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Old 04-08-2014   #1
Bozeman, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 61
Blown Tributary baffle?

I bought a used 12' Tributary last fall, used it once and then put it away for the winter. It is in great shape (or so it seemed) and my boyfriend and I took it out for our second run on the Yellowstone today. When we got to the takeout I went to deflate it and when I opened one of the valves on the main tube, it deflated two of the three air chambers

My boyfriend is new to boating and doesn't know anything about rafts; he's the one that inflated it this morning and he can't recall if it was like that when he pumped it up. I was getting the frame and other things ready, so I didn't see what happened.

At six years old, the raft is just out of warranty. How hard is this to fix? Should I just order a whole new bladder from AIRE? Can I unzip it and fix it myself? I'm prepared to do that if I have to.

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Old 04-08-2014   #2
Walla Walla, Washington
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 144
I would blame it on the boyfriend.

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Old 04-08-2014   #3
Bozeman, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 61
After quizzing him a little more on the subject, he does remember inflating three different chambers this morning. Must have happened on the river.
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Old 04-08-2014   #4
Brotorboat's Avatar
Right near the beach...BOYEEEEE, Brahbrobrahdo
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 442
Pull out the bladders and check them out. Not difficult to do and there are videos on AIRE's website and youtube page. If need new bladders and install.

If you run into trouble, call AIRE. They are more than happy to help.
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Old 04-09-2014   #5
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C. Springs, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,443
If you plan to unzip the bladders yourself, make sure you lube the zippers good and only use your fingers to open them with. If you have to use pliers......take it to a repair facility or the factory. If will ruin the zipper and have to take it in anyways. REI sells a zipper lube with built in brush that works great for thiss type of thing. You can use soap and water too. Good luck!
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Old 04-09-2014   #6
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Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,660
With the bladders you don't really have baffles, the bladder is the baffle. The outer shell doesn't hold air, so if the boat didn't loose pressure during the day I don't see how you could have lost a bladder(baffle). I'd guess somebody pushed in the valve with out thinking. There is essentially no way two valves/chambers could be linked... I'd def. reinflate and investigate

you could have also over inflated the first bladder, thus putting a lot more air in it then the others, then when you deflated that same baffle the other(s) appear to deflate. When you inflate a raft you should put an equal number of pumps in each chamber (roughly). I start by putting 40 in each, then go back around and put another 20 in, continuing around the boat until it's up to pressure. Putting too much air in one chamber is how you blow baffles/bladders.
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Old 04-09-2014   #7
Dillon, Colorado
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 38
I've done it on my Super Puma

I would bet that your BF did what I did and you have a pinhole leak.

Second trip out on my raft I either folded it up wrong or didn't blow it up right. Should have read the instructions. Woops! Got a pinhole leak in one of the 3 bladders and it would get pretty low while we were out on the water, pumped it up about every 45 minutes to stay properly afloat.

I also fixed it myself. I called AIRE and they said they'd warantee the bladder that had the leak, but they would most likely just patch it. They said the turnaround would be MUCH quicker if I fixed it myself. I figured, whats the harm? If I screw it up I can just send it in (mine is still in the 10 yr warranty).

See pictures below. Taking the bladder out is pretty easy. Unzip the shell where the leaky bladder is. The three bladders are connected by a zipper line at each junction point. The zipper to zip them back up is in your patch kit - DON'T LOSE THAT ZIPPER. Its supposed to come off but make sure you hang onto it. There are also zip ties that hold the zipper line together. Go ahead and cut those. Make sure you don't nip the bladder though. Then you have to unscrew the valve from the shell to take it apart from the shell. Blow it back up and listen/feel around for the pinhole leak. If your boat came with a patch kit, there is a sheet of little stickers for pinhole leaks. AIRE assured me these stickers will last the life of the boat. Put the sticker on the pinhole leak. Blow it back up and make sure its holding air.

Its a little tricky getting the bladder back in. Just make sure everything is lined up before you blow it back up. Make marks as to where things were lined up before you pull it out. You do not want that thing twisted in the shell when you go to blow it up. Zip the bladder back to the other two, and don't forget to zip tie the zipper line of the two bladders back together as well. Rezip the shell and then you're done. AIRE has a couple videos that show how to do it online.

Good luck! I found it to be a great learning experience for me, I could do it in half the time now if I had to. Just remember to keep that space where the bladder goes and the shell clean, any dirt or rocks in there can screw up that bladder and create another leak.

Also, for future reference, and this is what I did not do which I think caused the leak... Inflate each bladder to about 2/3 full before you top off any of them. That's real important. If you inflate one all the way and not the others they can have problems in how they marry when fully inflated and can cause leaks. Haven't had a problem since the fix.
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Old 04-09-2014   #8
Bozeman, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 61
It's not a pinhole leak, and it is definitely a blown baffle/bulkhead. The tubes were nice and tight (not too tight) until I pushed the valve, then both chambers deflated. I blew it up again to be sure, and tried both valves, and I can easily move air between both chambers. There is no deformity when inflated, and it rowed just fine. I never heard a pop.

I'll blow it up this afternoon and unzip it to find the problem.
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Old 04-09-2014   #9
East of the Pine beatle, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 1,363
If you put a balloon in each end of a paper towel roll and blew up one balloon, it could fill the whole tube. If you blew up the other, and the first was already filling the majority of the tube, the one you were filling wouldn't take much air. Release the air in the first balloon and the second one does not "inflate" to fill the void. I think it is likely that your bladders (not baffles) are fine- you just didn't have an equal amount of air in each when you started. Try filling each one partially- just barely full. Then bring each up to full pressure. AKA RTFM
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Old 04-09-2014   #10
Bozeman, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 61
When I put air into one chamber with the other completely deflated, I can sit on that tube, move the air into the other bladder, and deflate it using the opposite valve. That's not normal, and I know what a raft is supposed to look like when I blow it up.

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