Putting Together a Repair Kit

by George Granlund

Even if you’re just going out on the water for an hour or two-- “$#&@ Happens”! Hope that it doesn’t happen to you. If you haven’t broken things while paddling, either you don’t paddle much or you live a charmed life.

What if you break a paddle in waves or 10 miles from home?, break a rudder line when the wind starts howling?, punch a hole in your boat on that rock you didn’t see?, or lose a hatch cover in a wave? “Nah, it won’t happen to me” you say. “I’m paddling with someone,” you say. “I’m careful”, you say. We’re talking safety here, and convenience, and making it back home WITH your boat.

Different boats and different conditions may require different repair materials.  Boats are typically made from rotomolded polyethylene plastic, fiberglass, or Kevlar. There are a few oddballs out there like Eddyline Carbonlite material, and wooden boats. But they can be fixed too. At least enough to get you home.  Know what kind of boat you have and get the materials necessary to repair it.

First of all you ought to have a replacement for each type of fastener that you have on your boat. Usually screws and nuts made for water exposure are made of stainless steel. Boater’s World, West Marine, and most hardware stores carry stainless fasteners. Get 1-2 of each type. Take the fastener off your boat if you have to and bring it with you to the store to match. Many times you can develop a leak at a fastener. Get one or two rubber or plastic faucet washers to help seal the leak. You will also need tools, so buy a SMALL set of tools that will work on your fasteners. No point in putting a big Crescent wrench in your kit when one small open-end wrench of the correct size will do. You’ll likely also need a Phillips #2 screwdriver, but don’t put it in if all of your screws are slotted. A Gerber Multitool is nice, but heavy. Look at your needs before you put one in your kit. I carry a multitool because it has a pliers, wire cutter, and all of the screwdrivers I need--but I hate the weight.

A short length of thin, nylon line can serve as a replacement end toggle or a temporary fix for a rudder line. Or it can be an eyeglass retainer, or a paddle leash, or a PFD repair material. Same with a 4’ length of ¾” nylon strap. That can help to secure a hatch cover, or act as a tie-down on your deck. Also take along 3’ of ¼” bungie cord for the same reason.

To repair a broken paddle shaft, think broken arm. Make a splint out of anything you can get your hands on, like a few green branches or some tent poles. Tape them on with duct tape or use zip ties to secure them.  Duct tape--- wrap 6-10’ around a dowel and put it in a Zip-Loc. Zip Ties---carry a dozen or so of various sizes. These things are strong. I’ve used some to repair rudder lines, patch a broken seat strap, fix a skirt, and many other things. Buy a bunch and share with friends.  Speaking of rudder lines, carry a spare and everything you’ll need to replace it. Better yet, put new ones on every year or so and carry your old one as a spare. If you use a skeg, carry a spare and the tools needed to replace it.

Hole or Crack in the Boat

While I’ve never holed a rotomolded (polyethylene) boat, I have helped repair fiberglass and CarbonLite hulls on trips where there were no alternatives.  Good old duct tape will usually seal a crack well enough to get you home. This happened on Bob Shockley’s CarbonLite boat when we had big waves and an 8 mile crossing to complete. We dried off the hull and put two layers of tape inside and out. It helped to rough up the hull a little with 100 grit sandpaper before we taped it. On fiberglass, you can get a repair kit from Gougeon Brothers (System 3) or go to a car supply place and buy a kit for doing fiberglass repairs. Even Meijer’s carries this. Throw away the extra packaging and put the repair stuff in a ZipLoc. You may want to practice at home before its’ crunch time. Small holes could be patched with a dab of hot glue heated with a match or lighter. Take a glue stick along. A small tube of sealant like AquaSeal works on most poly boats. Experiment with the glue on an old plastic milk carton, it’s the same material as your boat. If it sticks on the carton once cured, that’s the stuff you want.  Protecto-Wrap window flashing tape will stick to just about anything and it is waterproof. I bought some at Menard’s. It’s not expensive and you get far more than you need so you can share some with a friend. It’s better than duct tape, and way sticky.

Lose a hatch cover

Take along a heavy duty (contractor) trash bag or piece of VisQueen large enough to overlap you largest hatch opening. If you lose or develop a hole in a hatch cover, tape the trash bag over the opening and tape it to your deck. Not perfect in that your tape loses adhesive each time you open your hatch but it may get you home.

Super Glue

I’ve used it to reattach the bungie that goes around my skirt where it was separating. I’ve also use it to repair Brenda’s glasses on Isle Royale. They weren’t pretty when they were done but, if you wear glasses and they are broken on a trip, what are your options? In an emergency, it could also be used to close a wound. Don’t laugh, I saw it done on ER.

Awl and Thread

Bill McCormick can tell you that my awl and thread helped to repair his skirt. It will also work on a tent, weak straps, clothing, etc. I found mine at Harbor Freight for cheap. You should also take along a small sewing kit for  long trips.

Use the list as a guide, but what you take depends on how long your trip is and how remote from help you will be. You might want to put together two kits, one for day trips and one for camping trips. Things that can happen at any time are broken rudder cables, lost fasteners, holes or cracks in boats, and broken paddles. Have what you need to fix those things---tape, Zip Ties, tools, lengths of nylon line and strap, and replacement fasteners.

Everything here will fit into two empty plastic peanut butter jars (large size). The transparency of the jars allows you to quickly find what you need. Old Nalgene bottles also work well but are heavier. I put tape around the top/bottle connection to keep it watertight. You may want to put essentials in one bottle for day trips and everything else in the other bottle for multi-day trips.

  • G-Flex Epoxy Repair Kit

  • Epoxy Putty Stick (Water-Weld)
  • Protect Wrap Window Flashing Tape

  • Pliers

  • Knife

  • Screwdrivers

  • Gerber Multitool (optional)

  • Fasteners
  • Hot Glue Stick

  • Sandpaper
  • Rubber gloves

  • Nylon line and strap

  • Plastic fittings (match what you have on your boat)

  • Assorted Zip-ties

  • Heavy trash bag or plastic sheet (or piece of tarp)

  • Spare skeg or rudder cable and tools
  • Piece of milk jug (acts as a mixing board or repair patch)
  • Awl/thread and small sewing kit

  • Super Glue

  • AquaSeal or equivalent

  • Disposable lighter to melt hot glue

New to Kayaking?

Don't know how to get started? Which boat to buy? How to learn without embarrassment? What if it tips over? Do I have to roll the kayak?

We were all beginners once and we'd be happy to help you with the basics. Before you even buy a boat, why not stop in at our monthly meeting (see the Paddlers Calendar) for some friendly advice from experienced paddlers. Whether you're interested in calm afternoons on one of Michigan's beautiful lakes and rivers or two weeks in the wilderness, we can help - we've been there.

To ask any questions or to contact the group for any reason, please send an e-mail to Eastcoastpaddlers@gmail.com