Master Hull Welding E-mail
Written by Dave Bradfield   
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 21:01

Plastic Welding a Leaky Hobie

Lately, I've been noticing more water in my little Hobie Sport when I get off the water, almost a quart or so through this past summer. 

On Saturday of Labor Day weekend, as I was returning through some larger swells and wind at Trinidad, CA, it felt like my little kayak was not performing properly. It felt sluggish with a tendency to roll in the waves.  I made a push to get behind the shelter of the head rock, pulled the hatch, and noticed quite a bit of water sloshing around in the hold, more than I have ever seen, so I offloaded some gear with my buddies and beat a hasty retreat to the launch point.   After landing I bailed out more than half a gallon of water! NOT GOOD.

2.5waterfix  That was twice as much as I had seen on previous trips. When I got home I rinsed and dried the exterior of the hull, put it up on some chairs and poured in 3 gallons of water to look for leaks, and found them quickly!

The water was beading up at the rear of the mirage drive housing where the drive fits through the hull.  When I looked at the same location on the inside of the hull I could see two cracks radiating out at that same spot.

I called my Hobie dealer in LA and he said yes, cracks near the mirage drive have been a design problem in the past and it's very difficult to fix. Even though my boat is out of warranty he would check with Hobie to see if they would do some sort of warranty on it.  Meanwhile, at my request, he recommended a temporary fix that might get me through Labor Day weekend using a 3M adhesive.

I tried that, and tested it in Stone Lagoon the next day.  The adhesive held as long as I "paddled" but when I engaged the pedals it started leaking so much that the boat was not usable for any length of time.

When I got back to LA I learned from my dealer that my kayak was way beyond it’s 2 year hull warranty.  Since I’ve had the kayak for five years the best he could do was a “replacement” hull for $818.  It would be a “new” 2014 hull.  I would use my existing seat, mirage drive, and paddles. I investigated upgrading to a new Outback, but that turned out to be beyond my current means so I ordered the replacement hull.

6pressurizepump 4leakfind2

However, at my dealer’s suggestion, I contacted a plastic welder named Wes Ogle in LA.  Wes was formerly with Cobra Kayaks and has been “in the industry” for years. Though retired, he still does kayak plastic weld repairs out of his home.  My goal was to see if the old hull was repairable for use as a 2nd kayak mostly on Stone Lagoon or other such waters.

I took the cracked hull to Wes to evaluate, to see if a repair was possible.  After looking it over he said he’d try to repair the cracks from the outside because he couldn’t get his welding tool inside the hull in the confined area near the mirage drive.

So, he sealed the larger holes in my kayak using some foam rubber stoppers. These were the holes I had drilled for my fish finder cables. Then he used an air pump, the kind to inflate an air mattress, to pressurize the interior of the hull.

8dremel 9dremel2 10.3weldgun2

Next, he sprayed soapy water on the suspect regions of the hull and found the cracks, just like finding holes in a tire or an inner tube. Once he located the cracks, he used a grinder to grind out the cracked area providing a cavity for a bead of plastic weld material in the cracked region.  At this point I realized he’s done this many times before!  This guy’s a true pro!

Next, he used the plastic welding tool to lay down a bead-like layer into the region that was "carved out".

You can see the two beads in the welded cracks.  (See picture.)

12weld3 13weld4 11weld2

Then he used the grinder to trim the beads to make them flush on the outside.

Next, he used some plastic "dust" -- small particles -- and a standard solder iron to fill the cracks on the inside of the hull.   He warned me that this technique did not structurally addressing these cracks and that I should keep an eye on this spot as I continued to use the boat. And, that was it! I was there about 2 hours.  He asked for $50, I paid him $60.   I thought it was extremely reasonable!

Well, I just had to try it out, so I took the kayak to Cabrillo Beach that afternoon.  It was 4:30 when I got on the water.  There were no initial leaks as I paddled around the ramp, so I decided to give it the acid test, two hours of straight pedaling all around the harbor. 

Around dusk, after pedaling non-stop for two hours, I opened the hatch and there was no water in the hull, save that that dripped in when I opened the hatch. Less than a spoonful! 

So it now appears I’m the proud owner of two Hobie sport hulls, a "new" 2014 replacement hull and the repaired, 2010 hull. At this point I only have one mirage drive, and one seat, but I’ll be in the market to outfit this second boat.

14powder 15bradfieldling

I’ll heed Wes’s warning. I won’t use this repaired hull on long excursions in the ocean or even long excursions away from the launch point. And I I’ll always take a sponge and a bilge pump. But, it’s kind of nice to have two hulls to use now.

If you want to contact Wes in LA for kayak plastic welding, I can give him the highest recommendation.  This is the number he provided. 

Wes Ogle
 (310) 536 - 6545

 

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