DIY Rudder - leave loose to self-correct?

Hi everyone, we bought an inflatable kayak for my wife, and as much as she loves how easy it is to handle outside of the water, it does not track well in the water. I’m building a rudder for it to help it track better, but my concern is that if the rudder is attached slightly crooked, it will cause the kayak to track crookedly. My question is: is it better to give the rudder some side-to-side play to allow it to self-correct? Thoughts? Thanks in advance.

rudder or skeg? A rudder will steer, and “slightly crooked” will be corrected by the paddlers control. An uncontrolled rudder will not “correct” but simply do what it feels like.A loose skeg is worse than no skeg imo, as its input is unpredictable.

Having paddled an inflatable with a skeg, I would say to not waste your time. It probably helps in absolutely calm water, but with any breath of wind it will still be difficult to control.

Correction: I believe I mean ‘skeg’, as it is not intended to move from side to side, just keep the kayak tracking straight.

Any advice on helping an infatable to track better? Its pretty tiring to paddle, and I don’t want my wife to get frustrated and lose interest. Could we add weight to get it lower in the water? Under/over-inflate? Etc?

I’d agree with amf, windage is going to be an issue.Most folks I’ve seen in an inflatable are on whitewater, where current is the dominating force. Maybe your wife can “go for the gnar”. Second bet is avoid wind.

Some inflatables have skeg kits Might be worth checking out before jury rigging one.

Adding a rudder is ill advised. If you are going ahead with that plan, make sure it has foot controls so you can control your boat. It will not “self-correct.”

We have a tandem inflatable that came with factory skegs that mount on the bottom of the hull. They make a huge difference in wind. However, they seamed to be forever hung on the bottom at launch/landing, or floating shallow water.

We also have hard shell kayaks. My kayak has a steerable rudder. My wife’s did not. She had tracking issues in the wind. I added a rudder, so it could be lifted at launch/landing and to clear obstacles. But installed fixed as a skeg. I tied the points were the steering lines would go with truckers hitch. That knot makes it easy to adjust the rudder so that it is straight, to keep the tracking correct.

That has worked well for her

It is an inherently frustrating boat being both inefficient and highly affected by wind. Best way to control it is with good technique. Best solution for avoiding your wife losing interest is getting her a different boat.

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There is a risk that a fixed skeg will do exactly the opposite: Cause the kayak to go less straight.

If you fix the rear of the kayak in the water, the wind will push the front of the kayak away. As a result, the kayak will turn downwind, no matter if you want that or not.

In sea kayaks, we have adjustable skegs for this reason. With no skeg, the front is more fixed than the rear, so the rear will be pushed away, and the kayak will turn upwind. With a lot of skeg, the kayak will turn downwind. And somewhere in between is the sweet spot where the kayak steers in the direction we want.

Of course, if you experience that the kayak is always turning upwind, some fixed skeg at the rear might be a solution. Or you could move some weight to the rear so the rear end goes deeper and gets a better grip.

Thanks for the input everyone! I think we’ll just work on paddling techniques for best performance, as it seems like a diy skeg/rudder has too many risks.

If the boat without a skeg has a strong tendency to turn into the wind (weathercock) and the amount of skeg that is in the water is adjustable, then it might actually work well, in spite of being mounted on the stern. When paddled at speed t might also aid in tracking.

Devising a method to make it steerable might be a worthwhile winter project.