Posted by Dave Houser on Mar 16, 2006

I tend to comment frequently on skegs and crosswinds, so for those who have read my babble sorry here I go again.

Most builders want to add a skeg to a kayak to “add tracking” because the kayak weathervanes. Weathercocking and tracking are two different issues and adding a skeg to any kayak really does both.

I will talk about weathercocking first. A skeg anchors the stern of the kayak in the water which causes the kayak to weathercock less or if big enough it will even cause the kayak to leecock (turn downwind). So if you are going to add a fixed skeg, add just enough to make your kayak wind neutral. To install a fixed skeg I like to make it look like a downward extension of the keel rather than like a surfboard skeg. It handles the abuse of beach landings better when it is continuous. The trick to making a skeg is to make it oversized so it causes your kayak to leecock and then file it smaller, by trial and error, until the kayak is wind neutral.

Now about that tracking. Adding a skeg also increases tracking of a kayak (like feathers on an arrow). Adding that skeg to eliminate weathercocking makes it harder to turn the kayak. Too much tracking can also be a problem because any kayak will require course correction from wind and wave upsets and more turning effort will be required to overcome all that tracking. And once in a while you might even want to turn. My opinion is the only thing worse than a kayak that tracks too hard is one that weathercocks.

HOWEVER, moving the seat back (and the paddler’s weight back) will lower the rear keel, lower the rear deck, raise the front keel and raise the front deck, all contribute to reducing weathercocking without affecting the tracking as much as adding a skeg.

So which is best to reduce weathercocking, a skeg or moving the seat? Will that depends on how much tracking you want. So if your kayak is too squirrelly as well as weathercocks then a fixed skeg may be a good answer. If you want to reduce weathercocking and not give up maneuverability, then move the seat back in the cockpit. If that is not enough then move the cockpit back or enlarge it to the rear. Moving the cockpit is a big modification effort especially if the rear bulkhead is in the way. You probably should consider adding a cockpit recess to the radiused deck if you are moving the rear bulkhead.

So what do most builders do to eliminate weathercocking? Usually whatever is the least effort. Move the seat back first, and then add a fixed skeg. If energetic install a retractable skeg or a rudder (if you can stand the gadgetry and maintenance). You can even add rear ballast for a quick fix for weathercocking. Nobody seems to move the cockpit, except me. I enlarged the cockpit back 2 ½ inches and added a fixed skeg on my Yare (and it tracks too hard).

I feel the bottom line of all this is a well-designed kayak should not require modifications, beyond moving the seat within the cockpit. But when you have a kayak in hand you have to do what you have to do.

Hope some of this babble helps. Oh, I have not installed a front bulkhead under an installed deck. Sounds like fun. Are you a contortionist?

My Cockpit Recess Install

In Response to: Mods by FrankP on Mar 16, 2006


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