To Hatch or Not to Hatch

I am thinking about my need for hatches. I only take day trips on lakes.  I may take it onto an estuary or two near the Pacific waters, but certainly not any overnight trips. It seems I can place a sandwich and water (or adult carbonated beverage) on the floor of the kayak between my legs. If I don't install hatches the deck will be much smoother, and certainly water tight. If I do put in hatches I will go for the hidden latches and hope that it is water tight.

I saw in a video that I can put a cardboard dam near each stem before the deck is on and fill the stem with unthickened epoxy to hold the grab handles.

So, is a hatch a requirement for the build process?


13 replies:

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RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

Most of my outings are day trips as well. All 4 of my kayaks have hatches and I wouldn't go without. They hold lunch, a towel, extra layers, the cart if the water is a long distance.... I did my end pours before bulkhead installation with the kayak on end in a bucket of water pouring from the cockpit. BTW for saftey I want bulkheads otherwise you could forget to inflate the air bags which is a hassle anyway; if you have bulkheads, you will want hatches for access to those areas. You can get drybags that attach on deck for stowing items but why not put them where the weight is lower. A friend's SOF doesn't have stowage so I suppose one advantage for him is that I often end up carrying things making his boat lighter to paddle.

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

   You could install a deck plate on the rear bulkhead to have some storage. 

You wont be taking the kitchen sink in it, but you can certainly keep your lunch, snacks, towels, beer in there.

I have deck plates on both bulkheads just to vent the boat, but if I wanted to, I wouldn´t feel like they limit me compared to a proper hatch. 

For a more direct answer to your question, if we are strictly talking sandwich+beer/water, skip any storage and just put it inside a drybag and throw it wherever it fits in the cockpit.

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

Perhaps the question is more of a flotation or no flotation.

Without the hatches you'll likely not have bulkheads. Without bulkheads you become a "recreational kayak" no matter the hull design.    If you capsize your lunch will be lost. Your boat will fill up with water and you will need assistance.  Yes the original greenland boats didn't have hatches or bulkheads........and many of them didn't come back.  Yes, you could use a kayak sock but you likely aren't thinking of wearing a skirt either. Yes if you wear a skirt and have a bomb proof roll you won't need floatation. If you are willing to go out in the Pacific without the basic boat safety floatation OK, its your choiice.


If you put bulkheads in without hatches you have the problem of trapped moisture. If you put a bulkhead in with a drain hole, lightning hole, etc you could still fill up with capsize water it would just take longer. Some have put the bulkheads in with a drain plug so they can drain and give it some ventilation. You could also put a hatch in the bulkhead in the cockpit area (think prefab port) if you can reach it. that would give you ventilation and access. But added weight and access restrictions.


Just setting lunch between the legs can also get it shoved forward, smooshed under a shoe and/or wet.


I go on day trips but still carry in the hatches the following, first aid kit, cockpit cover, cooler with lunch and extra water, paddle jacket, tow line, CAG, pump (forgot to put on deck)  and a small foot ball I can't seem to remember to remove.

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

For the life of me I can't imagine end pours after the deck is on. But some do epoxy on a stick to fasten a stripper deck to the hull so I guess it could be done.    

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

The CH16LT I built for my wife 13 years ago is still going strong. It has a forward bulkhead, no forward hatch and no vents or access plates in the front. It has not rotted or even shown black ick from trapped moisture, has not exploded or even cracked from thermal cycling of trapped air.

None of my kayaks have endpours. They have wooden stems bedded in epoxy/woodflour putty, instead. Lighter, cheaper, easier to make and install and less brittle than unthickened epoxy pours.

My WD12 has no no forward bulkhead, per the design. I put a large dry bag in the front, beyond my feet, in case of swamping. On rough days I use a spray skirt, normally just a spray deck. Even in a small craft advisory with 3 ft waves, whitecaps and wakes the boat was fine.

I tuck my lunch in an otter box behind my seat and a water bottle to the side. Works great.

So Rob's ideas sound fine to me.


RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

   Looks like there will be plenty of opinions on this; I've heard tell that opinions are like A-holes :)  Everybody's got one.  I don't think there are any right or wrong answers, so I'll just make a few obsevations.

No matter how well sealed you think something might be, I wouldn't trust a permanently closed, unventillated compartment in a wooden boat. More power to Laszlo for the success (luck?) with his wife's kayak.  I've seen (and sometimes tried to fix) dozens of cases of rot in all kinds of boats - everything from balsa-cored hulls and decks, plywood cored transoms, varnished wood boats, etc..  Rephrasing a line from Jurasic Park - "Rot will find a way."

I've done end pours both ways - and of course contruction methods and bulkheads/hatches dictate the possibilities - standing the kayak on end after deck was on, and also horizontal prior to deck installation.  In all cases I think the epoxy should be well-thickened to make it cheaper, lighter and less brittle.  I used microballooons - but wood flour would seem fine, too.  I'm sure a wood block would work and be cheaper - but seems more work to fit and install than just pouring in a cup of epoxy, and with epoxy you don't have to worry about ensuring a waterproof coating of the inside of the handle-line hole.  I learned two lessons: One vertical end-pour (on a 100 degree day) cooked so hot it speckled the deck/hull glass.  Prior to the second pour I stood the nose of the kayak in a bucket of water (and even swished the water around) to keep things cool.  When doing a horizontal pour with a dam I inadvertently left a place where my duct tape had a wrinkle - the resultant leak was a mess - I kept adding tape trying to seal things up - but it didn't stick well with all the goo already flowing.  I put my finger in the dike for about a half hour and begged the epoxy to start setting up! Luckily I had NPR on the radio.  (And I'm glad I'll be the only one to ever see the mess made in that part of the kayak again.)

Based on my usage, I personally would never go without hatches, but that's because I store things in there.  However, like you I think the multi-strap hatch closures on some CLC styles leave something to be desired aesthetically.  It took more work, but I've made my hatches flush and used invisible hold-downs (bungee) from underneath - both on flat Shearwater hatches (easy) and curved Chessapeake hatches (more difficult).  I expect a bit (teaspoons after several hours) of moisture to get through the seals in a capsize or constant waves breaking over the kayak, but that's all.  If my use was in whitewater or really out at sea I might want something more secure.

My plastic (abuse-proof) kayak has only styrofoam chunks in the ends.  When I use that I throw things in a dry bag with a light line attached.  I kick the bag all the way up in the bow, but can pull it back to my lap when I need lunch or sunscreen.  The kayak does have a larger sized cockpit opening.

Bulkheads make sense to me for both floatation and structural reasons. 

So now that I've made all the observations I can't resist offering opinions.  I would put in the bulkheads.  Then decide if you want to put hand-ports in the bulkheads (ventillation and mini-storage) or "invisible" flush hatches.  I think the hatches would be only slightly more work, but would add flexibility.

Whatever you choose will be the right answer for you. And if you change your mind, build another boat!

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

DANG! That is a lot of help, and a lot of differing opinions. I guess I am going to have to flip a coin and decide what is best for me. I had not even considered the moisture issue. That I do NOT want to deal with.


RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

This thread contains an excellent discussion regarding the merits of hatches/bulkheads/floatation but does not really answer RobS’s question:

“So, is a hatch a requirement for the build process?”

The answer is that it depends on the design that you are building. There are boats like the Chesapeake that use a sheer clamp to attach the deck to the hull. Since this method does not require access to the underside of the joint, you can easily build without hatches. There are boats that you absolutely must cut hatches to install the decks. Examples are the Shearwaters and S&G Petrel Play. On these boats, the bulkheads act like internal forms to hold the hull shape. This necessitates BH installation prior to deck installation. After you install the deck, you have to use the hatch openings to gain access to tape the inside of the hull/deck joint. Lastly, there are boats where hatch openings are not absolutely required but make construction easier. This includes most strip boats that can be built without bulkheads. On those boats you can tape the inside hull/deck seam via the cockpit. Once that is done you can also install BHs through the cockpit should you choose. On short fat boats like the Auk 14, this approach would be pretty easy, but much harder on long skinny boats, this is pretty difficult. I am currently building a Mystery, which has about 11’ of bow forward of the cockpit. I will be adding hatches even though I likely will never use them to carry gear.

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

MarkN, et. Al--

I have not read the construciton manual, so please understand I may be WAY off base.

I saw a video of someone building a Shearwater Hybrid. Once he built the stripped deck he put down a layer of thickened epoxy on top of the hull and set the deck on top of that. He then wrapped the deck to the hull, flipped it upside down adding a thin bead of thickened epoxy and allowed for the epoxy to cure.

It seems to this novice that the thickened epoxy will secure the deck to the hull. The unthickened epoxy that is then applied in many coats on the boat will seal any gaps that might still exist.

Am I considering something that should not be considered?

Signed, Dazed and Confused

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

Rob,  It sounds like the builder in the video used sheer clamps, which are just an extra piece of wood glued in at the hull/deck joint.  I suggest that you read the manual so that you know the process.  If this is your first build, I would also suggest that you stick pretty closely to the plans.

Whatever type boat you are building, it is easy to use the CLC flush hatch kit.  I like the Delrin Hatch Toggles but they also have an invisible hatch hold down kit which many use.  


RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

Mark, I think you have said it best: If this is the first build, stick to the instructions. As much as I like to divert from instructions I think I will stick to them, at least for the first build. I guess I just may have to think about the second build AFTER I have completed the first one.   

RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

really good discussion.

my perspective on some of these question....

do you NEED to have hatches.....i think mark N gives a great discussion of this and to his point, in some designs/construction techniques, absent the hatch, you lose access to properly join the deck to the hull.

do you want to have hatches.....most of my builds are long narrow sea kayaks (Chesapeakes, Sheerwaters, Petrels, etc)...and i use bulkheads to isolate the cockpit from the fore and aft sections.   to the extent that you are going to have bulkheads, i am not comfortable having sealed spaces like that without easily accessable access to ensure the boat is dry when put away for the reasosn stated above.  i also like the hatch access for storage when i need it....which is not a lot of time....but nice to have it when you need it.   

i would also say that there are other ways storage space is created on kayaks.....webbing on the deck is a common approach (water bottle/map), i also do webbing under the front of the cockpit where i can tuck something.  and in some of my boats, my rear bulkhead is set back a bit farther so i have room immediately behind my back that is accesable without needing to open a hatch.  my general rule is nothing loose in the cockpit, and use storage on deck/in the cockpit only for those things that can stand (or you don't care about) getting submerged 

end pours.  i happen to be a fan to building my end pours before the deck and hull are assembled (as you mentioned - with a dam).  the main reason is i can see exactly where they are going and not use any more epoxy (or whatever material you want to use) than i need working in this manner, i know they are done as expected and my boats to be heavier than they need to be.... becuase when you work tend to use way more epoxy for these than when you can see what you are doing.

do i need to seam the hull?  one of your questions appeared to be do i need to use fibreglass on a hull/deck joint...or can i just use epox?.   while epoxy is very strong, the real strength is when it has embedded for me, i always seam a joint with glass.   


RE: To Hatch or Not to Hatch

Final decision: Take a deep breath and be careful when cutting the hatches - there will be fore and aft hatches. There, I said it, there will be hatches for the many reasons stated above. I will likely use the bungies underneath so I don't have the toggles on top, but there will be hatches.

Thanks to all for the sage advise.

As I stated in another thread, I am a newbie that won't be purchasing a kit until I have one more opportunity to take a few test paddles when CLC passes this way next September - retirement is in June. I am really looking forward to this project and going through it in my mind step-by-step. I have read one book by Chris K who help start CLC and have just received the Assembly Manual for Shearwaters. There's still lots of time to make my list of supplies and tools from CLC and others.

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