Frozen Hatches

I was out playing today and the temps dipped below freezing and my hatches are essentially frozen to the deck/combing. Valley hatches seal up pretty tight to begin with but I didn’t want to tug too hard for fear of tearing something. Anyone else experience this? I know there are paddlers out there that paddling in much colder water than I usually do. What happens if you’re touring?

Bring the boat inside :wink:
I get more nervous when the ice gets thick on my spray skirt…

Easy Fix

– Last Updated: Dec-06-10 12:44 AM EST –

If you need to open them, just splash lots of water over them. Yes, occasional splashes are what caused them to freeze shut, but LOTS of splashing will thaw them out because the water you are splashing them with is warmer than the freezing point. This works on ANYTHING you need to get unfrozen, as long as you have a source of liquid water, and when boating, you do.

An even easier method, assuming you are at the take-out (you probably are not opening hatches while out on the water), is to just flip the boat upside-down as you go about your business of getting your car and putting stuff away. Very shortly, the hatches will be unfrozen.

Easy fix – why?
Guideboatguy, why does turning the boat upside down result in thawed hatches?


for the same reason that vulcanos exist
Under the earth’s crust is a layer of hot, gaseous magma. Molten rock. This escaping radiant heat is trapped like a pillow between the deck of your kayak and the earth’s surface, much the same as a pelican is able to ride on a pillow of air. Combined with the effects of gravity between the earth’s mass and the mass of your hatch covers, this gentle geodesic action should have your covers loosened up and off in no time. It’s basic physics, although it’s not common sense.

Vacuum packed
You might have vacuum packed the lids as the air inside contracted as things got cold.

Are your bulkheads vented?

Eric, we were out yesterday and

– Last Updated: Dec-06-10 11:36 AM EST –

encountered the same thing. My one friend had his car keys in the hatch. Water is the quickest way to get them off. It took me a few minutes to get my vest off as the entire vest had a good layer of ice on it. My watch, knife, and radio were not accessable as they were frozen in place. I have had up to 2 inches of ice on my skirt and have never found it to be an issue because of its flexability. One hard jerk and its flexes the ice apart. Valley hatches are pretty rigid and as such are more difficult to remove when iced up. Were you in your Fathom? I would imagine a good hit to the rubber center of the Eddyline hatch should pop alot of the ice off. I lost my paddle twice yesterday when needing use of my hands. The paddle slides off the ice covered skirt very quickly. With 25- 30 mph winds, I would have been screwed without my storm paddle. It was 25F with high winds yesterday, but if you keep your pace up it is really pretty comfortable (minus the paddle and bow spray in cross wind legs). We discovered a good two man ice breaking method. The second boat pulls up from behind while the first boat pushes off the bow of the second. Repeat this until you are through the barrier. Sorry to get off topic, but at least it is ice related. Bill

Herre’s Why
Well, I will never be able to match Bowrudder’s clever ways, so I’ll just give the simple explanation.

The key point that you might not have inferred, is that the boat must be upside-down in the water! When turning it upside-down on shore, you can accept Bowrudder’s explanation, or not. When the boat is upside-down in the water, the hatches are in contact with liquid water, which is probably a degree or two warmer than the freezing point, so before long, the ice that’s holding that hatches shut warms to the temperature of the water, so it melts.

Once winter progresses and you are actually paddling among mini-icebergs, this method could take quite a bit longer, since the temperature of the water would be almost the same as the freezing point. It still works though. When I’m out ice fishing in the middle of winter and want to remove ice from any piece of equipment, all I have to do is stick it into one of the fishing holes and slosh it around in the lake water, and in a few seconds it is ice-free.

Truth is, inverting the boat brings
rotting compartment compost in contact with the hatches. Method won’t work for those who keep their storage compartments clean.

as a salt water boater . . .
I have to admit that your description of ice build-up on your skirt, ice making you lose your paddle, and ice rendering your knife, watch, and vhf inaccessible sounds miserable. (and kinda risky!)

Hats off to you fresh water boaters who put up with this stuff! I’m afraid I’d call it quits if our water behaved so poorly in winter.

The good news is that if I were to need
any of those things, chances are I would already be in the water and this would likely unfreeze them for use. I understand what you are saying and try to stay one step ahead of potential problems (try). I must confess that I find my winter paddling to be the most beautiful and peaceful days on the water. Most of the time it is just you and the waterfowl. If it were not so enjoyable I doubt I would do it just for the work out. I am not a fan of ice and current and have a different set of rules for paddling in these conditions. Bill

It’s that time again
It’s that time of the year again. Here’s a pic of frozen hatches and a sprayskirt from the other day. There’s not much you can do except throw water on them. I’ve also just pushed on them until the ice cracks away and then opened the hatch.

Pee on them…
Okay…sounds gross, but when in the field and you’ve got to get into frozen hatches…let it flow.



now for the short answer
Because the water you’re turning the boat upside-down in is above freezing.

Come on you guys. We already know how smart you are!

you’re right –
I missed the key point: turn kayak upside down IN THE WATER. Got it now!

G in NC

Lube them
If a VCP is new, they are just stiff even in the summer. In the winter obviously they get stiffer and harder to take off. I used to spray my boat lip and inside the cover with silicone spray and that would help. But when that rubber gets really cold, it just gets stiff and it is hard to get them off but doable. I don’t know if you could open a day hatch by yourself in the winter. I often had to take my gloves off even to open a paddling companions VCP hatch to help them get something at sea.

Old timer trick
Bring along multiple thermoses of hot water. Great for making tea, soup and opening hatches, zippers, etc.

A long time ago I brought hot chili on a winter trip and an old timer just laughed at me. All he would say is “just wait until snacktime”. When we were on shore and I struggled with frozen gear he just grinned and asked if I would like to bring an extra thermos next time. Great advice.

That’s what the BCU-mandated…
…“flask of tea” is for. :wink:

A real man
does not bring thermoses full of hot water.

A real man starts a fire by rubbing two sticks together. Digs for ore and casts a bronze or iron pot and uses that to to heat up some water.

Possible preventive measure
IF the hatches are tight as is, you might spray a paper towel with 303 and lightly rub the contact areas with that. Leave just a barely-detectable sheen on them, not an obviously wet residue. On a glass boat with rubber hatch covers, the 303 will make the hatch covers go on/off more easily, so don’t do this if the hatches aren’t tight.

The 303 might prevent freeze-up. It won’t hurt anything, and it’s easy to wash off if you don’t like it. You’ll still have the outsides coated with ice but the hatch covers might be removable if the contact surfaces are kept from freezing together.