Watertight Hatches


Made from plastic 5 gallon paint buckets and their lids.

Here are the buckets before cutting. These have a different type of lid than I've seen before. These lids have 4 tabs that attach the lid to the bucket. Those tabs allow the lid to be resealed.

You can see the tabs in this shot. Also notice the large O-ring that seals the lid.

First wash the old paint out of the buckets and lids. Then cut the top of the bucket off just above the handle. The neat part about this, is that the bucket can still be used, and leaves a lip on the hatch portion that provides a sealing surface.

There are 2 tabs that have to be removed.

Before and after.

From what I understand, there is no glue that will attach to the Polyethylene of the bucket. Regardless, I will glue the hatch to the deck, then using an Iron, melt down the inside lip to seal and attach the hatch.

Here is the first hatch. WOW is that UGLY. The steam iron didn't work very well. So I went after it with a propane torch. There was more than one error on this one. The hole I cut for the hatch was just a little large, so there was a gap to fill, and I started with about 3/4 of an inch of plastic sticking up from the inside surface. As you can see it was a mess. The good part, is that the gap between the wood and hatch is filled. and the plastic smeared over has in effect rivetted the hatch to the boat.

Chuck Leinweber of duckworksmagazine.com recommends using a heat gun to heat the lip and a lump of cold metal to bend it over. He says that one of the tricks is not to get the plastic too hot, and the heat gun is ideal for that.

Notice on the lid above that the spigot has not been opened. There are no holes in the lid to compromise it's integrity.

Good thing the ugly part is on the inside. From the outside it doesn't look nearly as bad. With the lid off, you can see a little deformation of the inner edge, and some discoloration at the bottom edge.

The front buoyancy chamber. Once the glue sets up, the deck will get cleaned up, and painted

Now for the aft hatch. The aft hatch is a good tight fit in the wood. I trimmed the lip of the hatch so it only sticks about 1/4" below the deck. Then using the material the was trimmed as sort of a welding rod, I melted a bead of plastic around the outside of the lip.

The welding process. I'm using a 60watt unregulated soldering iron. It was just up to the task, so it was slow going.

The Good looking side of the weld

The bad looking side. Even thought this is the bad side it's leaps and bounds better than the method used on the first hatch. Both hatches are securely attached.

There is far less discoloration on this hatch.

The lid securely snaps in place.

Only time will tell if this is a good idea.

August 2004.


I was warned that NOTHING would stick to this plastic. When I capsized the boat to test it's self rescue capabilities with the sail rig on, the water line was just a little less than half way up the lid while the boat was on it's side. The water leaked between the lip and wood. The PL construction adhesive just didn't cut it as a seal.

Harry Alan, during the initial installation, and later Bruce Hallman, after I reported the leakage, told me to use "GOOP" since it seems to stick to anything. So I trimmed out as much of the PL premium as I could from under the lip and squeezed a bead of "GOOP" in it's place. The lids are now sealed! Truly watertight hatches. Time will tell if "GOOP" will hold up, so I will update this page if the "GOOP" Fails