Let me preface this post by saying I LOVE MY PA14, I wouldn't trade it for any other yak/small boat out there!
So on one of my last trips out I got caught in some very snotty conditions in which capsizing any kayak would be a real possibility. In the past weeks I have purchased some safety items like a PFD I will actually wear, a hand bilge pump, plugs for the rod holders, I built a heavy duty strap to right the kayak if overturned. The next step is to go out and practice self rescuing. So this brings me to the point of my post. The front hatch seems like an egregious weak point. I am just trying to think about worst case scenario. I want to do everything I can to make sure If the boat flips, it's not going to rapidly fill up with water.
I decided to remove the hatch liner. First of all, it does not seat against the trim seal. Secondly, I want to try and keep the water out of the hatch entirely. Removing the hatch liner seems to help. So I tried a piece of closed cell foam I had in the form of a yoga mat that fit the bill in terms of consistency and the like. After applying 3m High Strength 90 per the directions, it didn't stick. The adhesive stuck like hell to the polyethylene of the boat but not to the neoprene or whatever the mat was made out of. So now I have all this extremely tacky adhesive I must remove. I am ordering some POLYETHYLENE foam, it stuck to the kayak it should stick to foam made of the same material, shame on me I suppose.
HOWEVER!!!!! My point in all of this is in all the FANTASTIC engineering that went into this boat, this cannot be improved? I have been racking my brain about this and several different things have occurred to me that hobie could do from the factory that would dramatically improve this issue. I am not going to lie, it is a bit mind blowing that it hasn't been redesigned in the 6 years since the boats release. If a gasket of closed cell foam seems to be an effective fix, why doesn't Hobie just do that? They can experiment with the best material, the best thickness, the right adhesive etc. I understand, it's a huge hatch that they want to maintain easy access a too. I don't expect the thing to be waterTIGHT, but it could be a heck of lot better than it is. Again, I can think of several things that would not affect the functionality of the hatch itself;
1. Add closed cell foam gasket from factory, or as aftermarket kit.
2. Redesign the lid to where there is a groove that can accept the trim seal solidly. Perhaps create a recessed lip for hatch liner to sit in.
3. Make the front hatch lid from a rubber material more similar to Old Towns lids. A solid rubber gasket and seal could be formed into the edge of the sold polyethylene lid. The out 1" of so of the top of the lid going down to the edge could be a rubber material that is fused into the lid itself. It might even look cool too to have that black rubber lip around it.
These are just a few things that my red neck engineering mentality came up with. I am sure Hobie engineers could come up with something rock solid. It would be really awesome if they could make something that could retrofit into older models. I dunno, there is surprisingly little information on this topic on the web. Hobie seems like they really listen to their customer base and make improvements on their boats. This is something that this boat recieves a lot of criticism on and I think it could be dramatically improved without sacrificing nearly anything at all.