May 11, 2009

Ghetto to Jimmy-rigged

I've had the same float tube since 1997. My parents and I split the cost for my Christmas present that year. I caught my biggest Walleye in it on Utah Lake near the Bubble-up. I spent countless hours at the inlet side of Jordenelle fishing for various species of fish. I stepped out of it when I broke my first Sage rod. And I caught my first Wiper in it.

This year, while preparing my gear for the coming season, I noticed a disheartening scene. The guts of this beast is a large inner-tube that has been cut allowing for the "U" shape. The edges of the inner-tube have been folded in on itself and glued. For the last 11+ years, this seam had held. But as I inspected it, I noticed a gaping hole. I hastily repaired the seam with Auqaseal in preparation for my next outing. I was excited to try out my $40 Force Fins I found on classifies.

As I waited for Kyle to meet me at the Chevron in Toquerville, I prayed my tube would hold its air. As we arrived to our destination, I was pleased to find the tube still inflated. I really enjoy the Force Fins; with my chicken-legs, any help I can get is a blessing. About 20 minutes into the quest, I noticed a particular sound and saw bubbles from the problem area. I fished for a few more minutes and headed back to the truck before I was left with a soggy mess of nylon fabric.
I had little hope of saving this artifact of my fishing experiences. I threw the tube onto my office floor and forgot about it.

Yesterday, while on break from work, I stopped at the local Hurst-Ace Hardware to look at their meager, but welcomed supply of fishing gear. I went the the adhesive section to explore another option for sealing the problem seam. I saw Plyabond and it looked promising. But I've used it before and didn't want to expose my senses to that smell. Just before leaving, I decided to look in the Clearance section. As I sifted through the pistol grip covers, antler mounts, and bait hooks, I saw what looked like a raft. I picked it up to find it wasn't a raft, but a replacement float tube bladder! I looked through the selection of 3 or 4 shapes and sizes and tried to pick one that was closest to what I needed. I found one that looked OK and couldn't find the price. At the bottom of the bin, I found an unopened package containing the same model. I left the store $10 lighter and a hope for the resurrection of the old tube

After a lot of shifting and prodding, I was able to fit the bladder into the tube shell and fully inflate the vessel. I was amazed it worked. The only problem is the inflation stem is about 4 inches off from where the old bladder's stem was located. But with a little ingenuity, I think I can make it work. The bonus is that the replacement bladder is about 25% of the weight of the old inner-tube and the package included a replacement back support too!

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