern corner.
Finally, I bleached the thwarts with oxalic acid, but it only seemed to lighten the dark lines. I could use a stronger solution, but I think I’ll just live with it. I don’t like using the chemicals, and it’s a several-step process anyway: you apply the solution on the wood several times; allow to dry, then rinse thoroughly with baking soda solution to neutralize the acid; clear water rinses follow, then allow to dry; re-sanding is needed because the water raises the grain.
Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, so I may need to wait a day or two for clear weather to continue.