The Modification

Two New Hatches

In addition to the standard bulkheads and hatches, this boat is modified with two additional storage areas that run from the aft bulkhead up to the front cockpit hip braces. Two new partitions replace the fore and aft hip braces and run vertically from hull to deck, making the rear cockpit uniformly 17″ wide. There were two objectives.

  • First, to utilize the very wide width of this boat to store extra paddles, a sail, and other long items.
  • Second, to provide a more comfortable location for the rudder pedals–putting them on the hull seemed way too wide and required splaying the feet out in what to me was not comfortable at all.
  • An added benefit is that the rudder pedals or foot braces can be moved up and down and fore and aft without needing studs or holes in the hull.

This modification required some pre-planning, before the deck was finished. Because there would be two hatches just above the sheer in front of the rear cockpit, the deck needed additional reinforcement. The original reinforcement in front of the rear cockpt was routed out and a large reinforcement panel was added between the front and aft cockpits.

Routing Out the Existing Reinforcement

Glassing in More Reinforcement Forward of the New Hatches

Second, the new partitions had to be sized, or nearly so, when the interior was highly accessible. The partitions were made in two pieces (this allowed the 4’x8′ sheet of Okume to be shipped cheaply), with the intent to glass them together once they were installed. Note that the two pieces are wired together for this fitting operation. They were initially cut about 3″ wider than necessary, and the bottom edge was fit to the hull shape. Once the bottom edge was close, the deck was temporarilly insalled to get a height–the deck is essentially flat over the entire length of the partition, which made trimming that edge pretty easy.

Shaping the Bottom Edge

The Partitions are Trimmed to Fit

Note that the upper edge of the partition does not have any hand access reliefs cut into it at this point. These compartments could have been made water tight, but I thought it would be too difficult to reach inside from the new hatches to install the rudder pedals and the hatch hinges. As it turns out, the new hatches provided plenty of access, but I had already decided to make the storage areas accessible from inside the boat. Anyone else doing a similar mod could make these compartments closed.

One of the bigget engineering difficulties was making sure the partitions were straight and vertical. The installation butt lines were drawn using a cheap (<$15) laser from Harbor Freight that could produce a planar light pattern. The resulting laser lines were aligned with the outer edge of the cockpit openings and two measured butt line marks on the hull.

The Laser Lines Were Clearly Visible

This Photoshopped Image Shows Where the Lines Fell

Note the small white (maple) braces along the line on the deck (remember, this is upside down, duh). I found it impossible to hold the partitions in place without them. They were epoxied in place and were very useful when the partitions were finally glassed in.

Designing the Hatch Cutouts

Once the partition lines were established, the inner edge of the hatch openings could be drawning. The hatches are not symmetrical–one is a bit longer to accommodate longer items, like the paddles. The hatches are cut out and lips installed, just like the regular hatches. All the lips and offset shims are cut from the excess pieces of the additional sheet of Okume. In order to get the opening as wide as possible, the hatch lips are actually inside the cockpit, not inside the new compartment. That allows the outer edge of the inner lips to be directly over the partitions, which provides an additional 3/4″ of width.

The Partitions are Glassed on Both Sides

Paritions Viewed From the Front Cockpit

The hatches were cut out and hatch lips installed before the partitions, then the top edge of the partitions were fit to the new contour. Installation of the partitions was straightforward, but took many, many steps. They are glassed in, top and bottom and both sides. The forward partition was installed first, which would have been necessary if the compartments were water tight. A splice plate was glued at the joint, then the rear partition was installed. Finally, the joint was glassed over on the inner face.

Glassed In and Rudder Installation Started

The only other change was the rudder cable fairing tube–it had to enter the cockpit just outboard of the partition and then be faired along and finally inside the cockpit.

The Prototype Hidden Hatch Hinge

The hatches will be hinged so that they can be easily opened with one hand. The hinge is an offset hidden design that will allow the hatch cover to swing up and outboard about 210°. The inner edge of the hatch cover will lock down with a cam lock (or two) that is operated from inside, through the hand access relief. There won’t be any hardware or straps showing.

The hatch covers are conventional, except for the hinge mounting bar and the tabs on the opposite side. The tabs ensure that the hatches close with good alignment all around. The tabs are beveled so that they can close slightly out of alignment and then force the cover into the proper position as it is closed all the way. The reinforcing in the center of the covers probably wasn’t necessary, but it is the remnants of the continuous reinforcement the runs under the deck just forward of the rear cockpit in the unmodified kayak.

The Underside of the Hatch Covers are Modified for the Hinge and Closing Straps.

The prototype hinges work pretty well, but I’m not sure how much down pressure they provide on that edge of the hatch cover. The wooden attachment bar can be trimmed to reduce its width and therefor increase the pressure on the seal when the hatch is closed.

Hatch Open with Prototype Hinges

Hatch Closed, Showing Good Closing Alignment

For the time being, standard Pygmy hatch straps with the cam lock handles are being used to pull down the opposite edge of the cover. These seem to close the cover tightly on the seal, but are only an interim solution, since it is unexpectedly difficult to get at the forward strap from a sitting position in the cockpit. I’m planning on replacing them with camlock latches that don’t have an external handle, just a hex key that is close to being flush with the surface.

Nylon Straps and Cam Handles are Used to Tightly Close the Covers

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