Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

So, Whilst researching and saving, I've also been renting kayaks to spend time on water, and work on technique (to the degree that you can work on technique in a sit on top, which isn't much, but my forward stroke is getting better)

 Yesterday I went from messing about on shore to paddling out to a platform 3nm off shore, (with friends, buddy boated, handheld vhf just in case, etc). The waves were in the 1-2 ft range, and the temps were in the low 70's, with warm water. The marine layer burnt off early, leaving us with almost perfect conditions all around. It was a great first paddle out in the open ocean.  We got there just in time to watch the sailboat races circling the platform, so, staying out of the way, but still within earshot, I got to answer the sailers questions about where I paddled from etc. It was a bit of an ego boost. That being said, by the time I got back in, I was sick and tired of dealing with all the waves and current both at a near 45 degree angle to my intended course both ways. It consistantly pushed my bow off going out, and then pushed my stern off coming back. These are the prevailing currents in my area, and I seldom see them as calm as they were today. I can only imagine the entire situation magnified greatly under "normal" circumstances, with larger waves and more wind. 

My left arm is far worse off than my right, from all the sweeping turns and the edging to the degree that it can be done in a SOT has left me feeling rather unsymetrical. 

 Is a rudder the magical cure which will make this all a non-issue? 

Will just a skeg do it?

 Should I put my boat together first to see if it will magically track through these  type of conditions without me needing to attach any additional doodads. 

 Should I do something like setting the footbraces up to work with a rudder, but not getting an actual rudder untill I've tested the boat, but then, if I do decide to go with a rudder, I will have already done the tough work? 

 Suggestions?

Thanks. 

 

-- James


14 replies:

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RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

What boat are you planning to build? Some track well and others don't. Almost any real kayak will track better than a sit on top.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

I'm about to begin a stitch and glue night heron.

 Thanks :)

-- James

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

You don't need a rudder on a Night Heron; it will just slow you down. You probably don't need a skeg either, but might want to install one anyway, as it is easier to do when you first build the boat than to install later.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

I'd agree with twofoot...a rudder is probably not needed.  Trying to compare a SOT to a night heron is a world apart.  I've paddles the Apostle Islands in Lake Michigan with sea kayaks for about 10 years now.  Depending on which rental I get, I will use the skeg or rudder when the condition get bad enough.  I'm usually fine about up to 3 foot waves and 10 knot winds.  After that I just don't want to tire myself out in case we get into trouble.  So I drop the skeg or rudder.  In the boat I'm building (Waters Dancing Solace 17EX) I'll most likely be installing a skeg for just those times when I want to save my strength.

That's just my 2 cents.

Jerry S

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

current isnt whats causing your boat to turn.you have to compenste for current by changing your heading but it wont cause you to paddle on one side, thats caused by wind ,the short plastic sot  are going to be much more suseptible than a night heron,i still sugest a skeg .the trick is using one correctly . most of the time youll leave it up, as you move forward the bow digs into the water making it harder for the wind to push sideways,this means the stern is more affected by the wind than the bow which causes you to turn into the wind "weathercocking" a skeg is used to counteract this , so going into the wind leave it up, away from the wind put all the way down, going across the wind adjust it so the wind affects the bow and stern equally.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

Speaking of the CLC skeg, how easy/difficult is it to install post kayak construction? I would be concerned about getting the slots in the deck & hull lined up & potential for leaks. I also have a WD12.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

as i recall the skeg is always installed after everything is assembled and glassed so it shouldnt make a bit of difference as for leaks its really not an issue

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

I'm going to join the likes of the offshore racers like Greg Barton, Oscar Chalupsky, Freia Hoffmeister and most others of their stature in coming down firmly on the rudder side. Every interruption in you forward stroke  (sweeps, edging etc.) slows you down MUCH MORE than a rudder ever could. If you're building a Greenland style boat and don't want to interrupt the beautiful lines by all means go with a skeg. I have kayaks with rudders, skegs and a shearwater with neither and I love them all but if I'm going to be paddling all day I'll take a rudder every time. SEEYA Jack 

PS.. My daughter is building a 14.5 Shearwater Hybrid with an integrated rudder that is giong to be real cool.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

Jack, I think that those offshore racers are paddling boats that don't steer very easily and a rudder helps them control the boat.  For a Night Heron style Kayak maneuverability is important.  Hanging a rudder on the stern is probably not a great option.  A retractable skeg will provide a significant amount of directional stability when required without sacrificing maneuverability in most conditions.  The rudder can be flipped up , but then it is creating a turning moment due to wind that can be a problem.

BTW, many kayaks are sensitive to weight placement fore and aft and it might be worth exerimenting with moving your seat to try to get the boat to balance better in a cross wind.  However, if the issue is surging down waves, a skeg offers a major improvement in directional stability.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

And don't forget that the Night Heron is a hard-chine design that steers easily by tilting the boat with your knees away from the direction you want to go.

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

While I am new to this, it certainly felt to me like it was the boat falling sideways off of the swells that was causing the changes. The wind was constant, but it was always timed with a big swell that the boat would (rather suddenly) shift heading by about 30 degrees.

 

The night heron certainly does look gorgeous nude, and between that and my desire to actually have a built boat, I might try just building it first and seeing how it handles things, then adding a skeg or rudder accordingly. Is retrofitting these drastically more work than adding them when the boat is being built? 

 

Thanks :)

 

- James

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

I wish I had a $ for every time this question has been asked - and another $ for all the conflicting/ confusing replies!

Wordsmith

RE: Do I need a rudder? skeg? tracking in waves.

It certainly is easier to put the recess in before you close up the hull, but it is not too difficult to add a skeg box later if your aft hatch is fairly sizable. 

I like to put the skeg in about 1/4 - 1/3 of the boat length from the stern.  That means it is probably located near the aft end of the aft hatch, so you can get in to work on it. 

Adding a rudder later should be pretty easy.

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