Saturday, June 7, 2014

Testing. Testing. 1... 2... 3...

Today was not only a great day for a short paddle with my lovely wife, Cheryl, it was a chance to test a new work-around on my Bomar hatches and for Cheryl to test her new dry suit!!

The Bomar deck plates on the Black Pearl have always caused me grief when it comes to leakage. Off the shelf, they leaked like sieves, so I worked on the o-rings making the fit a bit tighter. This gave moderate satisfaction but there was always a significant amount of water entering the boat.

Ranger checking out the Bomars!

In April 2013, I tried the idea of bending the deck plates to give a snugger fit against the o-ring. I wrote up a blog entry on this and here is the link. This procedure gave the best results to date but the fit was always hit and miss, so sometimes the boat stayed dry while on others it leaked  - bad!!! 

I've always been on the lookout for materials that will give a better seal than the stock o-rings. Just prior to attending the annual kayaing retreat, I installed a larger-than-stock rubber tubing. I did not get a chance to test it until at the Retreat on our day paddle. When we stopped at lunch I had a hard time lifting the boat on the beach due the excess water in both the front and rear hatches!!! Luckily I had the stock gaskets in the boat so I dropped them back in over the lunch break and continued on.  I am guessing that the rubber tubing, which was supple while warm, became very hard when exposed to the cold water - we were paddling around an iceberg that day so you can imagine that the water was cold!! 

With the stock gaskets back in place, I was back to square one and still dealing with water in the hatches - sometimes so bad that it affected the handling of the boat!!  Time to revisit this issue!! I started by doing a new "bending of the Bomars" The problem with this is that the deck plates have a tendency to go back to their original shape after a time and the seal gets sloppier!!  

Fast forward to Friday June 5 and I was at a local Canadian Tire Store and, as per usual, I was looking for any kind of "gasket" material I could use on the Bomars!!  In the weatherstripping section I came upon a foam product that, I hoped, might work. It was only $5.00, so I took the plunge!!

Foam weatherstripping - 30' for $5.00.

As luck would have it, this stuff fit in the groove of the deck plates perfectly!!  Installation took all of one minute - no joking!!

Foam in place and ready for testing!

The deck plates fit nice and snug and the foam is soft enough not to distort the shape of the plate when clamped down - a very good sign. I did some testing by running water over the plate with a hose. Initial testing saw absolutely no water entering the boat. YES!!! So I moved onto the "standing water test" where water was kept on the deck plate for a length of time. Again, no leakage!!

The standing water test!! A PASS!!!

With "on land" testing a success, the next stage was sea trials.  This was to take place the following day when Cheryl and I decided to fit the water for a few hours on a lovely, sunny and warm Saturday afternoon!!

This was an opportunity for Cheryl to try out her latest gear purchase - a Kokatat dry suit (Gore-Tex) that she picked up earlier the week for a steal.  50% off a big ticket item like this does not come along every day, so when we found the suit, we jumped on it. I should point out that this is a brand new suit bought from a store that is a Kokatat dealer!! I feel compelled to also say that I also picked up a new Snap Dragon spray skirt for half price from the same store. Sweet, because I was looking for a replacement for my Seals Shocker which is a piece of crap!!!!!!!

Cheryl christening the new suit at St. Philip's!!

The Black Pearl pulled up on Lower Beach, Conception Bay!! Yes, that little white dot on the horizon is an iceberg.

So, how did the Bomars make out on the sea trials, you may ask? When I got off the water after 1.5 hours of paddling, there was not a drop of water in either the fore or aft hatches - for the first time EVER since this boat was launched over two years ago! Needless to say, I was a happy camper (paddler)!!  

AND HERE"S THE KICKER - when I got home and was taking the boat off the car, I looked at the deck near the rear hatch. It looked odd - like it wasn't flat or something.  I thought that maybe it was my mistake when building the boat but, I must admit, that I never noticed it before. Could it be that the deck was bowed upward from the air expanding inside the black hull in the direct sun???  I popped the deck plate and WHOOSH, air rushed out and the deck flattened out again!!   Now THAT was a tight seal!!!  Looks like we're good to go!!!  

There are still a few questions left to answered?  Will the foam last? Will it compress and lose its seal. To be honest, these are not troublesome questions. First off, the foam is dirt cheap and readily available. $5.00 will give me a slew of replacements. Second, it takes mere seconds to replace an o-ring - pop it in the groove and cut to length. A field repair is a joke and I will simply keep the package of extra foam in the boat at all times!!

I do believe that the Bomars have finally arrived!!!


  1. Drill a hole (0,5mm) in the center of bulkhead

  2. Now that you have a tight hatch seal, you should vent the bulkheads to prevent pressure issues. That's particularly a problem with black boats, as they can build internal heat and pressure very rapidly on sunny days. The vent holes do not create any leakage and they prevent the boat from getting damaged by pressure issues. I've found that holes as small as 1/32" work fine for venting and that's what I use. I found tiny carbide drill bits at an electronic surplus store for next to nothing.

    As for the Bomars, I found that tightening the factory O-ring fit by putting layers of tape underneath them did the trick, too.

  3. So happy I decided to check on the BP site after a hiatus. My Bomars have leaked since I built my BP two winters ago. Can hardly wait to try your solution. Love my Bomars but dry hatches would be sooooo nice. I'll let you know how it goes.

  4. So happy to have checked back in to the BP site after a hiatus. My Bomars have leaked since I built my BP two winters ago. Can hardly wait to try your solution. Love my Bomars but dry hatches would be soooooo nice!

  5. Can hardly wait to try your solution. Two years of leaking Bomars!

  6. I drilled holes the next day to help relieve the pressure. I was just so excited to see the bulging because I knew it meant I finally had a tight seal!!

    Doug: The foam seals are working great. The key is to watch how much they are compressing after use. I found mine would lose some (just a little) of their seal after a few uses, i.e., hatches locked down during paddles. Here's the solution: When the hatches are not needed to be watertight, i.e. when in storage or during transportation, simply remove the foam. (I just take them off and throw them inside the hatch and pop the cover back on sans seal.) The foam will return to its original shape and size if left unseated in the rim. When you are going for a paddle, simply push them back into place - takes less time than for someone trying to pop on a rubber hatch cover!! You could just replace the seals after every few uses, but it's just as easy to take them out and let them "regenerate" so to speak. Hope this helps!!

  7. Brian:

    I built up the height of the factory seals by placing a strip of rubber from a bike inner tube under them. I did this for two years but they never gave me a seal comparable to these foam ones.

  8. I should point out that the hatches have been thoroughly tested, too! I love to "play" with this boat and in doing so, I have put a put the hatches through their paces. There has been no leakage!! Well, one time they did but that is because I dd not notice a small gap between the two ends of the foam. It's amazing how much water can seep in through a 2mm gap after a few hours on the water!!