Airalite Properties--Drilling?

My Perception Sonoma is made with Airalite.

Can someone tell me more about this material? Is it as strong as the stuff most kayaks are made from?

The company’s catalog says: "sexy and stiff [ :o ] like composite kayaks and tough as plastic. But before you even climb into one of these boats, you’ll notice that glossy shine. For the scientifically curious out there, Airalite ss a co-extruded, high-impact acrylic over premium ABS. "

My main question is about drilling into it to add accessories. I called the company and they recommended against drilling larger holes (such as for a drain plug or a flush fishing rod holder). The rep was worried about cracking.


I’ve never drilled an airalite boat, but certainly the two plastics individually.

ABS is soft and somewhat gummy with a low melting temperature. Drilling it is easy as long as you don’t go so fast as to melt it and make a mess.

Acrylic is brittle and is definitely at risk of cracking, though this may be reduced by the co-extrusion process.

With plastics the drill bit will tend to grab and want to “self feed” (like a screw) especially where the hole diameter is large compared to the material thickness. Using a step drill can solve this issue because it successively removes smaller amounts of material.

For large holes, a hole saw with fine teeth is likely to produce the best result. But frankly, if it were my boat I don’t think I would. Your options for repairing mistakes on a thermoformed boat are much more limited than composite or polyethylene.

If you’re friendly with the company, maybe they’ll mail you a piece of scrap material to experiment with first.

Your boat has a foam support. Does the deck “oil can” when you press on it? How thick is the skin? I think the question is not can you drill it. The question is will it hold a fastener?..without deformation, and failure.

I would question whether the hull would hold together if you pulled hard against the perimeter lines this is for. Boats that are designed to have this feature also anticipate this in the hull design. Even then not always well. I have worked with someone who had a boat of similar material with perimeter lines on self-rescue, the lines pulled right out when they tried to use them to get back in.

I have 5 airelite kayaks, and doesn’t bother me to drill a hole in them, just got through drilling a 3/4 hole in 1 of them for a
bildge pump outlet, no problem with it, I have a phoenix 160 sit on top, I drilled a hole in it to mount a tarpon seat back, some times you have to make a backing plate to put inside, so you’re have a double thickness for the mount, the seat back I put 1 on top, 1 inside, was lucky called hurricane, they sent me 4 or 5 pieces of the scrap trylon material to make the mounting plates out of the same color as kayak , no trouble so far. just repaired a eddyline with a 4" crack, just drill a small hole at each end of the crack, that stops it from continuing, G-flex on the inside, added white colorant to the g-flex, smooth out and hard to see the repair, all of my airelite kayaks are from 2005 to 2009 ones.

The Sonoma I have here came to me with deck lines on it. I assumed they were that way from the factory, but I don’t know. There are obviously holes drilled for the foot peg tracks also - and those were definitely stock.

That said - I have resisted the temptation to add a drain plug. Figuring a bilge (hand) pump is a better option, and portable from boat to boat. I’d be dubious about drilling anything but very small bolt holes near the cockpit or the hull’s seam.

BTW - have you actually tried fishing from that boat? Certainly not my “go-to” for that.

Thanks, guys. I think it will be strong enough—no oil-canning. Yes, I’ll only drill small holes. I’m going to put a rod holder forward of the cockpit, a paddle clip on the side, and some padeyes.

BTW - have you actually tried fishing from that boat? Certainly not my “go-to” for that.
Yes. I’m a minimalist, and have all my fishing tackle in a PFD vest:

Yesterday I went fishing with the spray skirt installed, and never needed to undo it.

Ah - yours is the 10’. Quite a different animal than my 13.5. 4" wider and a taller seat back. Same hull material though. I can see where it may be better for fishing from. Just guessing that the design focuses more in primary stability than that of the 13.5.

The drilling went smoothly. I installed a rod holder and a few padeyes and tried them out today.