Monday, July 8, 2013

I hate day hatches

Let me re-phrase that, I don't mind the little hatch in front of the cockpit. It is easy to get to, easy to use, a good idea across the board. When I talk about day hatches I am talking about this:

I am not exaggerating when I say I have had yoga instructors give me a hard time over how flexible I am. I can sit in full lotus on the back deck of my kayak. Dubside was impressed with my flexibility when I met him at the East Coast Kayak festival a few years ago. I am not mentioning this to brag, I am mentioning this to add weight to the next sentence. I can't reach that back day hatch! I can usually get the lid off, and can occasionally get something out of it. But there is no way I can get the cover back on. But you know what? That isn't my biggest problem with the aft day hatch.

My biggest problem is that a rear day hatch almost always adds an additional bulkhead - which does add nice rigidity to the hull - but it cuts the largest storage space in the boat in half. Making it hard to pack something big like food bags or a tent. They also generally have a pretty small hatch cover making it even harder to get things in there. For instance, The photo above is a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro. There is no way to get a normal sized pot in that hatch. You have to fill it with a lot of little stuff. Stuff I would normally pack around big stuff in my main compartment. Which means I am wasting space. Space that boat doesn't have to spare.

Because I was trained by NOLS, gear wise I am a pretty simple paddler. I think if you are going to need something while you are on the water, it should be in the cockpit with you. It helps that I am short, because in front of my feet - and the foot pegs - I can easily fit 3.5 gallons of water and my large expedition first aid kit. In front of that, between my shins, my VHF radio in a case and a 5 liter dry bag with things that I will need to access during the day (sunblock, sunglasses, powerfood, water additives, stuff like that)

Despite my disdain for the rear day hatch - which is on just about every modern touring kayak - I wouldn't NOT buy a kayak because of it, I would just make it a bit more specialized. If I owned a kayak with a rear day hatch I would do one of two things with it. I would create a bag system for food that would make it possible to pack it to the brim. Solely for food, I think it would work well.  My other option is to line it with spray foam insulation to turn it into a cooler - specifically for things like cheese and freshies (fresh vegetables that I normally pack on trips, onions, potatoes, carrots, peppers, cabbage, etc). This would take a problem and turn it into an asset.

Before writing this I did a google search, and found several discussions on kayaking forums that there are people who swear by their rear day hatch. I am glad that they find the feature useful. If however, you are like me, and find the rear day hatch a useless waste of space and valuable resources, then remember that you are not alone.