Posted by Dave houser on Aug 21, 2006

Paddlers seem to think of tracking and weathercocking together but they are really two different characteristics of how a kayak handles. Tracking is the ability of a kayak to stay on course in spite of typical course changing influences; a less polite way of saying it is how hard the kayak is to turn. Weathercocking is the tendency of a kayak to turn into the wind when paddling in a crosswind. I find weathercocking is a bigger annoyance than hard tracking. Adding a (rear) skeg reduces weathercocking and increases tracking.

Moving weight back will also reduce weathercocking but not add all of the tracking. So if you are fighting the wind try moving the seat back, cargo back and/or adding rear ballast. If you cannot move the seat back enough and want or can tolerate more tracking adding a skeg may be worthwhile.

So if your Ches 16 weathercocks, and it probably does, lets talk skegs. Fixed skegs have the advantage of being simple i.e. no moving parts. Deployable skegs have the advantage of allowing the paddler to select the degree of weathercocking or leecocking (turns downwind). No skeg deployed causing weathercocking is desirable when paddling into the wind, lots of skeg and leecocking helps when paddling downwind and a partial skeg to make the kayak wind neutral when paddling in a crosswind. Deployable skegs have the nasty habit of jamming with beach sand/gravel or breaking the control cable every once in a while. They are an effort to build. And they take up rear cargo space.

The trick to adding a fixed skeg is to install one that is too large that overcompensates for the weathercocking so your kayak leecocks and then by trial and error carve it smaller until your kayak is wind neutral.

Adding a deployable skeg requires adding a skeg box and the activating cables or ropes.

I have gone to the effort removing and rebuilding the coaming and rear bulkhead on one of my kayaks to reduce weathercocking. Now I always find a way to test paddle a kayak in a crosswind during building to adjust the seat and cockpit location to assure I will have a wind neutral kayak. It is easy to do if installing a rolling recess. My seat is 3 inches aft of plan location on my standard Ches 17.

I find a well-designed kayak (without a skeg or rudder) that tracks when level, carves nicely when edged and is wind neutral to be a delight to paddle.

In Response to: adding a small keel...may by Eric on Aug 19, 2006


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