VCP Hatch Covers:

Well, it’s replacement time again. So too, for my moment to P&M about the lousy quality of the material they are made of. Yes, they work fine. For all of their two - three year life span! I know there is better material available than what they continue to force us to buy,(and at a premium price!) I recently sold a Foster Legend, made before the current producer. The hatch rims and covers were then VCP, and the covers were plainly identified, “Walden Kayaks.” They interchanged with my other VCP hatch equipped kayaks. I should have kept them! After nine years of service, they were in like new condition. What gives here? I keep hearing that they are now using a new and longer lasting compound. Nonsense! If I can get three years out of them, I’m fortunate. Two is more like it. Granted, I use my boats a lot, and the hot Florida sun is hard on everything. But my kayaks are stored inside, transported deck side down with hatch covers removed, and the covers are always washed after every outing. They are also treated with 303 on a regular basis. Yes, Valley makes fine, well constructed kayaks. Isn’t it about time they provide hatch covers of equal quality?

I too have VCP (new) and am curious what may await me.

Here’s what you don’t know
Some years back environmental laws / controls reguired the change in material, and as such they are less durable.(but greener!) However, they work great and with care can last three to five years (my experience). I view it as a maintenance item just as I do replacing tires on my truck. For me, still the best option out there, but I’m open to new developments. Unfortunately a lot have tried, but failed to best the Valley hatch.

Maybe in cooler climates…

– Last Updated: Jun-25-09 11:12 PM EST –

... but 2-3 years seems to be about max down here - on a kayak used only a few times a year and kept out of the sun.

The damn things basically just disintegrate. Start to crack, shrink and loose resiliency - and then just crumble when handled.

I have to assume warmth accelerates this, but that should not be an out for Valley, a this is Florida, not Mercury. After the latest set of failures I'm hesitant to trust them in use much over a year or so down here.

Anyone really going to argue that's acceptable performance? I might almost buy that replacement cycle/"tires" argument if I were getting 5 years Salty... Almost.

Clearly this material isn't up to the task at hand. If intentionally short lived it's quite a racket. If not, time to reformulate yet again. Hey Valley, how about a material that can survive OUTSIDE of UKs grey, cool environs? Environmental issues? Maybe they used some really nasty crap before - but there have to be more inert/less outgassing/more durable options than this stuff. Anyone with KajakSport or Wildy hatches have them disintegrate in a couple years? Sounds like time for a wider outsourcing net that includes some serious polymer guys...

As it stands I seriously think I'd be better off with a set of Reed's emergency covers, or jerry rigging my own covers, or experimenting with making molds/casting clones off the new set I have (while they last), rather than continuing to buy these at the rate they fail.

My NDK Explorer (Kajaksport hatches)
is 5 years old and the hatch covers look more or less new. Until this year I paddled my Explorer about 200 days a year, rarely rinsed them well, and NEVER applied 303 or any other protectant.

2004 Valley Aquanaut
and the hatch covers are still fine as is the Valley day hatch cover on my 2001 Elaho, 2004 Romany, and my wife’s 2004 Explorer.

The furthest South any of these boats have been paddled is Maryland. Maybe Valley hatch covers cannot survive Southern climes???

I’ve had better luck in Canada
Both my boats are stored in a dark garage and the covers are 303’d two or three times a season.

I replaced the Valley covers on the Pintail about 7 years ago and they are still functional and leakproof

but are starting to look pretty faded and brittle so I expect to replace them someday soon.

My other boat is equiped with Kayaksport covers and after ten years they are still pliable and like new.

Both boats are reliably dry and leakproof but I prefer the Kayaksport covers because of the slightly larger opening.

Sounds like that extreme Florida heat is a factor

or some other environmental issue.


hard covers or soft rubber covers?
Are you talking about the harder covers that float? I’d agree. But you can also get the softer rubber covers (my explorer came with these), from NDK or Kajaksport.

Hatch Covers
I also live in Florida, and I’m on my second year with my Aquanaut LV RM. To date, the hatch covers are just as good as they were when I purchased the boat new. They are by far the best hatch covers I’ve ever had on kayak, and if they need replacing in several years, it seems a small price to pay for having hatch covers that actually keep water out.

I’m in NC
and they are always stored out of the sun. They definitely leave a lot to be desired in terms of durability. Another replacement cover is looking ready to fall apart, and probably will next time a wave hits it. The Valley day hatch cover on my Legend fell apart last fall. I have a mix, and the Kajaksport and Valley hatch covers I’ve found watertight, but I’ve found no comparison in terms of durability. I really hope they improve upon it, as I too was just commenting the other day to someone how I couldn’t believe how much they charged for something seeming so simple that falls apart every few years.

What I don’t know
could fill volumes! I do know that I am almost anal in caring for my equipment, and look to this forum for good advice. Whenever a subject of interest appears here, I always look to see if “Salty” responded. His, and a few other notables seem most likely to provide the insight that I seek. Having said that, I just can’t accept this particular response. The tires he refers to are a good comparison. In my life time, tires have advanced from a mere 10,000 mile life, to an 80,000 mile warranty! And they are subjected to a much harsher environment than my Florida based VCP hatch covers. Also, I might add, a premium replacement tire for my car costs less than an oval VCP hatch cover! I have no personal experience with Kajak Sport covers, but I hear very few complaints. I have seen VCP covers on brand new, un-paddled kayaks, show signs of failure. This suggests that they may even have a shelf life, which may be the reason some folks get more life out of them than others. But how can we know if we are receiving fresh stock when we purchase them? Although I too am content with calling it maintenance, and far less than any other marine hobby, I also feel justified in complaining. Perhaps if enough of us do, we can encourage some improvement in an otherwise excellant product. Ken…

One other thought!
We once lost a camera, stowed in the day hatch, when the VCP cover failure went unnoticed. In as much as the outer ring seldom fails, carrying a zip lock bag, or other sheet of plastic, can seal the hatch quite well for the remainder of the day. Just place it over the opening before replacing the failed cover. Don’t leave home without it.

It’s UV that kills them
The only boats I’ve seen that suffered rapid hatch cover failure were stored in the sun (they also suffered serious gelcoat damage). Although I’ve bought some boats with hatch covers that were cracking and had to be replaced, I’ve never had a replacement hatch cover fail. While I occasionally throw a coat of 303 on them, I don’t put much effort into protecting them other than storing the boats out of the sun. Unless your boats are stored somewhere that gets really hot (I mean temps like the inside of a car on a hot, sunny day), air temps shouldn’t make much, if any difference. The only effect I’ve noticed from air temps is that they get very stiff in cold weather.

You may want to contact Valley. I spoke with Peter Orton a couple of years back and they were investigating new hatch cover materials. They realize that they’ve had durability issues compared to the rubber covers on the market (Kajaksport) and were working on a solution. Although I’m not found of the foam material that Valley uses due to it’s sensitivity to UV and stiffness in cold temps, it has one big advantage vs. rubber, it floats. I’ve seen Kajaksport covers sink into the deep, never to be seen again…

Valley boats stored in my dark garage
in southern Illinois might get 3-4 years on a set of VCP hatches. New, unused boats stored in same garage have dry rotted hatches in 3-4 years also. I have a Kajak Sport boat that has been stored outside for twice that period and it has totally supple hatches which seal as well, if not better than the VCP’s. They are like new. VCP hatches are a rip off in my eye. The fact that they seal well does NOT make up for their very short lived lives. Why should they fix the issue? They will make more off selling replacement hatches than they ever would selling the original hulls. I’m beginning to think producing short lived hatches was the plan from the get go. Now IF Kajak Sport had a brain, they’d start making replacement hatches that mated with VCP rims! Talk about a major money maker!!

Valley hatches I think.

Purchased in 2000 stored outdoors, lives on the car, does not know what fresh water is with regard to rinsing. It was kept in my office for a week while I repaired my boat.

Hatches are perfect.

They don’t know what 303 is.

Tey remain fine.

I am in Newfooundland so sunshine is not a big issue.

new kjacksport covers are good
UV AND leaving the covers on the boat all the time both kills them. 303 helps allot if put on every month. I wonder if being black is not a help, as chemical reactions double for each 5 degrees of temperature.

I have the new Kjacksport Lite lids on my Tiderace. They are indeed lighter, but I find them to be quite tough and stay on like Tupperware!

I mean they really seal!!! They are a bit firmer, more solid than the Valley covers.

They are in short supply though at this time.

NDK hatch covers
NDK has used Kajak-Sport covers for sometime, except the day hatches used to be Valley, but are now Kajak-Sport as well.

Maybe very very early Romanys and Explorers had Valley hatches?

I wonder about shelf life too.
The way it fails so consistently throughout the entire part (eventually crumbling) vs specific areas would seem to support that.

With Salty’s industry connections, he probably gets fresh stock! :wink:

Stored in shade, off rims - doesn’t help
Seems a lot of other people are getting same thing. For those that don’t, consider yourselves lucky (and keep a close eye on them, carry plastic bags/emergency covers).

I really should have taken pictures of the last one, as within a week or two of initial failure it was a pile of rubble. The chunks of the material easily crumbled further when handled.

For all you Valley loyalists, no one is blanket slamming them so don’t get all defensive - I’m just giving sharing user experience feedback on this particular material here, and it seems a common experience at that.

disappointing to learn of the failing material in hot climes…

On Vally kayaks they have a recessed fitting for a double seal that makes them the most secure in waves in surf… I also had the KS that were also good but not as secure…

the used Vally I bought was about 5 years old from NC and the hatch covers were fine…

Also the utility room I keep my kayak is climate controlled with the HVAC… I wonder if this is going to help? Not that you should need to but perhaps storing just the hatches in the AC might help?