I regard sea kayaking a wet sport and getting wet is just part of the game.
Water inside the cockpit is often inevitable since I have not found yet a spray deck that really seals 100% (quality tuilik excepted).
While I have leaned to live with a bit of water in the cockpit after rolling or heavy seas , I can not understand why so many kayaks have leaking hatches.
A hatch that leaks badly and takes on a gallon of water on a rough paddle it downright dangerous and should be immediately attended to and repaired.
What bothers me also are the little leaks that occur in the hatches that apparently have a good hatch cover.
I might be anal or OCD but I think there is no need to have sloppy workmanship or design to deliver a kayak with hatch covers that don’t seal well.
Recently one of my not so old kayaks (admittedly I buy new kayaks quite often) the day hatch started to leak. I swapped the cover with another kayak (same size lid) and reduced the leak but never really eliminated it.
It annoys me to have wet gear in my hatches: why could not my spare clothing be dry when I need it? why do I have to keep everything in good dry bags to keep it safe? why do I have to wash with freshwater the hatches because they accumulate brine? There has to be a better way.
I managed to rectify the problem on my Zegul 520 with replacement rubber lids from Kajak-Sport (the dual density leaked badly in the heat) but it is also my Valley day hatch that leaks.
Some of my paddling friends have noticed their VCP day hatch covers have started to deteriorate and crack; prompted by their concern I checked mine and I noticed the same: cracking of the foam-rubber.
After hearing reports from so many kayakers that VCP covers had to be replaced too often and too soon I searched for alternatives.
SEA-LECT Designs seems to be the only viable alternative to the factory replacement Valley hatch covers.
Sea-Lect day hatch cover: no edges to promote unintentional opening
Paddle Sport is the Australian importer for SEA-LECT Designs and Bruce offered me to test some samples.
He sent me a day hatch and an oval hatch for my Valley kayak.
The SEA-LECT covers are very different than the VCP ones, in material and design.
Since I have previously had a bad experience with dual density hatch covers, where the inner hard plastic material would expand too much in the heat and become so loose to let water in, I was a bit concerned with the SEA-LECT one too.
SEA-LECT Designs covers are also dual density material (injection molded polycarbonate and TPU material.) but the centre part is much stiffer and the lid shape is domed.
3 solid anchor for a lanyard
The underside of the dome has 3 hard plastic tabs where a lanyard can be attached to. Theses tabs are solid and won't get ripped out anytime soon, unlike the VCP ones.
The hatch cover is installed by depressing the dome firmly to make it expand on pop onto the rim.
The action is extremely swift and positive.
Watch video below:
click to view video
The day hatch cover is too easy to install: center it and press down. Done!
It sits very tight on the rim and can not be dislodged unless pulled by the tab. No longer can the lid be popped open when doing a rescue since there are no edges to grab or catch. There is no longer the risk to flood the day hatch by inadvertently removing the hatch cover when you need it the least.
The oval hatch cover needs a bit more pressure to pop onto the rim so dumping surf will not implode it. The biggest advantage on the SEA-LECT oval hatch is the thinner perimeter lip.
notice the clearance between hatch cover lip and deck recess
VCP hatch covers need to have the flange of the oval hatch pushed carefully into place or a tight seal is compromised. On some Valley (and other) kayaks I have noticed the black rim not aligned well to the deck recess making this sealing process really difficult.
SEA-LECT oval hatch there is plenty of clearance and there is no need to follow the flange with your thumb and press into place.
This feature alone makes me want to replace all my hatch covers with SEA-LECT.
Beside the "slimming black", the covers also come in red, yellow or blue: perfect for the kayaker fashionista.
PS as promised to Steve G (see comments) here are a couple of images of detoriorated VCP day hatch covers
GDN reader Frank Baron from Florida, USA had a much more serious case of VCP hatch covers deterioration; his lids literally crumbled away...