That’s the Rub: Preventing Abrasion on Rafts

ArticleMay 24, 2011

The Pennel Orca® and urethane material in NRS inflatables is tough and abrasion-resistant, but even the toughest substances can be worn away by grit and friction – look at the Grand Canyon.

Wear, or rub spots, occurs in several ways. Frames can wear into the material. Contact with rocks and other obstacles can gouge through coatings. The jiggle of a hard object against a boat during transport is a common cause of wear.

Pennel Hypalon Illustration

Keeping frames cinched tight helps minimize movement and consequent wear patterns. You certainly can’t always avoid rocks when you’re on the water, but wear when the boat is beached can be prevented. Pull the boat up far enough on shore that it doesn’t bob up and down and rub against rocks. Transport wear happens all too often. Put your deflated boat in a boat bag and be sure nothing hard is resting against it. Trailering an inflated boat is fine, but again, be sure nothing hard is against it. Road vibration, combined with dirt and grime, will wear into boat material.

Both our Pennel Orca and urethane materials are coated on both sides, and the coatings are excellent at holding air. When you have a wear spot where the base woven fabric is showing, the inside coating is still keeping the boat air tight.

Still, you want to cover those spots to protect the fabric and prevent further wear. Our rafts and catarafts have an extra protective wear patch layer on top of the tubes, so wear in that area is less serious. A wear pattern somewhere on the boat, perhaps caused by a cooler, dry box or other regularly carried gear, is best protected by gluing some material over the area. On a Pennel Orca or Hypalon boat, use Clifton Hypalon Adhesive. To attach extra urethane material, use Clifton Urethane Adhesive.

Pennel Hypalon Illustration
NRS Expedition Raft Construction

NRS Cataraft Construction
NRS Cataraft Construction

A slick way to protect a random wear spot is to cover it with Aquaseal Adhesive, which forms a tough, abrasion-resistant layer. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol or other solvent cleaner, and then lightly roughen the coating immediately surrounding the wear spot with fine sandpaper. You can color the exposed threads with a permanent marker that matches the coating color. Spread a thin coat of Aquaseal over the exposed threads, and feather it out onto the adjoining coating. The adhesive dries clear and makes a tough, inconspicuous protective repair.

Another important, though often overlooked, preventive measure is keeping your boat as clean as possible. Sand gets tracked onto the boat and can work its way between frame and gear. Carry a Bail Pail or similar bucket for rinsing this grit away. A water gun makes a good boat cleaner; plus, it gives you a long-distance advantage in a water fight!

Taking these preventive measures and repairing wear that does occur will help ensure that you get many years of use and fun with your NRS inflatable boat!