Blackwater Skeg - How Far Down ?

I bought a used Blackwater 10.5 and there was a knot in the cord that controls the skeg. This knot only let the skeg down a few inches, so the bottom of the skeg blade was parallel with the surface of the water. As a result, not much of the skeg was in the water. I am not sure if this is sufficient.

I untied the knot and the skeg will swing all the way down. However, once the top edge of the skeg is below the hull there is a lot of “play” side to side.

How far should the skeg come down when it is lowered to the proper position ?

Don’t the Blackwater’s have a sort of jam cleat set up that lets you control how far you lower the skeg?

That’s how it works on my Dagger Approach. I just put a couple of white paint dots on the cord to note, 1/4 lowered, 1/2 lowered. No need for knots

How Far Down
No, nothing like that. Just an elastic cord with a ball on the end. There’s a hook next to the cockpit. You slide the cord into the hook and the ball, which is too big to go through the hook, keeps the skeg up.

Adust the skeg to balance
the kayak in the wind. Skegs are used to keep a kayak from weathercocking (turning up into the wind). In higher dollar kayaks the skegs can be set at almost any position to account for the particular wind and load in the kayak at that time. In your case you need to find a “best compromise” setting that gets you good handling when the boat is loaded the way you paddle it most of the time and in the highest winds you regularly expect to paddle. I suggest going out on a windy day with you normal gear load and paddling with the wind coming from the rear quarter (worst weathercocking conditons) and try a few different settings until the kayak goes straight without doing lots of corrective strokes. Tie your knot there.

You do not necessarily want the skeg all the way down. If too much skeg is deployed then the kayak will start leecocking (front will turn away from wind). This condition is even harder to fight than weathercocking. Depending on your weight and loading you may or may not want it all the way down. On my friends Blackwater (bought used) the skeg was set to drop about 3/4 of the way down. On test paddling we found the kayak weathercocked quite a bit. She is light and likes to carry lots of gear in a deck bag on the foredeck which probably accounts for the weathercocking. We adjusted the skeg to drop almost all the way down and suddenly she was paddling without any corrective strokes at all.

Hope this helps.



– Last Updated: Aug-30-08 12:20 PM EST –

I own a first generation Blackwater 10.5. The skeg is not designed to drop completely out of it's box. Mine is set so when deployed, about 1 1/4 inches is still in the box, as measured from the very stern. Gravity makes it drop since it's just a big chunk of aluminum and the string pulls it back up.

The skeg on the Blackwater isn't really meant to correct windage problems. Rather it's there to increase the versatility of the boat. Most 'yaks in it's class have pronounced keel that helps the boat track easier, but makes it harder to turn. The skeg on the Blackwater lets you choose.

The small deployed surface area of the skeg makes a bigger difference than you'd think. I rarely deploy my skeg on rivers/in current, but if I'm on a long, slow stretch, I'll drop it down so I can put less energy into corrective strokes.

When I'm in the boat, the skeg box of my Blackwater is well below the water line. If you set your skeg up like mine and have problems with it not being deep enough in the water, you either weigh 15 lbs. or you're transporting bowling balls in the bow.

BTW, since this is a used boat, file off any nicks or gouges in the skeg, as they increase the chance it'll jam.


Thanks for the info.

There was nothing in the Blackwater when I saw the skeg. I’ll have to take note of how much my weight (about 160) affects how much lower the stern sits relative to the water line. Given the waters I go on, the skeg is always down.

Thanks again.

Skeg always down?
You might want to try paddling more with the skeg up on flat, calm water. It’ll improve your paddling technique. Then you’ll be even more efficient when you drop the skeg.

If you think the Blackwater tracks poorly with the skeg up, try a whitewater boat sometime…

When you can snag large fish, that’s
deep enough.

The Blackwater 10.5 was my first kayak. As such, I relied on the skeg too much in the beginning. It’s a nice option to have when you just want to putz about, but to really learn how to paddle correctly, spend time trying to go straight with it up. Even with the skeg retracted, my Blackwater exhibits no tendency to veer one way or the other like WW boats do. Once you get used to it, you’ll rarely need the skeg.

Another trick you might try is getting stick on foam thigh pads. I have thin ones up near the combing where my knees wedge in. Once you get used to edging the boat (hard), you can get it to maneuver much better than you’d expect from a Rec. kayak. I’ve progressed to the the point where I can do a buddy rescue (rolling up with the help of your friend’s bow, not your paddle. With a spray skirt, of course) in the tubby Blackwater…Practice, anything is possible!