At 14 years old, Sage Donnelly has already made quite the name for herself in the paddling world. She regularly wins slalom races, competes in Class V creeking competitions (she took second at this year’s GoPro Games Steep Creek Championships), and was recently added to the U.S. freestyle kayaking team. In 2014, she was given C&K’s Female Paddler of the Year award, and she’s in the running once again for 2015 [vote here]. Here are Donnelly’s tips for repairing a boat on the river.
By Sage Donnelly
Despite being an avid river runner, play boater, and creeker, I’ve been lucky to never have a boat seriously break. That being said, I also always believe in being prepared for surprises, so I recently researched the common ways a boat can break and asked several professional kayakers to weigh in on quickest, easiest options for fixing your boat in the field.
After all, a cracked hull or busted backband may not matter at your local play spot, but if you are in the middle of a multi-day trip or deep in a canyon, these tips can be a lifesaver.
Courtesy Wesley Bradley / Jackson Kayak
Problem: Large dent in boat
Solution: Hot water and a rock or stick to knock the dent out
I actually had this problem recently when I hit a large rock on a creek and totally punched in the nose of my boat. I took the bulk head out of my kayak and held the boat up vertically. I then poured boiling water into the bow and let it soften for a few minutes before dumping the water and pushing the dent out with my foot. You can also use a smooth rock inside the boat to help with the pushing, or a large stick if you can't reach inside the boat. The dent came out easily, and the boat was good to go!
Problem: Crack in your boat
Solution: Bituthene and/or duct tape
I asked the experts on this one. Diane Gaydos said, "The first thing to do is take a knife, and using the tip, make a round hole on each end of the crack. This will help prevent the crack from spreading. Then, place a strip of bituthene (a rubberized adhesive material used in roofing) both on the inside and outside of the crack.”
Having a few sheets of bituthene in your repair kit is a good idea, but duck tape can work if it's all you've got. Before getting back on the water, heat the duct tape in direct sunlight or wave a lighter over your patch.
Expedition kayaker Darin McQuoid had another suggestion, "I use zip ties for really big cracks. Put a few holes on each side of the break and zip tie it closed. These cracks are pretty rare but do happen. That and gorilla tape is all I use; the double wide stuff is fantastic as long as you can get the boat dry and warm."
Problem: Broken backband
Solution: Extra cord or duct tape
Clay Wright had this to say: "For Jackson boats, just tie a knot in the backband rope and move the rope to where the knot won’t interfere with the cleats or the backband itself. For non-Jackson boats, a cam strap will come in handy. Just tie it off to the seat and replace the broken section." Darin McQuoid said zip ties can also be used to repair a backband.
Another smart suggestion from Diane Gaydos was to carry a small repair kit with dental floss and a needle in the dental floss box to repair sprayskirts, dry tops, etc. as well as a spare drain plug just in case someone loses one. Hilde Schweitzer also said that mini cell foam can make a great drain plug if necessary.
I hope these temporary solutions to common problems help you out in a pinch someday! I know I am going to be better prepared from now on when I hit the water. Good luck and see you on the river.
Below photos show a more in-depth repair process using a strip of plastic, stove and heated piece of metal. Courtesy of Crystal Gustin.
Heating a large metal spoon.
Using spoon’s handle to press down melted patch material.
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