Chandlery: February 2012
Stay Afloat vs. Plumbers Putty
Stay Afloat is an emergency repair sealant designed for stopping small leaks above and below the waterline. The non-toxic putty molds to fit most small holes, cracks, or gaps, even if submerged. According to the maker, you just remove the waxy putty from the tub and cram it into a hole or smear it over a crack until the leak stops.
Using a garden hose and a Jabsco Y-valve (to be featured in an upcoming test of Y-valves), PS tested Stay Afloat against typical plumbers putty. We found that although both will seal leaks under very low pressure, neither will be much help against the rush of water that can occur below the waterline, when a boat is pitching in a seaway. While our simple test was not a direct simulation of plugging a below-the-waterline leak, it gave us an idea of Stay Afloat’s tenacity and handleability. Stay Afloat was easier and faster to use than plumber’s putty, and it provided a stronger seal, but we wouldn’t put too much confidence in either product for below-the-waterline leaks. It is best to regard Stay Afloat as temporary relief from rain streaming through a mast-step or portlight, a quick plug for a puncture above the waterline, or a repair to a leaky sink drain.
Bottom line: Stay Afloat is not meant to replace wood plugs for through hulls or similar shoring/plugging products, like the foam Forespar TruPlug we reviewed in 2010. The moldable sealant is messy, but it quickly tames niggling, low-pressure leaks that can’t be easily stemmed by plugs or foam. In our view, it is probably worth the $15 (16 ounces) to keep a tub on hand for these types of small, temporary fixes.
Next: To Clean and to Protect