Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

Some years ago I built a Chesapeake 16 (from plans) and paddle it on our local estuary.

In glassy (windless) conditions the boat tracks beautifully, but once a breeze sets in, she develops the habit of weather-cocking (i.e. the boat will turn into/ or toward the wind).

Does anyone know how to trim a Chesapeake 16 in order to eliminate this annoying habit.  Would a small skeg, or keel, placed near the stern help ?


12 replies:

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RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

If you are camping, move your heavier stuff to the back hatch. If day tripping try about 2-4 liters of water in the back hatch. Just make sure it is secured, or you might get inconsistant results.

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

All things being equal, the Chesapeake 16 is a good-tracking machine.  How much do you weigh?  If the boat is sitting light, it won't track as well and might need a skeg or a rudder.

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

Hi John,

Most of my paddling is done in the glassy, earlier part of our days, but by 09:30 we usually get a light onshore breeze develop.  It's often on the return trip, with a breeze abeam that the Chessie tends to put her bow into the wind (the so-called weather cocking effect) ~ and believe me, it's hard work keeping her headed the way one wants.

To quote from Liquid Rhythm Kayaking Journal : "There are the other variables that can increase the appearance of weather cocking: current, flowing seas, hull design, paddler’s weight, how gear is balanced within the hull, the length of the paddler’s paddle, and the length of the paddler’s forward stroke."  and so on ..

Taking a look at the variables mentioned:

  • Current:  I usually paddle over the neap tide period when current is hardly an issue.
  • Flowing seas: These are to be found at the mouth of our estuary (deep water) where I do, on occasion, have the boat move about a bit. This is to be expected.
  • Hull design:  I'm quite sure that the Chesapeake 16's design is not at fault.
  • Paddler's weight:  At 140lbs I might be a bit light for the Chesapeake 16 hull (?)
  • Gear stowed in the hull: Never have any.
  • Length of the paddler's paddle:  I use a locally manufactured carbon fibre paddle which is 231 centimetres (91 inches or approx. 7'7").
  • Length of the paddler's forward stroke: I'm not an expert in this regard, so cannot comment.

If I am a bit light for the hull, should I make up a couple of sandbags for ballast ?

I decided against installing a rudder when building as I didn't wish to clutter the hull with cables etc.  Perhaps a skeg would do the trick ?

With thanks


KNYSNA, South Africa.

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

Paddler's weight:  At 140lbs I might be a bit light for the Chesapeake 16 hull (?)

Gear stowed in the hull: Never have any.


Yeah, you're just light in that hull.  I'm 155 and a perfect fit in the smaller 16LT.  The standard 16 is lovely, but like any kayak that doesn't have its fine ends immersed, will tend to act like a sailboat when the wind comes up.  A skeg or rudder will fix it. 

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking



I'd prefer a skeg and have noted the options on your website.  However, I'm not too keen to tackle major surgery on the finished boat.

Might try adding a bit of weight (sandbags) first.


RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

If there is room, try shifting your seating position back an inch or two,  Sinking the stern and lifting the bow a bit.  If that isn't possible then a sandbag in the back might address both the light weight and the balance at the same time. Just make sure it can't shift.  If you capsize it will make life difficult if it shifts.

PS: My wife at 130 paddles a 16 light and hasen't complained of weathercocking. Of course she only likes to paddle straight into the wind.  makes things more exciting. Does not like down wind or cross wind.  I am 170 and also find it works well at that weight.


RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

"I'd prefer a skeg and have noted the options on your website. However, I'm not too keen to tackle major surgery on the finished boat."

Find a straight piece of scrap wood and cut a fair skeg out.  Use packing or duck tape to tape it to the bottom of your hull.  You can tape coat-hanger wire or something similar to run down your stern and along the aft side of your 'test' skeg if it tends to flop about.  Go paddle.  You can change skeg size, add ballast, do both, roll (well, only if you fix the ballast in place), etc., before you decide to perform major surgery.  Good luck!

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

permanent skeg WONT work it needs to be adjustable .

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

"permanent skeg WONT work it needs to be adjustable ."

Actually a permanant skeg will work to solve the weathercocking problem.  I have seen one added to a Pax 20 kayak before.   It reduced the manuverability of the boat somewhat due to the fact that it couldn't be retracted but the bulder who installed it wasn't concerned about maneuverability just going fast in the direction he pointed her and didn't want to spend the entra money to add a rudder or retractable skeg. 

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking

You could try a strap-on skeg like this.

...or make one if you don't mind the appearance of the straps. 

RE: Chesapeake 16 weather-cocking


My wife had the same problem with her CH16 wanting to turn into the wind. I tried the boat myself since I am somewhat heavier at 170lbs. It made no difference.

I am also considering some kind of retrofit of either a skeg or rudder, but not looking forward to it. I'm in the middle of a Shearwater build at the moment and do not need addtional projects.

I going to try adding a little weight to the boat first to see if that helps. But as we all well know, nothing is simple.



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