BlogMarch 2017

Care for your aluminum fishing boat

Care for your aluminum fishing boat

By Tom Keer

Mar 15, 2017

Tin skiffs are outstanding fishing boats.  Like any boat, they need some care, and here are a few ways to patch them up and keep them in the water where they belong.

Why in the world would anyone buy a tin sport fishing boat? There are lots of great reasons. They're affordable, light enough to push off a sand bar, they are easy to trailer and launch, they get into skinny water and they are powered by less costly, lower horsepower outboards.  Some have modified vee hulls while others are flat-bottomed, but all are great boats.

As with anything, these fishing boats require a bit of care to keep them floating high and totally dry. Here are a few tips for aluminum fishing boat care:

Rivets are the common cause for leaks.  Flip the boat over and examine the rivets.  Most of the time you can tell which rivets need attention, so look for those that are loose or rusted.  They should be removed and replaced whether or not they allow water to seep in.  It's a matter of time before they do.  A final step is to coat rivets and seams with waterproof sealer.

Can't find the leak?  Food dye added to a boat holding water makes leak identification easy.  If you're in the water you'll see bubbles or streams pushing around the dye.  If you're in your driveway you can easily look at the hull underneath to see where colored water exits the boat.  Also try shining a flash light inside the trailered boat at night.  A bit of light emerging helps make holes easy to spot.  Spotting pin hole leaks is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack.

Cracks, pitting, and crevice corrosion. Most cracks or corrosion can be patched with an epoxy repair kit available at marine or outdoor stores.  If you see a crack be sure to drill a hole in it.  The hole will keep the crack from spreading.  Move on to prepping which includes scraping, sanding, and cleaning.  Then apply the patch and let it dry.
Bare aluminum spots. These spots will need some prepping, too, so sand the area, wash with vinegar, and spray lightly with primer.  When the primer is dry coat with a rust-proof marine bottom paint.  Spray or roll to suit your style.

Solve problems before they happen.  A lot of us use scrap wood to build fishing platforms, rod racks, or storage bins.  Be sure the wood you use isn't pressure treated.  That wood is treated with copper, and when the copper leaches out into your aluminum sport fishing boat it will eat the metal alive.

There are lots of different types of fishing boats, and tin skiffs are some of the best. Compared to the joy offered by their simplicity, aluminum fishing boat care is minimal. Get it done now, the season is near.  
Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at