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How to Make Dinghy Chaps

When you’re on your boat, your dinghy is like your car; it’s how you get to shore or to neighboring boats for sundowners. As an important piece of your boating equipment, you’ll want to keep it in good working order. Inflatable dinghies, which feature rubber inflatable tubes, are a popular style. Protect the tubes from harmful UV rays and chafe with dinghy chaps, which are like a leave-on cover on the topside of the tubes. Every dinghy is slightly unique, so the best way to get a precise fit is to have them custom-made. We recently sewed up a set of dinghy chaps for Jim Grant’s dinghy for his Islander 37 sailboat. Watch our step-by-step video to learn how to pattern and sew your own custom dinghy chaps.

The key to getting well-fitted dinghy chaps is careful patterning. We used 12-gauge Plastipane vinyl as a pattern material for this project. The clear vinyl was a little sticky against the vinyl of the dinghy, so it stayed in place well while patterning. We also let a tiny bit of air out of the dinghy when we patterned, to ensure a snug finished fit when fully inflated.

We used Sunbrella® Marine Grade fabric for the main body of our dinghy chaps, with Shelter-Rite® for chafe protection patches. At the aft end of each tube we switched the material to Phifertex® Mesh to help promote water drainage at the rear of the boat. This is an especially good idea for dinghies that plane at faster speeds.

The chaps are secured to the dinghy via a leech line drawstring around the outer edge of the cover that is cinched in place. On the inside of the dinghy, we attached the cover with snaps and YKK® SNAD® fastener studs installed directly onto the side of the dinghy.

To watch the full video and see the materials list, visit Sailrite.com and search (#200682XHT).

Have you made your own dinghy chaps before? Do you have any tips to share on the process? Leave us a comment and share your experiences.

Inflatable dinghy

Rips happen, but you don’t have to let a rip in your inflatable dinghy get you down! Rips can easily be repaired with the right dinghy repair glue. Inflatable dinghies are commonly made from either a PVC or hypalon material and require a repair glue specifically designed for one or the other. Here are some quick tips on how to determine whether you need repair glue for PVC or hypalon:

Check your owner’s manual. Avon, Achilles, Seaworthy, Novurania, Bat Boat, Nissan, Sea Rover, Metzler, and Apex are common hypalon boats. If you do not have one of these models, check the dinghy’s owner’s manual to determine the material of your dinghy.

Examine the material. If you’ve misplaced the manual, take a closer look at the texture of the dinghy. PVC tends to have a rough, snake skin like texture, while Hypalon is usually smooth. This is not foolproof, however, and even experts admit that the difference is not always discernible to the eye.

Call the manufacturer. Get a definitive answer by calling the manufacturer of the dinghy.

When in doubt, go with PVC. If you end up totally stumped, go for the PVC glue. PVC glue will work on both PVC and Hypalon boats without any adverse reactions, the bond just won’t be as strong on the Hypalon.

The Patching Process

When you are ready to make your dinghy repairs, use a patch of the same material to cover the rip.

  1. Thoroughly clean the patch site with an appropriate cleaner (included in a dinghy glue kit). Hypalon boats will need to be pre-sanded with 60-grit sandpaper before gluing as well.
  2. Wipe down the patch to remove any finger oils.
  3. Mix up the glue with a catalysis according to instructions and stir well with a paintbrush.
  4. Paint a thin coating of the glue on both surfaces and let dry until tacky (10-15 min.).
  5. Repeat with a second coat of glue. If using PVC glue, you will then want to heat up the glue with a hair dryer.
  6. Affix patch to dinghy surface and press or roll out all of the air from underneath. The glue will be 100% set in 7 days.

Both PVC and Hypalon Glue Kits are available at www.sailrite.com. 

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