blown hatches

I’ve read numerous accounts of people losing their hatches at the worst possible moments, often when they are already in rescue situations. And if they arent in a rescue situation before hand, they are when they lose one. They aren’t always “blown” so lets not focus on my choice of words, but they do “come off when they arent supposed to”.

I’m interested in

  1. what kinds has this happened to, and exactly how. This is rarely given in the accounts.
  2. how to prevent it

    There is an article in the latest SeaKayaker mag where a double lost a hatch after things went south-it presumably came off in trying to hang on or get back into the boat. It was a strap down plastic over neoprene variety, I believe (judging from the pictures). Not sure what more you can do if they are strapped down.

    I’ve heard of larger rubber VCP types coming off in heavy waves. I’m particularly interested in this kind of incident because its the kind of hatch cover I have, and I can definitely see this happening. Hatch openings have lips that should work nicely with some sort of cinch down strap/cord system to enure they stay on, but I’ve never seen such a system in action. I’ve seen some boats with rubber hatches come from the factory with shock cords around them. The shock cord has more give than the hatch, making it useless as far as I can see.

    This type could also potentially be dislodged during a capsize, with loose gear hitting it from the inside. Not putting them on all the way (easy to do if you’re not very careful) would also leave them vulnerable.

    I like double protection on important parts like these. Does anyone know of a tried and true way to secure the VCP or Kajaqsport type hatch cover?

I don’t know that you can totally prevent a blown hatch cover, but I am always very careful that mine are properly seated and I’ve never had one come off in rough water. Having said that, I also always have fully inflated air bags in both my fore and aft hatch if I am out in conditions. ALWAYS! At least then if I lose a cover it’s not nearly as big a deal.

Seen it once
in a practice rescue - full implosion as the person came over the back deck. But WS finally went to using other peoples’ hatch covers rather than their own…

Seriously, agree mostly with the first post. I usually have float bags in the fore and aft bulkheads (don’t worry about the day hatch compartment because it is crammed with stuff anyway) and inflate them before each trip on big water. I also usually travel with a change of clothing and, because I live in dry wear, an alternate outer layer in dry bags front and back. I carry a pair of the old Bush Sport emergency hatch covers in one boat as well.

In sum, even if I lose a hatch I will be floating, maybe just a bit lower.


– Last Updated: Sep-07-11 10:10 PM EST –

I agree, and use them too as a back up.

Still, it seems like there should be a way to cinch down VCP types so they almost cant come off, and I'm hoping someone has figured it out. I would still use the bags.

Double Dog Down
Somebody once showed me how to ‘double-dog’ the standard VCP hatch covers, which involved going around the perimeter again, ensuring the lower flange was tucked down into the hatch recess all the way.

In retrospect, it struck me that this was in fact the proper, intended way to firmly seal the hatch cover, and that anything less was only half-*ssed. It seems the VCP hatches don’t naturally seat all the way, and require this ‘double-dogging’ step for complete sealing.

I suspect many cases of dislodged or imploded hatch covers are the result of improper or incomplete closure.


That, and
most of the earlier British boats in particular did not have their hatch covers tethered to the boat from the factory.

I would need the fingers on both hands to count the number of blown off hatch covers in heavy seas, surf, or tidal races I’ve seen, and half of them were lost because they weren’t tethered.

All of my hatch covers are tethered, and it was nice to see a few years ago when I bought my Anas Acuta that they had been tethered at the factory. A nice change!

the article
The strapped type of cover in the seakayaker article was usually has no neoprene cover. There is a cam-buckle arrangement and until recently those buckles were made smooth and could very easily get dislodged. Newer models have a crooked edge on the buckle so it can’t as easily come undone.

The other type of cover I’ve seen come off is the Wilderness Systems tupperware type on early and mid-oughties Tempests. The problem has been addressed on newer models by using Kajak Sport hatches.

I agree with Delphinius that you need to tuck the rubber edge of the VCP hatch covers under the lip. I can’t imagine how these could get blown off when properly sealed, but I suppose there’s always a bigger bomb somewhere

VCP hatch band
Early VCPs came with a cam tensioning metal strap for the round covers. I’m not sure if it’s still made. The Ovals had nothing. Personally, I have never seen a VCP or Kayak Sport hatch come off in use including surf (paddling 18 years). I’m sure it has happened but most of the time I find them hard enough to take off especially if you tuck the lip into the recess on the boat.

There was a discussion a week or two back about breathing holes in the bulkheads and I would recommend that if loosing a hatch is something you’re concerned with.

More hatches are lost on the road because people drive away with the hatch not fastened and no tether. (myself included)

never seen it
I’ve seen lots of those hatches in surf and even endoed a boat with the large kajaksport rubber hatch, didn’t implode, hell it didn’t even leak!

I suspect if you climbed on the back deck and put you knee on the giant kajaksport hatch it might be a problem, so store your spare paddles across it :slight_smile:

Interesting that the gnarlydog blog was complaining about those hatches with the cam buckles a few weeks ago.

When I read the subject line, I thought the OP was talking about blown bulkheads, because I’ve always thought of the hatches as the compartments inside the kayak. Now that I think about it, the hatch is actually the opening into the compartment.

So what do you call the actual compartment?

I call them the ‘bow compartment’ and the ‘stern compartment’.

Now that I think about it, the hatch is actually the opening into the compartment.


That’s why the need covers. :wink:

I use the same terminology as carldelo-front and rear compartment.

I thought so
I have very vague recollections of such a thing many years ago.

Maybe gnarlydog should send me the ones he doesn’t like…

have the metal bands on my Anas Acuta. I don’t think they offer any additional reassurance that the hatch covers would come off. They (the bands) pop open pretty easily. Maybe the earlier Valley hatch covers were more flexible and the bands added some security, but newer hatch covers seems to be stiffer.

I paddle a Pintail and a Nordkapp sometimes multiple times a week and do rescue practice and rough water paddling whenever possible.

In my experience, if a Valley hatch cover is in good condition and installed properly, there is no way it’s going to come off without doing something really stupid.

If you have a Valley hatch cover that does not fit tight, waterproof, and secure, it is is degraded or damaged, very likely from U.V. exposure.

I have been getting about 4 seasons on Valley hatch covers before they are notably degraded. Since my life could depend on their integrity, I consider regular replacement a normal maintenance issue.

I have just replaced my VCP hatch
covers with Sea Lect covers as I think it is just ridiculous to have to replace hatch covers on a kayak the caliber of a Valley. Of the 9 kayaks I own, many for quite some time and not a single one has needed the hatch covers to be replaced. Including the ones I store out doors. I could understand this happening on some $199 kayak. But for the price people are paying for high end kayaks that come with VCP covers I find this unacceptable.

If you bought an Acura and the dealer told you that the dash would need to be replaced due to uv damage every so often and the guy buying a Kia didn’t have the same problem what would you think?

do you expect the gaskets on a $1000 dry suit to last for decades? Get real, rubber things degrade and need replacing. And where do you get $199 kayaks with hatches?

Lost one hatch
on my Kajaksport Artisan Millenium. Probably because I didn’t fasten it completely. Since then I use the belt and suspender approach. The kajaksport hatches are tethered, but as added insurance, I’ve done this…

Rear hatch is done the same way. Had some slack in the perimeter lines, now I don’t.


Someone better inform kajak sport
that they need to produce hatch covers that degrade at a much faster rate.

I cannot imagine why any kayak manufacturer would miss out on such a money making opportunity. Especially one that their customers would defend.

Gnarlydog blog
"Interesting that the gnarlydog blog was complaining about those hatches with the cam buckles a few weeks ago."

That’s right: not a big fan of the neoprene covers underneath those hard hatch lids.

The lids seem to be usually good (although I have repaired a few fibreglass one that have cracked) but the neoprene on most seems to let go after a few years.

Of course there will be plenty of defenders of the neoprene double covers (hard cover+ neo) and I am sure there are plenty of users out there that never had one leak.

In my experience when my sea kayaks were used in surf and for rolling the neo was letting a fair amount of water in the hatches.

Never ever I had problems with VCP covers, not leaking nor perishing… call me lucky :slight_smile:

I had a few kayaks that leaked AROUND the hatch coaming but that’s because of sloppy workmanship in bonding the coaming at the factory, not because of the rubber cover.

Valley kayaks with their recessed seal (must be pusher hard to seal) is the best system I have seen so far. Kajak Sport is good with round hatches but I had the big oval leak if not perfectly seated.