I’ve found a product that solves a problem many of us have encountered with our gear and boats, something that quickly and easily salvages the leakiest inflatables. This includes kayaks, rafts, flotation bags and the inflatable sponsons found in many folding kayaks. Could probably also be used for some air mattresses and air beds, but I’ll stick to paddling gear in this discussion. Those of you familiar with me from the forums will know this isn’t commercial hucksterism – I’m so pleased to have found and tested this stuff that I want to recommend it to fellow paddlers.
Last month I bought an 8 year old used Pakboat Swift solo folding kayak that looked pristine until I discovered that the dual inflatable sponsons on both sides leaked so badly that they would deflate completely within minutes. I removed them from the skin (they are tied in and removable in Pakboats) and submersion tested them, finding a few small leaks which I patched. with the usual vinyl adhesive and patch material. But they still collapsed. This is a frequent problem with sponsons, inflatable boats and flotation bags. And replacing sponsons is a costly thing, in some cases with older boats it can be impossible. Patching can work for small tears, seam blowouts or pinholes, but eventually the coatings on the inside of the material begin to degrade – many boats and accessories get scrapped for this reason.
But I am stubborn and did some research and found a sealant made and sold by Inland Marine in Cape Coral, Florida specifically for restoring even high pressure inflatable boats. It works!! It’s a non-toxic liquid coating that you squirt into the inflatable (it comes in a bottle with an applicator cap), swirl around inside and then allow to cure. It completely recoats the inside surface of the material, even filling in where the original water and air proof coating has failed or peeled off the substrate fabric. This stuff is amazing. A quart bottle was $63 ($49 plus $14 shipping). I only needed 8 ounces to do two 14’ long dual sponsons so that is around $16 in cost to salvage the kayak. They say you need a full 32 ounce bottle to do a 12’ long full inflatable raft type boat (like a yacht tender or large white water raft) but most inflatable kayaks would take far less.
This sealant is apparently used by commercial operators who use inflatables and even the US military. I read a lot of user reviews before ordering it. The first sponson I renewed with the sealant has now stayed fully inflated for 20 hours. It works so well I plan to use it in all my boat’s sponsons now, even the ones that have not leaked yet, as a prophylactic measure.
Here is a link to what the sponsons looked like after I had injected the coating and inflated them. You can see the milky liquid has penetrated and saturated places where the material had been slowly allowing air to pass through – all the darkened areas. There are even tiny spots where pin hole have been sealed and weak areas along the heatsealed seams that the sealant filled in. Once it dried by the next morning, the liquid was clear (like Elmer’s glue when it dries). and flexible. In the shots I had only partially inflated them, but now that the coating has cured they are holding full pressure. The sponsons look like they have snot smeared all over them now but who cares? They stay inflated and you won’t see them inside my kayak anyway.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapdoodl … 4461910673
This stuff is the bomb and should save a lot of boats and accessory gear and a lot of patching hassles. I plan to carry a few ounces in a small Nalgene bottle in my repair kit.
The company also makes flexible paints in a range of colors that can be used to recoat the outside of inflatable boats. So if you used this sealant on the inside and did not like how it looked where it seeped through, you could paint over it. You could also use the paint to restore scraped up inflatable hulls or change the deck color. Here is the company website. I am so happy with the product results that I can even forgive them their sexist catalog shots of buxom bikini babes.