Skeg on a Nadgee Expedition with Zurcon keel strip and control box for skeg slider
Skeg on a Nadgee Expedition with Zurcon keel strip and control box for skeg slider

Skegs

Little things that make a big difference

By Lawrence (Gages) Geoghegan

Skegs

Let me introduce my idea for putting together this report. Almost two years ago, I had a skeg put in my Pittarak. It was such an improvement from having nothing at all for directional stability. And by that, I mean, the only input I had prior to the skeg for steering control was traditional leaning and edging.

Dave Winkworth was also working on an idea to put a skeg in his Nadgee. He installed it in the Pittarak for a test run to see if all the bits and pieces worked. To Dave's credit, it worked well except for a few small things that he improved on before installing them in my new Nadgee.

The skeg is a small piece of equipment that I think has two advantages over rudders:

  • It is adjustable up and down unlike a rudder that is either down all the time (Mirage style) or up or down (like 99% of other rudders).
  • Unlike many of the rudder users, who just use the rudder as a means of steering, the skeg still encourages the traditional edging and leaning aspect of boat control. Let's face it, a kayak is designed to have paddler input for boat control, rather than just relying on the rudder.

Personally I like having the option of being able to adjust the trim of the skeg to suit conditions. Having trialed the skeg for some time now, in moderate conditions, I have it approximately 1\3 down. In a howling (20+ knots) wind with a following or quartering wind and swell, I have it down another third. While the Nadgee does not need the skeg fully down, the Pittarak sometimes needed full skeg in similar conditions. 

You can see in the diagrams what a difference a skeg can make and the impact it has changing the central lateral resistance. For the not so technically inclined, like me, I would say that in following winds and sea the skeg helps slow down the overtaking movement of the stern over the bow. When you use a skeg, you can actually feel the back of your boat try to overtake the bow (yawing) and then feel the skeg bite in and stop that movement. Depending on the size of wind and or swell, you can adjust the depth of the skeg to suite the conditions, unlike a rudder that is up or down. 

A skeg is a simple device that can help a lot more than a rudder, that is if you still like to have the old edging and leaning movements as part of your skill repertoire. Really, it's a bit of both worlds as far as directional stability is concerned. You have a fin that keeps you straight and it still leaves you with the process of edging and leaning to keep your boat under control. And most importantly, you don't have to press left and right chasing your course line all the time with that Rudder!

The popular Pittarak with its skeg set up, which is becoming quite popular amongst Pittarak paddlers, is shown in the photograph with the skeg fully down and the skeg control box is in the inset.

The other two photographs are of the skeg setup in the Nadgee with the skeg about half to two thirds down along with the control box.

The two boats are similar but have completely different handling characteristics. They behave quite differently with no skeg or rudder and both handle well with the skeg down.