Whether you’re restoring your boat or building from scratch, it’s important not to overlook and scrimp on the details. Often people take smaller items for granted, but it’s often the small things that can decide whether you sink or swim following your endeavors… quite literally.
Perhaps no better example is with deck hatches; more often than not people settle for cheap low quality hatches that might look the part, but seal about as well as the lid of a cookie tin that’s been stamped on. The net result can be a rude awakening when you next board your boat and find the bilge full to the brim with water, or worse you find no sign of your boat at all!
I’ve tried out several different deck hatches and deck plates over the years, and the following are clear winners for a range of different applications:
A respected UK manufacturer of marine hardware, Lewmar produce a range of high end deck hatches.
I have a particular affinity with Lewmar’s low profile hatch with a stay, which is available in a range of sizes with apertures ranging from 10” x 10” (260 x 260) to 20” x 20” (507 x 507).
Ideal for both emergency escape, routine access and ventilation purposes, the low profile hatch benefits from having a stay arm that allows the hatch to be propped open.
Lewmar hatches also benefit from a unique hatch sealing system which also allows the acrylic window to be easily replaced should it become damaged.
Bowmar Stainless Steel Premier Portlights
Worldwide perhaps no name is more synonymous with quality marine hatches than Bomar. Offering both off the shelf and custom hatch solutions.
When it comes to portlights which are more visible than deck hatches, and you want a high quality yet traditional look, then look no further than Bomar’s Stainless Steel Premier portlight range. These are highly polished and look the absolute business when installed.
Functionally these portlights can either be supplied with locking dogs or screw knobs, both of which offer a tight seal in the closed position.
The deep frame of these hatches makes them suited to larger vessels with deeper hull laminates.
Bailey Marine Hatches
This little company in Dorset in the UK are my go to choice for watertight deck plates. They are reassuringly sturdy and ideal for areas of heavy footfall.
Like most manufacturers Bailey offer deck plates in a different circular sizes ranging from between 4” – 8” (10cm – 20cm) in aperture diameter, but I’m also a particular fan of the rectangular hatches they offer. The largest of these is approximately 14” x 10” (36.5cm x 25cm) which is a good size for getting two hands in should you need to.
Besides being extremely hard wearing and watertight Bailey hatches are also a more secure option than many other options on the market; requiring an allen key to open the latches. This prevents accidental opening, and ensures that ill-equipped, casual opportunist thieves are unable to gain access to your boat.
Vetus Planus Hatch
Planus Hatches: Cost $125 – $400?
Since the obsolescence of their ‘Hippo’ range of hatches some years ago, Vetus’ Planus range has set the standard for high quality, budget deck hatches.
Available in a range of 8 different sizes; the smallest having an aperture of 9” x 9” (23cm x 23cm) and the largest being 18.5” x 18.5” (471mm x 471mm); this is the ideal range for applications requiring an inspection hatch with a transparent window to allow for visual inspection, right up to something large enough to fit through for access to your anchor locker, or for cabin emergency escape purposes.
Functionally Planus hatches are pretty no frills, which is why they are comparatively inexpensive for deck hatches. There are no gas struts or heavy duty locking mechanisms to be found, so they aren’t suited to regular use where they need to be kept propped open, or if for any reason you need the hatch to be highly secure.
From a water tightness point of view Planus hatches are highly reliable, and I’ve integrated them into a number of different vessels over the years, including work boats designed to be used in some pretty challenging sea conditions. They feature a decent compressive rubber seal that stands up well to spray and the occasional wave.
For me personally the look of the planus hatches is a good match for the lines of a cruiser, the matt aluminium frame is very smart, and the dark translucent plexiglass goes well against the high contrast of a pale coloured deck, and if it can compliment the dark tint of other windows then that’s even better.
Vetus have long been the ‘cheap and cheerful’ purveyors of the marine equipment market, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if you are working to a budget. The important thing is that their products are reliable and designed to last, with standard warranty extending to 3 years
Make Your Own!
It’s worth remembering that there are some situations where an off the shelf solution just won’t cut it, particularly if you need an unusually large hatch, or want your hatch to be an unconventional shape for any reason. In the past I have often found the best solution is simply to have a fabrication shop make a custom hatch.
Manufacturers such as Bomar also offer custom solutions so it’s worth checking out whether they can help if you have specific requirements.