05 June 2012

GEAR: SEA-LECT Designs hatch covers

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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.

Sealect day hatch cover
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.
Sealect day hatch inside
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.

Sealect oval hatch cover
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. With a  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 VCP hatch fail

UPDATE 10DEC12
GDN reader Frank Baron from Florida, USA had a much more serious case of VCP hatch covers deterioration; his lids literally crumbled away...
Frank Baron's covers

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42 comments:

  1. I gotta say, having a Valley boat and paddling with a number of people who have had a number of Valley boats, we haven't had a leak or a lanyard tab tear out or anything.
    Some of those boats have definitely seen better days and have been in plenty of surf.
    In fact, the VCP hatch system is the only purely dry system i've ever had.
    I reckon you've just been in the 0.001% that's had a problem with a mass produced item. It can happen to anyone, but it isn't happening to everyone.

    These hatches seem like a solution to a problem no one has... well, 0.001% have.
    ... unless you really *need* a blue hatch for whatever reason.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is exactly what I thought: what's all the bitching about Valley hatches disintegrating? I see absolutely no problem with mine... must be that the user is applying too much 303 protectant or something.

      Funny enough not ALL Valley hatches are the same. Only recently I had a day hatch on my latest purchase go bad on me. At close inspection the rubber has a different feel to the other ones and a lot of cracks appear on the surface. That hatch is no good while the other ones are.
      Beside the point of durability of Valley hatches I LOVE the fast pop-on action of SEA-LECT Designs hatch covers, something that certainly I can not do with Valley.

      Delete
    2. That's my point; where is all the bitching about Valley hatches? I've never heard one complaint about them (especially the lanyard tab tearing) except on this blog. Surely the speed of putting a hatch on has no impact on going for a paddle.

      If you had a problem with one hatch i'm sure they would replace it; on the rare occasion faults happen then the manufacturers will usually acknowledge that as an anomaly in their factory process and replace, even if it is an entire boat.

      I've read your review policy and i've read this blog for a while, but this entry really reads like "I've been given some more free stuff and i really like it, plus the competitor sucks"; in fact it almost reads like an advertisement for the product and its supplier. It certainly reads nothing like a comparison between two similar products, at least not one that isn't biased.

      Delete
  2. Steve, I understand that you might read the Australian Sea Kayak Forum but if you broaden your horizon and follow some of the other kayak forums around the globe (UK and USA for example) there are several threads on problems with Valley hatches. I was convinced that the American cousins were just anal and were polishing those Valleys a bit too much until it happened to me.
    You have prompted me to now take some images of the two faulty hatch covers I have in my shed alone… if that would help you with my reporting integrity credibility.
    Furthermore, it was ME that approached SEA-LECT Designs sourcing those hatch covers, not them approaching me with shwag.
    I was ready to buy from Paddle Sports Australia but Bruce OFFERED me a free sample. Of course I have evidence to back this up but it would be inappropriate to disclose my communication with the vendor.
    If however you are still the doubting Tom and you really have to put the finger on it, I will send you the correspondence. Please provide your email.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have now posted images of the deteriorated VCP hatch covers. They show cracks and ripped out lanyard tabs on two separate day hatches.

      Delete
    2. How did the lanyard tabs rip? Looks like a bit of force involved there. First time i've seen that for sure.
      The other photos show a perishing hatch; was it old? Not washed down with a boat a lot? 3rd photo of the first hatch looks similar to one of my oval ones in an area; some re-plasticiser seemed to give it a new lease of life.

      Dunno what to say really? I'm guessing any hatch perishes over time unless cared for, like anything.
      Anyway, we discussed our points via email GD. It wasn't the actual claims per se, more the tone of the blog entry. I think we tidied it up nicely there.

      After Andre's comments, i think i'll keep my Valley boat now and it's oval and round hatches which don't leak. It's obviously one of a kind with non-leaking oval hatches.
      For what it's worth, my hatches get a spray down with the boat and that's about it... i think i put a armorall-esque product on them once when one of my oval hatches looked more tatty than i'd like. My hatches are so dry i could cure meat in them.

      I must admit that this product really fills a niche if you need a coloured hatch cover!

      All jokes aside, if Nadgee use them as standard they must have something good going for them... but my points to GD via email still stand, which aren't related to the product exactly.

      Delete
    3. sounds like Steve works for Valley if you ask me. Here in America we all have had issues with their covers. lol

      Delete
  3. My hatches also leak, not so badly after I made small holes on the hatch walls but still it is wet inside after a paddle (all my outings include rolling and also some surf). After the paddle the hatches finish with enough water that if I don't keep spare cloth in a dry bag they will be too wet to be called "spare"...
    My kayak is a plastic Valley and I was told that the plastic boats almost always leak. That is because the mould for the plastic boats is not as precise as for the composite ones. You can see the hatch covers don’t fit symmetrically.
    Gnarly: Did you have opportunity to test this covers on a plastic boat?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately I don't own any plastic kayaks or paddle with anybody that has one.
      It would be worth asking SEA-LECT Design on how well they perform since I see on their website images of covers on PE kayaks.

      Delete
  4. No problems with Valley hatches for me. Day hatch is not 100% watertight, however I put more water into my dayhatch by accessing gear with wet gloves than what can leak in. I get water in the other hatches if I get grit and sand in between the rubber and the rim or don't set them in properly. KayakSport hatches have popped off when rolling due to the pressure of gear on the underside of the day hatch cover, which is the topside at the time of start the roll up. Competition will benefit the consumer so the sea-leat as an alternate to VCP hatches sounds great. Time and honest reporting will tell of quality consistency and if they stay on when you want them to.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sea-Lect Design gear is also avalabel through Flat earth kayak sails
    regards Mick M
    flat earth kayak sails

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nadgee Kayaks Australia now use these as standard and have so for some months now. I even mentioned to Gnarly some time ago about these as replacement hatch lids.
    They seal very well and there is no need to build in a pressure relief into bulkheads as they can easily hold the pressure..Love the sound of the hiss escaping when you lift the lid off and they dont stretch.I have one set now 2 years old and still look like new so they do stand up to our sun well
    Sea-Lect is also available as replacement for Kajak hatches as well in both oval and round.

    All in stock here at Nadgee Kayaks

    I also love their adjustable sliding footpegs well thought out simple to use gear

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yak hatch covers come in all sorts of sizes and shapes.
    The best one are designed to seal against a propriety rim.
    If a rim is twisted, scratched or not properly glued, then water will leak sooner or later.
    Round hatches will always be more sea worthy than any other shape, mainly because a round shape does not need any alignment for the cover to clip on.
    These are facts.

    Nothing is perfect, but what helps is competition in the market.
    The Valley and KajakSport hatches have been tested for years while the new brands have yet to prove themselves across all types of conditions.

    We are all kayakers here, and we all love to have the best available products.
    In my books, there is nothing wrong with reading and writing about it,
    but stating that gnarlydog is the only one in a thousand (quote 0.001%) who experiences a leaking hatch, is overly optimistic.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love this topic. Thanks for discussing it. Leaky hatches are not acceptable and are a real pain. Hatch covers that are difficult to put on while on land and while on the water are even worse. I wish that boat designers and kayak manufactures would make this a bigger priority. I'm sick of hearing, "All kayak hatches leak." It's not true. Both my sea kayaks when purchased new, had leaky hatches: the Boreal Baffin and Maelstrom Vital 166. Both quality kayaks. Both were sent back for repair. Sometimes it's not the hatch cover, but the workmanship. Now, none of the hatches on my kayaks leak. It's so nice. We can send people into space. It is entirely possible to have hatches that don't leak! But the workmanship and the hatches have to work together. They keep cutting quality as kayaks are made in mostly one country far, far away. I don't like it.

    Cheers from Canada.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If people were less in love with their kayak (car, iPhone etc) and would look at things more objectively then manufacturers would pay more attention. Then there is also the stigma of admitting that the purchase was not as good as he/she hoped for and the potential display of lapse of judgement that drives users on not being vocal?
      You sent back your kayaks and they fixed them.
      I complained about Kajak-Sport dual density hatches leaking and they took care of me.
      Does Valley assumes that it's just part of the game that SOME hatches (not all, just some, and I don't understand why) deteriorate prematurely?

      Delete
    2. The Valley covers seem less "mass produced" than others I have seen. The marks from the mold are clearly visible and some bubbles, not the product of a high pressure injection process.
      I guess some two pack mixture (perhaps other additives also mixed in) is manually poured into a mold.
      Such a process is always going to be vulnerable to someone mixing a batch wrong, wont have the consistency of a machine pumping out a couple of thousand in a day in one big batch.
      Strange that they have cracked underneath, that shouldnt be due to UV, unless you leave them upside down exposed to the sun?

      Delete
    3. That last is a puzzle. Resin VOCs is a possibility, I suppose, though it may be an artifact of manufacture. It is common, though, for the daylight side to scuff and fade while the underside stays pristine, shiny, jet black, and gradually craze with all-but-invisible cracks that eventually rise through the material. Of my covers, all the same age and cared for identically, 1 is still perfect, 2 are porous. I now put on the leaking 2 over sheet PE, but soon the round won't even have enough integrity for that. And no, it doesn't require force to tear off an old retention eyelet tab. When yours breaks off, fish it out and crumble it between your fingers, then come back here and remind us all how unique or vanishingly rare is our experience.
      A friend in retail told me replacement VCP hatch covers are by far the most frequently ordered parts. Routine. Their lifespans vary tremendously, depending on no one knows what, likely a combination of factors, but the MTBF seems to be 5-6 years. (Mine are 9yo.) VCP covers work well, but considering what they cost… Sea-lects are on their way.

      Delete
  9. 2 in a thousand perhaps, I could supply duplicate pictures of day hatch lid tether point perishing. There is a little crazing but the hatch is still water tight, no problems there. Will need replacing soon, but it's had a few years so I reckon I've had my money's worth from it. I have arthritis in my thumbs so an easier fitting option might be helpful for me too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow! Fifteen comments (so far) about leaking hatches, and not even a single email about the UNLIMITED project...OK, this is my last post, hope you guys can sleep well and dry.
    1. What is commonally called a "rubber" hatch cover is more of a PU/PE/Polymer high tech compound formula. Is is not unusual to find that a particular manufacturer will modify its product(formula) not in order to save money, but to improve its product, or replace a compound which is no longer available/ permissible to use.
    2. Companies like KajakSport have currently 3 diferent ranges of "rubber" hatches, all with diferent characteristics.
    3. When writing about a particular hatch cover, do everyone a favour and include not only the brand name but also its shape, size and age (manufacturing date)including details about its rim. Quoting manufacturers Part and batch Number would be best, of course.
    The kayak industry is not perfect, but with blog sites like this one, there is a chance that it can respond faster to an old problem or new ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. when replacing the dual density hatch covers, KS asked for the details stamped on the side of the hatch rim and precise measurements of the diameter for a potential out of roundness factory rim install.
      As you mentioned, I am sure that data will help them improve their product.
      Nothing is perfect but improving is savvy; would that be the lay-up of a hull, the design of a cockpit or the negligible little hatch cover.

      Delete
  11. Well I thought I was the only one with a complaint about Valley hatch covers. I have in front of me (on the side of my computer) a hatch that I brought back with me yesterday ( from where I keep my kayaks in the Summer) after kayaking on the weekend, I noticed cracks on one of the covers. I had changed my Valley hatch covers about 3 or 4 years ago because of severe cracks. When I brought in the covers to a kayak shop the dealer said he had never seen covers so deteriorated, as if they had rot. I store my yaks in a shed I had built to accomodate princibly the yaks by suspenders specifically designed for yaks. The suspenders were never in contact with the covers.

    So I will look into Sea-Lect for replacement.

    Patrick
    Montreal, Canada

    ReplyDelete
  12. I come at this from a slightly different angle, and it conly concerns the day hatch: When in my kayak (Nordlow) out at sea I sometimes struggle a bit to get the hatch cover on my day hatch back on. Yes I have tried with some silicone spray but still it takes quite a bit of preassure to fit it. I saw the video on the Sea-Lect and wonder if the preassure needed to fit this cover is less than that of the original Valley cover?

    Michael
    Stavanger, Norway

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael,
      I have the same trouble as you: I can open a Valley day hatch but so far I have been unable to re-close it while on the water by myself. I always ask for help. Recently I had to open the Sea-Lect one and despite my limited flexibility and poor rotation I managed to get it closed just fine.

      Delete
  13. Christian M.8/9/12, 2:44 PM

    In regard to poorly-fitting hatch covers on rotomolded plastic boats: one of the best solutions that I've seen is to cut off the hatch lip and replace it with an aftermarket lip from SeaLect, VCP, KajakSport or your manufacturer of choice. That also necessitates buying new hatch covers, of course, but you end up with much tighter fit tolerances than anything that the major manufacturers could hope to achieve by rotomolding the hatch rim as part of the rest of the boat. Just remember to affix the new rims with good quality marine sealant (e.g. 3m 5200) and also to use rivets or bolts to attach the new rims mechanically (never rely on anything adhering to polyethylene).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just remembered i had another question about these...

    Are these lighter than the VCP hatch covers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve, I haven't got a scale that would measure precisely the weight of the hatch covers. The new (about to be released) "Performance" SEA-LECT covers float and have less bulk than VCP; I could assume they are lighter.
      Then again I don't think the weight of the hatch covers would be a deal breaker, for me...

      Delete
    2. Not usually I suppose...
      As you know (previous discussions etc etc) my hatches are fine, but those rubber hatches all are quite weighty. In the scheme of a whole kayak, admittedly, not all that much... but i *could* imagine swaping over to something like this if they were *significantly* lighter whilst retaining performance.
      Anything that lets me hoist a boat on and off a vehicle easier is a sensible investment; especially after a friend sustained a minor back injury doing just that recently.

      Delete
    3. I hear you Steve: I have busted my back too schlepping a kayak to the beach.
      Hatch covers do add weight but I don't think there would be a significant weight saving by swapping VCP with SEA-LECT.
      The main reason I like SEA-LECT is because they are so easy to put on/off.
      If you really want light maybe you should consider Reed emergency covers; not sure if they are really leak or implosion proof tho (surf) .

      Delete
  15. Hi Gnarlydog,
    I had my Impex for 6 years now, and had not used it the last 3 due to job, (or lack of) situation (working now). I kept the valley hatch covers in the cool basement coated with some 303 the last 3 years.

    I took the Kayak to the local shop a month ago to have some gelcoat repaired (No Hurry), and put the covers on for the trip. When I picked it up yesterday, all 3 hatch covers were cracked and one split wide open.

    The shop said this was their normal experience with aged Valley covers, and gave me a good deal on 3 Sea-Lect covers. The shop has an excellent reputation, so I bought the covers from them believing what they told me. I see they were correct about the Valley covers deteriorating. So I am reinforcing your thread about problems with Valley covers cracking.

    The Sea-Lect are easy to put on, but have not yet learned the easy way to get them off.

    Thanks for your review.

    ReplyDelete
  16. 3 in thousand, or is it more? :-)
    Just in: Frank Baron had some serious deterioration on his Valley lids and is now happy with SEA-LECT Design replacement hatch covers.

    ReplyDelete
  17. To Steve & Other Doubters-

    The Valley Hatches you seem pleased with actually pleased all of us as well -until they crazed, cracked, and eventually went south on us, just crumbling away. If you look at the shot of my "day hatch" -it really was a "day hole" because the Valley cover just deteriorated right there in place on the boat. When I went to pull off one of the large oval hatches (can't recall whether bow or stern compartment), the hatch rim mainly stayed attached to the boat rim, and the center portion came off. I had to pry the remains of the hatch from the rim of the boat, and then scour an clean the rim, before installing the new Sea-Lects.

    As far as the Sea-Lets go -so far, so good, knock on wood...!

    -Scupperfrank AKA Frank Baron, Miami, Florida

    ReplyDelete
  18. Let me weigh in here: I am an outfitter with a half a dozen VCP tandem kayaks. Every one of the hatches turned into crumbles in 10 years or less. I am in the process of replacing all 13 hatches with Sea-Lect.
    -Rex in Arizona

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow, 10 years? that is a very good run
      my experience is much shorter...

      Delete
  19. I kept my VCP hatches inside, off for the car ride, and with a moderate dose of 303...They lasted less than two years. Cutting the plastic rim off my Roto Avocet and replacing with Sea-Lect trim and cover s a good idea but I know of a couple of other Valley owners with the same problem and it is unacceptable. The day before I sold my Nordkapp I checked and all three lids had a hairline crack running the circumference. Valeey needs to farm their hatches out or find a better source.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Recently took my boat for a paddle.... 14 years old but hasn't been used for 10, hatch covers stored indoors.
    VCP hatch cover has torn around the rim.
    Can't trust the others so all need to be replaced.
    Never had any leaks though.
    In addition to UV damage, ozone is also damaging to synthetics. So even whilst being protected from UV they are still deteriorating.
    Another potential issue....from bitter experience [mine and a number of others] using Armorall on vinyl car dash and motorcycle seats seemed to result in cracks appearing shortly after. Was a very common complaint.... maybe it does more harm than good?

    Regards,
    Chris.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've had a NDK Greenlander for well over ten years. The day hatch uses a VCP lid and has always been bone dry, for some reason. The lid has recently developed a crack. The NDK 10" round rubber lids look good as new. Those hatches have always acquired a bit of water during paddles, but I don't know where it gets in. I recently bought a used Avocet and all three VCP hatch covers are failing. I don't know why and I don't care. I just need safe hatch covers and want to replace them with the best option.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I recently bought an old used Anas acuta, which I love.The day hatch cover had already been replaced with a Sea-Lect cover and the stern oval cover has just failed. The retainer tab had ripped out before I bought the boat and the cover is really spongy feeling, so I'm not surprised that it just ripped while I was carrying a swimmer back to his boat during a rescue practice. I'm so glad it didn't happen way off shore. This experience has convinced me to put flotation in my hatches for off-shore day paddles and your review has convinced me to replace the oval Valley hatch cover with an oval Sea-Lect cover.

    ReplyDelete
  23. My 9 year old plastic Valley Avocet has always acquired water via all three hatches (worst at the day hatch) which I accepted as the cost of doing business. That's what dry bags are for. It was never enough water to be dangerous, but it was enough to be irritating. The hatch covers have deteriorated as well. I have not treated them with anything, and I think failure of any hard-used product after many years is reasonable. I replaced the day hatch cover 2 years ago when the original simply cracked open. Yesterday, I pulled my boat out of the rack at the beach where it rests in total shade, and the back hatch cover had completely caved in. I will replace both the large covers now, but probably with Sea-Lect which are cheaper, reportedly more durable, and much easier to properly close. I HATE having to push the edges of the Valley lids into the groove with cold and tired fingers. It hurts...

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi, I have a Valley day hatch on my Necky Chatham. Started to crack after 1 1/2 years, now falling to bits at 4 years. Stored in my garage, so only sees UV when I'm paddling. Never used any protector sprays. I am going to try the Sea-Lect replacement if I can find one in NZ. Cary

    ReplyDelete
  25. Im now looking to replace my valley hatch covers for the 3rd time in 8 years. That is two sets have deteriorated in 8 years. Kayak is stored in the shed and washed regularly. I also regularly use 303 on them. I know many others who have similar lifespan on their valley hatches. I have always gone for Valley as they seal well but will definitely be trying an alternative this time around.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Is there a significant difference between the Recreational and Performance versions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. not sure: my samples are from before they made two versions. I believe the Performance one is a bit softer and conforms/seals better? I think the manufacturer would be happy to answer your question tho

      Delete

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