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Old 02-23-2008
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Hatch Position - Foredeck or Cabin Top

In comparing some offshore boats I notice that some have the forward hatch on the foredeck and some on top of the forward part of the cabin.

The Valiant 32 and the Pacific Seacraft 31 provide examples of each, respectively. See these photos:

http://web.pdx.edu/~stipakb/temp/HatchPosition.jpg

Off-hand to me the position on the foredeck would seem disadvantageous because of being in the way of movement on the foredeck, and also more subjected to water and hence to possible leakage.

The relative advantage of the higher position on top of the cabin would seem to me especially true for boats designed as offshore boats. Yet offshore boats such as many that Bob Perry designed including the Valiant 32 (see photo in link above) have the hatch on the foredeck.

Since Robert Perry chose to put the hatch on the foredeck there are obviously other considerations that led to that choice. Could someone help to enlighten me? Thanks!

Brian Stipak
Portland, Oregon
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Old 02-23-2008
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I'd agree that the higher hatch location on the cabintop is going be a dryer one, though in rougher going any deck top hatch is going to get heavy spray if not green water.

I suspect the actual location of the hatch will have more to do with the interior layout - i.e. where you need the light, ventilation, or egress.

It's easier to haul a sailbag up and out of a foredeck hatch.... but this is not the consideration it was before roller furling.
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Old 02-23-2008
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My guess is that the location of the hatch is probably dictated more by the interior layout of the boat than above deck layout. It functions both as a means of moving gear to the foredeck (e.g. sails) and as a secondary escape hatch in the event of a fire in the boat, so the designer probably puts it where it best serves these purposes.

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Hey Faster, you beat me to it. Great minds think alike.
Apparently so!!
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Old 02-23-2008
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As Billy and Faster have said...it really depends on what the hatch is going to be used for. If it is to get access to a sail locker.... the foredeck location is the right one. If it is for light and ventilation, the cabin top makes a lot more sense.

Some boats even have both, since the sail locker or foredeck locker is sealed from the interior of the boat, and needs to have access. In many boats, the head is located at or near the v-berth, and the forward cabin top hatch is often ventilation for the head compartment.
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Old 02-23-2008
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V-berths frequently double as sail lockers on cruiser-racers, and consequently have their hatches on the forward part of the cabin top, where it slopes down (fairly standard on modern FG designs) to meet the foredeck. This has advantages of putting the hatch "drop" inbetween the V-berth bunks (if the center section is stowed) and gives the person taking in the spinnaker or doused sail a place to stand to receive the sail.

A lot of offshore boats have a sail/anchor locker forward, and no V-berth, but a collision bulkhead at the forward end of the main saloon. In this case, the foredeck hatch is often raised a few inches or has hatch coamings (an excellent and semi-forgotten idea) installed to divert water away from the opening. The space below is often a workshop, and the hatch more like a garage door.

Lastly, as Sailing Dog notes, a formerly common design was to put the head well forward in the fore peak, and if you are on a run, a heavily built square hatch here (or a hatch with an opening port) is a blessing.

The requirement for a V-berth has in my opinion disposed of a lot of good and formerly common ideas, like having the galley or the head forward on the centerline. I recall here the Hiscock's big steel yacht of the '60s and '70s: Wanderer IV, which I think had these sort of arrangements.
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Anyone sleeping in the V berth of a cruising boat with a forward deck hatch will appreciate the cooling breeze at night at anchor.
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Old 02-23-2008
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I liked the arrangement of the forward hatches on our Nauticat, positioned on the coach roof allowing clear walking access on the foredeck. One is over the V-berth and the other two over the dinette and galley. The dorades also help with ventilation during heavy weather.

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Old 02-25-2008
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For reasons I have yet to understand, some designers have a penchant for putting those hatches on the foredeck. Personally, on a boat in this size range, I would not want the hatch there.

We have a PSC 31 with the coachroof-mounted hatch and I would consider it an annoying design flaw if the hatch had been placed on the foredeck as was done on the Valiant 32. Not only would it be a constant tripping and toe-stubbing hazard, it would always be at risk of damage during sail, anchor, dinghy, and kayak handling. Furthermore, it would be uncomfortable for anyone lounging on the foredeck, which would not even be possible with the hatch open. Add to this the other reasons previously mentioned, such as greater chance of immersion/leaking from boarding seas, and the foredeck is a poor location for a hatch on a boat of this size.

Sometimes the reason you see hatches on the foredeck has less to do with interior layout than it does the length of the coachroof. On boats with relatively short coachroofs that don't extend very far forward of the mast, a foredeck hatch is almost inevitable. On disproportionately long coachroofs they're almost impossible. On average length coachroofs, the designer/builder may have a choice to do either/or/both. The extra ventilation is nice, but if I were buying a new, mid-size sailboat I'd opt only for the coachroof hatch if I had the choice.

On MUCH larger boats than these it becomes increasingly possible to incorporate a foredeck hatch without all the downsides mentioned above.
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BTW, I have a hatch on the foredeck as well as one on the forward part of the cabin top. The foredeck hatch is for an anchor locker. The cabin top hatch is over the head compartment.
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