Canoe skeg?

Does anyone make an add-on skeg or fixed rudder for canoes? Or have ideas on how to make one?I have no interest in turning only tracking at times.


I put a rudder on my Osprey for sailing.

Then I thought that I might improve it’s handling when paddling down wind by lashing the tiller and using it as a skeg or trimtab.

Since I always kneel, foot pedals are useless to me.

What I found was the added tracking helps when paddling sit and switch and into the wind but hurts when the wind is howling over my shoulder. The boat still wants to broach and it’s near impossible to correct with the skeg down.

Whatever you end up doing I strongly recommend you have some way to raise your skeg up out of the water.


skeg ideas (scroll down to skeg box kit)

Another option might be a leeboard, as used for canoe sailing.

Moving the seat aft will skeg the stern and improve tracking without greatly reducing the value of the boat. Attaching a skeg will occasion a significant value loss.

When a solo canoe won’t track, it’s either the designer or the paddler who has an issue. With a good designer, we look at paddling technique, and in a solo boat, we generally know who’s. Try concentrating on the following:

  1. The paddleshaft must be vertical during the power phase of the forward stroke. [Angling the shaft across the rail turns a forward stroke into a sweep, which induces offside yaw.]

  2. The stroke must be parallel to the keel line.

    [Following the rail is a curved stroke that is a sweep, which turns the boat offside.]

  3. End kneeling, straight shaft, strokes at the knee; sitting, bent shaft strokes at mid thigh. [Carrying the blade aft, past the body, results in a sweep, which turns the boat.]

A Leeboard
I was going to say that I find it quite difficult to paddle with my leeboard down. But that’s a sailing leeboard. If you moved it to the rear of the boat I’d guess it would work as well as anything.

If you made a clamp-on leeboard thwart. You could try it out without modifying the canoe.

Sounds like a pretty good idea to me!

…to Charlie’s response.

Just curious, what canoe model do you own?

tracking in wind
I’m skeptical of the idea that any failure to track is the paddler’s fault. In my solo canoes, in 30 mph winds from the onside rear quarter, I can sweep and sweep and sweep, and I still turn onside. The only thing I know to do is switch sides, slow down, and rudder. The sea kayakers seem to agree that, given any fixed position and size of skeg, there exists a wind that will overwhelm the tracking power of that skeg, regardless of paddler strength and skill. If you know of a paddling technique that will fix this problem, I would love to learn it.

I’ve never paddled a canoe with a skeg, so I don’t know if one would help in this situation. Input appreciated.

– Mark

can you move back ?
if you are sitting in a fxed seat location, i imagine you could get into that situation where your boat is always trying to broach… however you are giving up one of the key attributes of a canoe, that is the ability to shift your weight to trim the boat for conditions. hard for me to imagine not being able to go downwind if i move my weight back far enough.

Gotta love the wind…
Since most all traditional canoes sport more freeboard then kayaks, tracking in the wind has always presented inhanced challanges for us openboaters. Certainly the canoe of choice for open water paddling wouldn’t be a whitewater playboat, but instead something with relatively good tracking qualities (curious as to the canoe in question). In addtition to stroke, there are many additional tactics for better canoe tracking performance in the wind (tacking, hit and switch, load, trim, strength, model design, use a double blade, etc).

My personal bias regarding putting a skeg in a canoe is that it presents other challenges. I like canoeing for it’s simplicity, ease of loading, portage ability, etc. Adding a skeg will alter the balance point of the canoe and may require repositioning the carry yoke. Back in '97 at Mad River Canoe, we put a skeg box in a Kevlar Independence. It paddled okay, but just didn’t look right. It affected the trim a little bit and also reduced some gear loading capacity. In the end we didn’t pursue the idea from a production stand point. It just seemed a bit odd and out of place. Again, I tend to be a bit of a traditionalist, a bit conservative and slow in thinking outside of the box when it come to canoes.

Still curious, what canoe is “rblturtle” considering a skeg for?

Just my two cents.


I paddle a Swift Osprey and twice have been in conditions when I couldn’t keep my course on windy lakes no matter what I did,other times I really had to fight.This was why I tried a kayak.I already have a sliding seat and sliding it rearward helps .I also already use a dubble paddle,but I am not a strong paddler.I thought a fixed simple rudder I could only put on when taking trips on lakes known for the wind would help.It seems one could be clamped on to the stern without perminant modifications.


Call this guy…

Go to this web page and contact this builder. he builds various high performance and race kayaks and is in your neck of the woods. I recommend him because he could custom install a skeg box and skeg for you or perhaps advise about an external skeg option. I think the later will be difficult, though, because that’s a lot of distance from the top of your stern deck to the water and finding a skeg that would clamp on and reach the water might be your biggest challange. An internal skeg box would be pretty trick, neat, and least complicated (once installed). I know you’d rather have an external, but internal is my recommendation if you indeed go with a skeg.

May the wind always blow you home.


Skegs have been added to canoes
A skeg can be any size, length or shape of material thats added to the keeline to aid in tracking. I have heard of people adding a strip of wood along the keeline to aid tracking and it does a great job. Most hardwoods would work just fine. The size of the skeg and length will determine how much tracking it will add. You can start out with a length of wood thats a 1’2"x1/2" and duct tape it along the keeline and see how it works. If you need more tracking then try a little bit larger piece of wood. When you find the right performance for your taste then glue and screw it to the canoe. I have installed permanent skegs on my kayaks that are only 1" deep and 18" long and they work great.

this from a seasoned paddler
Bob is no neophyte at all kinds of paddling.

He found the rudder useful on big water as he could then keep a high cadence in synch with his wife who was setting the pace in the bow.

Thanks for that llink.

– Last Updated: Nov-26-07 12:00 AM EST –

The embedded link to the Lightspeed Kayaks SportTrek Rudder System is interesting also.

I have a foot controlled rudder on my Sawyer Summersong and it is a great asset in windy and wavy conditions.

practically no one can keep an open canoe on course in 30 knots on open water. i can’t keep my decked canoe going straight in anything over about 20 knots. most sea kayakers can’t handle 30 knot winds with waves for any duration.

in the end, charlie’s right. it’s either the paddler or the boat. good boats paddle well and solid paddlers know how to handle them – to a certain point. beyond that and it’s like comparing an afternoon shower to a tropical storm, which starts at about 35 knots, not much above the conditions you speak of.

30mph winds
I can handle 30mph winds (with “gusts up to 50mph,” according to the weather man) as long as they’re from the front or directly abeam. Once they shift to the rear quarter, my course-holding ability plummets. I end up having to zigzag, running a while with the wind directly astern, then a while with it directly abeam.

The sea kayakers that I paddle with are affected much less by the same wind, and they seem to be able to paddle effectively for at least a couple of hours. I don’t know how much of their advantage should be ascribed to the deck and how much to the rudder.

I don’t really want to deal with the clunkiness of a rudder, so I’ll try to add a deck first :slight_smile:

– Mark

30 mph gusts to 50
in an open canoe. thats amazing. were you protected by a shoreline?

Rudder not helpful in a broach?
Tommy et al,

I have a tandem decked sailing canoe on a Bell Northwind hull, a lake canoe with modest rocker. It’s outfitted with a rudder.

On one outing in Lake Erie this fall, no sail, just 2 of us paddling downwind, the rudder seemed to do a decent job of holding the boat steady in 3-4 foot waves and I think kept us from broaching.

Please explain the comment about the rudder being a problem going downwind. I know in really big waves it might be out of the water for some time, but it seemed to be helpful in this situation.

By the way, I have both a tiller and foot pedals controlling the rudder and can use either. This came in handy one day in more modest conditions coming in downwind to a little harbor with lots of stone breakwalls around with just me in the center of the boat.

I normally tie the tiller grip with a loose line to the interior of the canoe just in case it drops overboard. This time I didn’t tie it well. The tiller dropped, unnoticed by me and was trailing 180 degrees astern.

As I headed directly for one of those breakwalls under sail I reached out my hand for the tiller to make the turn, and reached and reached and then looked down and realized it was trailing behind the boat and unreachable.

I tried to remember what sailing trick I’d heard of where weighting the boat with your body gets it to turn. At that moment I realized that the foot pedals, normally used when seated in the stern when used as a tandem, were just behind my hands.

I grabbed one and pushed…wrong way! The boat turned into the breakwall. Just in time I pulled on it and the boat spun on its leeboard, cleared the outer breakwall and headed for safety in the harbor.

It’s nice to have those foot pedals. And what is that trick with moving your weight in a sailboat to get it to turn?



length of fetch
It certainly wasn’t open ocean. I think the longest fetch would have been two miles, the shortest where wind was a concern about half a mile. The wind was most intense while I was exposed to that short fetch, so it was actually the most difficult part of the trip.

That was last year, and the wind per se was the problem. We went at least 16 miles. In this year’s corresponding storm, with the weather man saying “35 gusting to 60,” I couldn’t make it even a mile – not because of wind per se, but because splash from abeam kept slowly swamping me. In both cases, the wind was from more or less the same direction, and I used the same boat, so I can’t explain the big difference in accomplishment.

I’m not claiming that I can use an open canoe on open water in 30mph winds. I assume I could not, and I don’t plan to try. The water in question for the two trips I mentioned was the Hudson River at northern Manhattan, plus (for the longer trip) the Harlem River and Hell Gate along the east side of Manhattan.

– Mark

heel to windward to head down
heel to leeward to head up. that works in paddle boats too.