New meaning to “leaky bladder”

in Intracoastal Waterway / Life at Sea / Sailing the World
bladder post repair

I will admit (though not to Ryan) that I get great satisfaction out of fixing things on the boat. In my mind, boat repairs often equate to a better standard of living (especially if you live on your boat), even when the improvements are minor.

So, aside from those rare and overwhelming instances when the entire boat is undergoing repairs (like when we were stuck in Port Washington), I actually really enjoy sinking my teeth into one manageable project. Are you reading this, Ryan? One project…don’t get all excited now.

Unless we’re talking about varnishing, that is. Having shiny wood does not make my life better. In fact, it eats up an entire sunny day, on which I could be outside sailing, running, hiking, riding my bike or doing anything, really, that doesn’t require wasting a gorgeous afternoon spiffing up a few decorative bits of wood.

But I digress.

My project today was not varnishing; it was to fix our leaky aft water tank, the Nauta 52-gallon water bladder that led us to discovering our bilge pump didn’t work.

Our leaky aft water bladder.

I’ll also admit, though, that my first response was not to fix the bladder. It was to price up a new one as soon as we got to Annapolis. But then I learned it would cost $500 to replace what is, essentially, a big rubber bag. And that just seemed crazy. Even by New York spend-hardy standards. After all, we do have a cruising kitty to maintain now.

So, I ripped open my shirt to reveal the SHT on my chest (Super Handy Tasha, of course. What were you thinking?), put on my cape and got down to it.

Or I made a few phone calls and got through to a company called Intra, the U.S. distributor for Nauta (a French company), and asked them for some advice.

Intra suggested a dinghy repair kit for hypalon dinghys, like this one, which we picked up at a local inflatable boat shop in Annapolis. Considering the kit only cost $40, it was well worth a try.

So today, while Ryan worked with an engineer on our alternator, I set up camp on the dock of Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard (next to some super shiny 60-foot Oysters whose owners would probably not bother to patch up an old water tank) and got down to sealing up six holes in our bladder.

The results remain to be seen (we need to wait 24 hours before using it), but I’m convinced this is our ticket to a) saving $500 and b) gaining 52 gallons of water storage. What more could I ask for (apart from maybe a 60-foot Oyster)?

Anyway, if you have a leaky water bladder, or even a leaky dinghy, this was an easy and very do-able job for even the un-handiest of folks (i.e. me).

All you need is:

  • A hypalon inflatable dinghy repair kit with enough patches to cover the number of leaks you have
  • Medium-grain sandpaper
  • A cheap, rough-bristled paint brush (cut off the bristles so they’re about an inch long)
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • A cloth
  • A heat gun or good hair dryer


  • With sandpaper, rough up hypalon patch and leak area
  • Using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, clean leak area and patch. Repeat 3 times on both
  • Dab a small amount of glue (comes with the patch kit) on leak area and patch. Use brush to spread a thin layer covering entire patch and entire leak area. Wait 5 minutes to dry. Repeat 3 times on patch and leak area
  • Once glue has been applied, put patch on leak area and apply heat to patch. Be careful not to melt the water bladder itself. Use a cloth on heated area (so as not to burn yourself) to press down on patch until fully adhered
  • Let dry for 24 hours

Note: The next day, we filled up the bladder and discovered we missed one little leak. So the fix required one more patch and another 24-hour wait. But as far as we can tell, it worked! Hideaway’s bladder is no longer leaking!

One patch out of six

Super Handy Tasha and her un-leaky bladder

0 Comments... Be the first to comment
  • Mid-Life Cruising! October 25, 2012, 9:14 am

    Looks like a great fix … and savings! From a leaky bladder to a full bladder … LOL!

    • Tasha October 25, 2012, 9:17 am

      I’ll let you know if it actually worked…fingers crossed!

      • Tasha October 25, 2012, 1:58 pm

        Humph. I filled up the bladder and found one leak I missed. But all the ones I got aren’t leaking now! Back to work, I guess.

  • williams Chimelir May 29, 2016, 12:22 am

    thanks for the info, mine has a hole of almost an inch diameter !! I’ll give a try !!

    • Tasha June 5, 2016, 2:03 pm

      Good luck with that!

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