Lake Union Swift: Hatches, storage, flotation

I'm planning on starting a Lake Union Swift build later this year, once I finish some other projects.  For now, I'm contemplating some minor customizations, and the one I'm not sure about is how to make best use of the potential storage beneath the bench seats.

I'll mostly use the boat as a daysailer, but absolutely intend to do occasional one or two night camp cruises.  For the latter I'd like to stow cooking and sleeping gear.  At the same, I want to keep adequate reserve buoyancy to ease capsize recoveries.

I'm assuming it's best to keep any added gear weight amidships, close to the center of gravity, to minimize pitching inertia.  So I'm thinking of making hatches somewhere near the middle of the benches, maybe between frames 2 and 4.

I'd like recommendations on how to go about this.  My concerns are:

  • Maintaining a good seal on the hatches to keep water out, even in the event of a capsize.
  • Not compromizing the rigidity or strength of the structure.  E.g. there's a reinforcing stringer under the seats, and I'm guessing I probably want to keep those intact for their whole length.
  • Allowing easy, ample access: openings big enough to pass a tent, sleeping bags, etc.  I don't envision needing regular access while under sail or oar.
  • How best to seal the forward and aft ends of the storage area from the adjacent flotation areas.  There are holes in the frames--should I just cover them with thin plywood?
  • Minimal external hardware.  Any hinges, clasps, latches, etc. will, based on past sailing experiences, probably both bruise me and at some inopportune moment snag a sheet or other control line.
  • Not adding a lot of weight or complexity to the build.

Right now, the best solution I'm seeing is doing the "hidden hatch" method whereby a cutout in the seat would be fully removable, and held in place with bungies that go around internal hooks.   But maybe there are other options to consider?

Any thoughts on this will be welcome!


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