Fitting a rudder on kayak with no rudder option.

Hello everybody! I recently bought a BIC Scapa and tried to steer it in sea waves. It was very hard, because the wind kept turning it around in whichever direction it wanted to. I am a novice kayaker and I read that a rudder helps keep the kayak straight in windy conditions. Unfortunately this kayak does not have a rudder option.
My questions to you:

  1. Will a rudder make a difference?
  2. Should I drill holes to fit a rudder or could I damage the kayak?
  3. How do you handle long kayaks without a rudder on windy conditions?
    Thank you so much.

A rudder would make a difference, but not as much as learning some new skills would.
The biggest problem I can think of with trying to add a rudder to the Scapa would be running the rudder lines. It would require a lot of work. Even then it will probably be a messy job to get done.

I think the best thing to do, for yourself and for the long run, would be to take a few lessons and learn boat control techniques. Proper sweep strokes and braces should give you the ability to control the Scapa quite easily. At 14.5ft, it’s not really a long kayak, so you should be able to turn if into and out of the wind easily enough with the proper techniques.

If lessons are out of the question for whatever reason, wait for a nice calm day and practice paddling in figure eights and around imaginary courses. Watch some videos on YouTube to learn from, but be sure to practice what you learn first in a comfortable setting. The more you practice, the easier it will get to control your kayak.

Hello Esstyle, thank you, this is very honest. I live in Greece and I have trouble finding advanced kayaking lessons so at the moment I rely on youtube and the community :slight_smile:

To your question #3:
In sea kayaks which are usually longer, we use a number of techniques:

  1. We edge the kayak. If the left edge goes down, the kayak will steer to the right. Some kayaks are more sensitive to this, some kayak less.
  2. We look in the direction we want to go. And the kayak just turns in that direction because the changed orientation of our upper body make us paddle differently in the left and right side.
  3. We steer with our paddle. There are a number of different options: Sweep strokes, stern rudder (where the paddle is the “rudder”), bow rudder, cross bow rudder, pry stroke.
  4. If the kayak is constantly seeking up against the wind (weather cocking), we can move some weight from front to rear to lock the rear of the kayak more in the water. And if it seeks down with the wind (lee cocking), we move the weight the opposite way. The idea is that if both ends of the kayak are locked equally in the water, it will steer neutrally in sidewind. I often bring a bag with 3-4 liter of water which I can move around in the luggage compartments for this purpose.
  5. Sometimes, we move light, large deck load from front to rear or the opposite way. The thinking is the same as above: By making the bow of the kayak more sensitive to sidewind, we can make the kayak steer more downwind. And by making the stern more sensitive, we can make the kayak steer more upwind.
  6. We use our skegs. This will do more or less the same as moving weight to the rear: If we move the skeg more down in the water, it will lock the stern of the kayak more. When the wind tries to push the kayak sideways, the front of the kayak will move more sideways than the rear, forcing the kayak more downwind. Of course, you can’t do this, because your kayak isn’t equipped with a skeg either.

Please note that option 4, 5 and 6 are not intended to make the kayak more directionally stable. They are intended to steer the kayak in a certain direction in relation to the wind direction.

More on the weight loading, it can really make a difference in dealing with wind. I don’t know the Scapa - but I have two boats with opposite demands on that to hold trim well. One requires that I load the bow a little heavier, exactly the opposite of normal advice, unless it is something like surf and I want a looser bow. The other needs more weight in the stern to help tame its behavior in quartering winds. So experiment and see what helps the most.

But you indicated waves - that is more on edging and just getting used to the rhythm than weight distribution. You are likely having problems from both wind and waves. Numbers one thru three above are probably the most useful for you right now. The skeg or a rudder only helps if is is in the water, and if you are hopping over waves rather than slicing though it is going to be out of the water some.

FWIW, I spent last season paddling in a quite maneuverable boat with no functioning skeg because I was too lazy to get it redone. It is more work but it is fine as you learn more what you are doing.

Hello Allan and Celia, thank you so much for your tips. I would have never thought about that myself. I will definetely practice edging and paddling in 8s as suggested above to learn steering the kayak better, and also google the suggested paddling techniques. I really appreciate your help. Greetings from Greece!

The technique suggestions will definitely help you. But it is true that some boats just do not like to track and there are some modification you can make to help performance.

One addition that can help is a small skeg. People often make these for kayaks and attach them either permanently (by drilling through the hull and using stainless screws with rubber washers or sealant for attachment) or to be removable, but making some sort of slotted base that the skeg can attach to. My first kayak was a model that tracked very poorly – I purchased a removable rubber skeg for it that greatly improved that behavior (product no longer made so I can’t give you a link to it.) If you do a Google search on “making skeg for kayak” there are numerous DIY sites and videos on the process.

Another thing that can help is adding ballast. Experiment with 2-liter plastic bottles, filled with water and placed in various positions in the boat. Sometimes the seat is too far forward making the stern too light and wanting to “wander”, literally trying to pass the bow. Adding some weight to sink the stern a little deeper can aid tracking in some boats. In others, weight in the bow or even just behind the seat can aid performance. It’s an easy and free thing to try.

I was paddling with several people at one point and one of them, a very strong young man, was in a rather cheap kayak that was shorter than those we were in (his was 12’ and ours were 15’ and 16’. He was paddling harder than we were but kept falling behind because the boat was zig-zagging with each stroke. I gave him some advice on technique, which helped some but not enough. When we stopped for lunch, I tried paddling his boat and could see how it was responding, even when I was using better strokes. On a hunch, I had him help me fill the small stern hatch with about 10 pounds of flat rocks from the shore. That helped just enough that the boat tracked better.

Here’s an article that discusses both skegs and ballast.

Raziela you can’t make many things when you got a sit on top and the wind start picking up hard. Have a quick look on this article to get a quick idea about the affect of the wind in the kayak. When the Greek meltemi hits due to the size of the sit on top it is much more affected by the wind than a sit in boat. My recommendation will be to get a sit in if you intend to travel in winds in Greece. The profile of this boat says that it’s designed for speed and fast cruising. Not a highly maneuverable boat.

Is George Karpathios of anywhere near you?

See you on the water,
The Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY
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@raziela said:
Hello Esstyle, thank you, this is very honest. I live in Greece and I have trouble finding advanced kayaking lessons so at the moment I rely on youtube and the community :slight_smile:

Hey Graziela! That was true a few years back but not any more. There are now certified sea kayak centers in many parts of the country. A simple google search would provide you with several options. About your concerns with paddling your BIC scarpa in stronger winds I will second on Stelios argument. Sit on tops are not made for touring in advanced conditions and also are not designed to respond to edging so if you really need to paddle your scarpa in stronger winds, which I do NOT recommend, you will definitely need to install a rudder.