Sea kayak with no hatches

I’m using a Sealution II right now. I noticed in the WS brochure from early 1990’s they advertised a Sealution SS model also. It’s Kevlar and has no hatches. I was wondering if there are any more current sea kayaks like this. Or any other from that era.

I know that surf skis and some skin on frame kayaks fit this description (no frills). Any other sea kayaks like the Sealution SS out there?

The early Aquaterra Chinook from the 1990’s had no bow hatch or bulkhead. I had one for a while. Absolutely had to fill it with two of my biggest float bags, tied together.

Skin on frame kayaks are not without bulkheads because they are “no frills” but because it is extremely difficult to build a watertight barrier inside a flexible frame and flexible skin. There have been folks that have constructed them, usually by making a sectional kayak that then bolted together in some way. But inflatable flotation or combo flotation/cargo bags fill in those bow and stern voids just fine. I have been using them for 18 years in my SOF folders and fixed skin boats.

I built a Pygmy Coho about 1998. I did not add bulkheads and hatches but used a “sea sock” instead. It went inside the cockpit. The boat was light and fast and easy to load. But I grew weary of sea kayaks and went back to canoes. Then I can bring dogs, and coolers and a Coleman stove.

I’m really interested in the SOF boats, but have also thought about building a stitch and glue plywood kayak. For those who have built both, which one was easier? And cheaper.

It seems like with the plywood kayaks, getting all the materials to build one costs almost as much as the kit. And the pieces in the kit will be cut to much closer tolerances.

I wouldn’t mind using the inflatable bags in a kayak without bulkheads. I suppose I could do that with something like the Sealution SS also if I could find one. Basically the only Kevlar boats I can afford are about 20 years old :slight_smile:

The Solution SS is a rare bird. I have only seen one and that was a while back.
I’ve built three S&G kit kayaks and one sailboat from plans. It was more expensive building from plans if you want marine materials.
The kits can give you a boat that is equal to or lighter than Kevlar.
Unfortunately Pygmy is shut down now but there are a lot of their boats out there on the used market.

Why do you want a boat without hatches? It greatly reduces its utility (loading and unloading gear is a pain) and requires extra gear (float bags, sea sock, etc.) and preparation to make it safe. I’ve built 3 SOFs, so I’m pretty familiar with the related issues. While they’re fun to paddle, if I just want to jump in a boat and go, one of my 'glass boats will get the nod. Frankly, I can’t see any point in building a wood boat without bulkheads and hatches.


There’s a Sealution SS on FBM in Atlanta right now. But looking around it seems like that’s the only one for sale in the country. And they don’t come up that often.

Basically I’m not going to use the hatches in my kayak. I have a sailboat I would take if I wanted to go camping on a boat. I have no desire to carry anything with me In my kayak that won’t fit either behind the seat or strapped to the deck (extra paddle, paddle float, etc).

Also if I wanted to camp on the river, I would have to take at least 2 canoes. I have 4 kids:)

Is it possible to have bulkheads without hatches? What do surf skis use?

What started me thinking about the hatches is my Sealution aft hatch leaks when the boat is upside down. Looking at it closer I saw the the neoprene doesn’t cover the hatch the way it should because the elastic has lost its elasticity. So I’ve been in contact with topkayaker, and they have it narrowed down to 3 hatch neoprene covers that might fit it. So I have to buy one and hope it fits, or return it and buy the next one.

So I’m thinking, why do I even need hatches. Just something else to break and leak. I look at it like the sunroof on a car. Or t-tops. Back in 2002 when I was looking for a Z28 Camaro, I managed to find one without the t-tops. Lighter and no leaks :wink:

Surfskis dont need bulkheads because they are sit on tops. The entire boat is sealed, which ensures flotation. Even the paddler is outside the boat.

Bulkheads were added some time in the 80-90s to all bats because of the safety aspect of built in flotation. They are marketed as dry storage, but the reality is the main benefit they provide is that flotation. They also make it so that the now-standard rescues like a t-rescue can work (no bulkheads, even with float bags, requires going to a TX-rescue, which is more involved and should you be the swimmer, quite likely the others who try to help you may not know howto do it). Issue 10 here has an article that shows the TX.

At about the same time as bulkheads, deck lines were also added. Chances are a Sealution won’t have them. They are very important to have to hold on to the kayak from outside (for you if you wet exit, and for others for assisted rescues).

Many of our local club paddles require deck lines and adequate floatation created by bulkheads in order to take part in a group paddle.

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If you are interested in SOF’s you should spend some time browsing Brian Schulz’s “Cape Falcon Kayak” newsletter, blogs and videos.

That is his archived old site but he keeps it up and it has a link to his current one. I like the old site as well because he has some great historical archives there showing traditional native boats that some people copy today. My own SOF is a slightly modified version of the 1935 Sisimuit West Greenland that is on the list.

As others have mentioned, there are some drawbacks to the open hulls of SOF’s, but I’ve never been bothered by them. One of the huge benefits of them is lightness. My 18’ SOF weighs 31 pounds. In general, an SOF is cheaper and quicker to build than a stitch and glue or strip built wooden boat. It also allows the builder to tweak the design before skinning it. Once the frame is built, it can be wrapped in plastic film and test paddled to check fit and performance. Then any changes can be made to the skeleton before stitching on the skin. These can also be made later on when the skin is replaced. Mine is due for a re-skinning and there is at least one alteration I will make to the frame before putting
the new one on.

My Sealution II has forward deck lines only. Not full perimeter deck lines. Looks like the Sealution SS has no deck lines like you said.

I’ve been checking out the Capefalcon site, and was at either the west Greenland kayak or the F1.
I’m 6’ tall and 185 lbs. I would be using the boat in FL intracoastal waters, and probably upstate NY on Lake Ontario as well.

Do you mind me asking about how much you spent on materials to build your SOF?

I bought the boat already made by a builder in Oregon. Cost me $900 but I was the second owner.

There are companies who sell kits of the materials. Here is a kit with all the fabric and urethane coating for a kayak for $121. Add to that the cost of the wood, miscellaneous hardware and the synthetic lacing used to connect the frame components (also available on that site for $18) and you have your base cost. From what I understand, even including a few hand tools and gadget (like LOTS of clamps) you may need to buy, cost is generally between $400 and $500 but perhaps more informed posters will weigh in. The traditional kayaks forum,, has a LOT more information on this.

Most of the current boats built without hatches are for exercise or racing, not meant for overnighters and such. Building without hatches and bulkheads makes a boat much lighter.

The CLC Pax boats only have a hatch to access the skeg, Westside Boat Shops do not use either and produces 30 pound boats that are meant for racing.

Older rotomolded boats did not have the technology to use hatches and bulkheads, that happened in the eighties, when the demand for kayaks began to grow and tons of after-market stuff was available.

I have a QCC Q400S which has a rear but no forward hatch. I basically never use hatches, and like the look of a clean front deck. Since it was built to my spec, I opted to have the front bulkhead put in anyway - there is a pinhole vent in the bulkhead and one of the forward deck fittings screws off for drainage (never been necessary). Their more common boat had both hatches (Q400X), mine turned out a few pounds lighter which is nice. I have used the rear hatch on mine a few times, but I don’t miss the front hatch.

Thanks for the info and links. I’ll check out that forum also. Seems like a SOF kayak is well within my budget.
Also which float bags do you use in yours, and how often do you have to reinflate them?

I was thinking about something like a racing boat. I was wondering how one would handle in slightly rough water. I guess it would depend on what type of racing it was made for?

Also the CLC boats are sweet. I’d like to build one eventually

I recently saw a QCC boat on eBay and have been checking them out. They have some really nice looking kayaks. I’ve heard they are being made by someone else now? Probably out of my price range new, but used they seem to be affordable.

Most offshore racing turned into surfski and outrigger racing a few years ago. Now it is mostly SUP.

Sit in kayaks are mainly only used in flatwater. If it is a little rough you can use a skirt.

Most of my float bags (I think I have 3 or 4 sets since I have a bunch of folding kayaks as well as the wood framed skin boat) are Harmony. Several are no-name that either came with a used boat or two I bought or that I picked up at random in the clearance racks I always scout at outfitters. I have one original Feathercraft that came with my first folding kayak in 2002. I have never had to reinflate a bag during use. More often I will release a bit of air if the bag is one I inflated fully with higher pressure and it is a hot day (most of my folding kayaks have integral inflatable sponson tubes along the side for structural reasons and those have to be carefully controlled so they don’t rupture from heat expansion.) All the float bags have the long inflation tubes with a mouth valve so they can be easily modulated from the cockpit. Since my bags are large, I rarely have to inflate them to full capacity, especially ahead of my feet in the bow. So I pretty much insert, tie in and inflate them just before launching (I don’t haul the kayaks on the car roof with the bags inside) and then pull out and deflate at the take out. Other than that, I generally don’t have to mess with them. They don’t take more than a couple minutes each to blow up and I have good lungs (so far).

You can get materials and even links to instructions to make your own at Not hard and cheaper than buying.

I did not mention, but when I had that old Chinook, a kindly member of forums heard about it and my lack of a bulkhead and mailed me an actual aftermarket bulkhead insert for that model that he had in his garage. He had ordered it years before and never installed it before getting rid of the boat for which it was intended. It not only slipped in my Chinook perfectly but also popped out a substantial oil can dent under that point in the hull (the Chinook only cost me $75 and was in rough shape except for an incredibly well engineered home made stainless steel rudder and pedal system which was what I bought it for). We sealed the bulkhead with some sort of goop and my boyfriend at the time used the Chinook for a while as a friend loaner and I eventually left it with him when we parted ways. Probably still sitting in the loft of his pole barn beside the Susquehanna West Branch…

It looks like QCC is out of production. They are (were) nicely made boats. Mine is kevlar/carbon, very light and stiff, the FG are fine but heavier, of course. I would seriously consider buying a used QCC if it was in good shape and a model I liked.

Early QCC models were designed by John Winters, later models by others. The Q400 is a Winters design also sold as the Swift Caspian Sea, the Q500 = Swift North Sea, Q300 = Swift Tasman Sea (I think I have that right). You can read the designer statements about the boats here: and He’s very clear about the intention behind each design, I found his comments to be true, not marketing nonsense.

The later models Q600 and Q700 were designed by someone else, I think, and are more performance oriented. It sounds like you’re interested in that, they’re worth a look.

For the record, I have a Cape Falcon SOF made in a class, it is an excellent boat.

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The reason that boats with bulkheads have hatches, besides the fact that they make them useful for storage, is that most bulkheads will develop leaks over time. If you have no way to inspect, clean, and dry the storage areas you’'ll have no clue that the bulkhead is leaking until it becomes substantial. Also, if you get even a small amount on water in these areas, you will soon get mold and mildew creating a rather unpleasant mess and no easy way to deal with it.

QCC was taken over by Wenonah Canoe in 2011. They are still supporting their warranty. According to Annapolis Canoe and Kayak they can still order a boat from them although Wenonah is not actively marketing them.

CLC is alive and doing very well, although they had to cancel their demo days this year. A few of our members were signed up as safety boaters again this year. Located in Annapolis.

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