Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

my boat has the hull completed and starting to strip the deck. As a novice paddler i fancy the idea of a rudder and this would seem to be the time to fit it; has anyone out there fitted a rudder to this boat?  Comments for and against most welcome 

8 replies:

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RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

Scouser,Skip the rudder.  I built the 17' a few years back & with its rocker and fast hull, a rudder would be detrimental and just add weight.  It would be like putting training wheels on a racing bike.  Learn how to turn by leaning. If you still are considering a rudder, look first at a drop down skeg instead.


RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

Scouser (Liverpool, eh?) – I predict you will be swamped with replies to this query, offering many differing and even conflicting views, if all well-meant!

 I’m a total novice too, been out about five times for a total of maybe three hours in my just-completed Chesapeake 17LT, complete with brilliantly-engineered aircraft-quality  SmartTrack footbrace/ rudder system (see pics on recent “Sneak Peak” thread on this site).   

I installed this on the firm recommendation of a friend who introduced me to this pastime – he has been paddling for over 20 years, including in high-level competition.   Also at his suggestion, last time out I retracted the rudder while ‘out there’ to compare the feel of the craft with and without.   Conditions were slightly choppy with a brisk breeze.   I felt lacking control without the rudder, especially crossing the face of the waves with the breeze from the side.   Of course, my complete novice status would have contributed to this, but…

 With me – especially at age 69, with its physical limitations – confidence is everything, and the rudder simply helps this aspect of paddling.   I guess that another key element in this decision is the environment in which we paddle – in my case, among many moored craft and floating buoys, and in the narrow-ish canals of (millionaire) waterfront residential estates here. With all respect to Darryl, I’m not at all sure that the comparison with a racing bike with trainer wheels is a fair one, and of course learning to turn by leaning is probably counter-intuitive to novices such as me (and maybe you).   It will probably come, but in the meantime…   And the weight penalty of only two or three kilograms is marginal, and could be compensated for by careful building anyway. A skeg, in my view, is but a halfway house, useful in some conditions but lacking the finer control of a rudder system. I am about to start building a Shearwater 17 S&G and fully intend to install the same SmartTrack set-up as in the Chesapeake.   I will take my time with this build and so should be more practiced and confident by the time the Shearwater is ready to launch, maybe mid-year, but even so I’d no more want to venture out without a rudder than I’d want to ride my motorbike without handlebars! A final word, Scouser – don’t proceed too much further if you do intend to install a rudder system as you will need access to the cockpit and hull interior, and the deck shouldn’t be installed just yet.   Now – that’s my two cents worth, and I now await being shot down in flames by the usual suspects! Cheers to all, ruddered or rudderless! Wordsmith

RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

Scouser, as Wordsmith suggested, you're probably going to get a lot of opinions here.  I'll add mine to the mix.

First, my assumptions:

1) You didn't buy a Chesapeake because you either liked the look of the Shearwater (wanting an easy hybrid kit) or you preferred the paddling characteristic of that design over the Chessy.

2) As a novice you have nowhere to go but up as far as technical paddling skill.

3) You have no intention of starting out in "extreme" conditions.

4) You are not at an advanced age or have any physical limitations that might make a rudder the obvious and correct choice.

Now, my opinion:

I will assume your choice for number 1 is actually a combination of performance and looks.  In that case, don't put the rudder on-- it will only detract from both. 

As a novice your skills can hardly get any worse.  Practice and the benefit of paddling with more experienced people will teach you most of the intuitive things and if you try the not-so-intuitive (leaning turns is not so intuitive for most people, by the way.  A rudder is great if you plan on long open water paddles or paddling in semi-rough conditions with lots of wind.  It makes it easier to paddle straight in either situation.  Unfortunately, for beginners it often gets treated as a crutch to deter proper paddling technique. 

Wordsmith's point about age and conditions is a vital one to consider.  It's much easier (generally speaking) for a person in their 20s to learn and practice good paddling technique.  

If you have no known physical limitations, you'll find the Shearwater plenty easy enough to turn with minimal leaning and more than agile with aggressive leaning. 

Having a rudder will detract from the aesthetic of the boat, actually hinder its natural design with respect to tracking/turning (rudders do get installed off center or get bent) and add weight.

To answer the concern of a skeg versus a rudder, the two aren't really comparable as the perform different functions.  A skeg serves to keep the boat tracking straight.  It is necessary on boats that are more apt to "fishtail" slightly in various currents.  A rudder actively stears the boat but though it can also act as a skeg.  The shearwater, from what I know of it, doesn't have the issue of "fishtailing" that makes a skeg a necessary design addition.  It tracks very well and turns just as well.

Assuming my assumptions above are correct, my advise would be to skip the rudder.  I started paddling at 29 years old in a Northbay, which is similar enough in design to the shearwater to be comparable (unlike the Chessy in my opinion) with respect to "needing" a rudder (though it does benefit a great deal from a skeg.)  I'm a fairly athletic guy but it only took me one season of paddling once every few weeks to get used to turning the boat with leans.

So there you have it... one more of those dreaded opinions.


RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

The question has nothing to do with skill, abilities or lack of.

The boat does not need a rudder for turning, they are easy to turn. So easy to lean over in fact, that you will feel unstable in this boat as a beginner. You will get used to it though in a short time.

The boat does need a skeg if you will paddle open Bays with whitecaps and wind. The boat excels in a head wind and is fairly fast in a head wind. In a strong tailwind, the boat handles the opposite, very poorly and the wind waves will try to turn the boat to broadside. In this case, the boat needs a skeg, although of course a rudder would help repel the action of turning broadside to strong weather.

How you set up the boat will be dictated by the waters and conditions you will paddle in.

Overall it is a good handling boat.

RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

This is a "how to, or how you might" rather than a "should you" comment.  I am building a Shearwater 17 hybrid and plan to install the Smart Track Rudder System.  I went thru all the should I or shouln't I, including soliciting comments on this forum.  I got plenty of conflicting opinions.  In the end, I decided to do it simply because I want to.  Then came the question: "how?"  The extreme sheer, combined with the almost 45 degree rake of the stern on the Sheerwater 17, makes mounting a rudder a bit trickey.  I discussed this with John Harris who advised me to plan on lopping off about 1/2" of the end of the boat and then to drill down thru the deck, my end pour, and out thru the bottom.  Drill-fill-drill and drop the rudder assembly in.  I have lost sleep over this one.  The fit still does not seem like it is going to look right and I have nightmares about drilling down from the deck and comming out thru the bottom off centerline with a nice big hole (and even with a small pilot one)!!

Last weekend at the Southwest Kayak Symposium in San Diego I spotted what I think is the solution - a fabricated wood gudgeon that glues up to the hull on either side and extends aft just far enough to accept the rudder pintal just aft of the stern.  Sort of an "A" shape with the pintal going thru the hole above the cross bar.  I still think I will lop off a small amount of boat, but the general idea is very appealiing.  I have been busy today laying it out to scale and have laminated some oak with okoume to get good strength in all directions.  Once assembled, I will be able to drill the unit on the drill press for a good true hole before mounting on the boat.  Here's hoping my execution is as good as my ideas.  Lots of bevels here!!


RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

Paul - I understand your worries about drilling out the hole for the rudder pin and then finding it is offset or not truly vertical, or whatever - I had the same concern with the Ches build when thinking about rudder installation.  

However, you should find in your SmartTrack rudder kit a 2" length of moulded (not extruded) stiff black plastic tube.   It's not identified in any way, but I assumed it was intended to be installed as the vertical bearing for the rudder pin - it certainly is a precise fit.   I simply put this tube in-place in the stern before final decking, using the rudder assembly slipped into the tube to accurately set-up the bearing by wedging and tinkering until finally setting it in-situ with the usual epoxy.   Of course, I was careful to ensure that everything was square and vertical, using spirit-level and plumb lines checked every which way as once in it was IN! 

I'll be repeating this in the Shearwater, as it was relatively simple and worked effectively.

But that's just one way of mounting the pin through the deck - your timber gudgeon sounds effective and will certainly be in keeping with the rest of the craft.




RE: Shearwater 16 hybrid rudder

Thanks to one and all, lots to think about there.I am now going to complete the boat without the rudder and improve my paddling skills.

One important point from John Harris was that you will have to have the rear hatch fitted to enable access to the rudder cables. If you were planning a clean deck with a rudder you'd have to think again.Happy paddling 

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