When sea kayaks were first mass produced, watertight bulkheads were a revolutionary safety feature but only as good as the hatch that was exposed to the full force of the elements. Valley embraced a pioneering idea employing a custom-built rim & hatch together, engineered with a unique 'double seal' as the best chance of maintaining a water tight compartment.
A kayak at sea is being pitched & rolled, sometimes at the same time, & a hatch needs to have some flexibility built into the design to accommodate this tremendous contrasting force. So successful is the Valley design at providing this seal that it's necessary to drill breather holes in the bulkheads to alleviate the air pressure within the compartment & prevent the hot air from within the cavity 'blowing' the hatch on a hot day. Of course no hatch system is perfect & it's folly to suggest that any one will remain intact for eternity, especially in the dynamic environment of the ocean.
The hatches are a rubber blend which has undergone a number of subtle ingredient mix changes down the years aimed at combating the tendency of any form of rubber to succumb to UV light & degradation. Despite what is being pedalled, the current incarnation of the Valley hatch cover is the most UV stable Valley hatch produced to date. If you hear that they have made a change to the mix which makes them more susceptible to UV, please consider it nothing more than a bit of malevolent mischief. Seriously, can you imagine a company with such lasting integrity making a decision to weaken an industry leading product?
When we sell a Valley boat, we recommend a liberal application of a plasticiser like Armorall or T303 once every couple of months to ensure the hatches live out a long & functional life. If you don't take this small maintenance precaution, you'll likely be facing a replacement far sooner.
If you have a Valley hatch that seems to degrade prematurely, it's most likely an old hatch. Ask your manufacturer about the production date, because even when not exposed to UV, storage in hot warehouse conditions will create a shelf life for these & any other rubber based product.
As with all mass produced products, there have been the rare batch down through the years where one or two hatches seem to have degraded prematurely, but our experience with Valley since 2008, selling many hundreds of boats, would suggest this is less than 1%. It's sure isn't a replacement rate that has us questioning the integrity of the product, & is dead in line with rates of replacment due to UV degradation & other issues like delamination on the other hatch system we supply.
Our responses to negative industry campaigns are always the same. We won't ever be drawn into the double negative of berating another product to try to elevate our own, instead reinforcing the positive aspects of a particular craft or accessory, based on our own experiences of using these products in the most demanding environment of all, the sea.
If you'd like more detailed information about the Valley hatch system, please get in touch with Rob or Mark.