I would like to clarify a common misconception which has not been explicitly stated in this thread, but I feel that some comments may be based on this misconception:
Many seem to think that the boat will go more straight, the more the skeg is down. That is wrong.
In sidewind, both too little and too much skeg will make the boat turn, just to opposite sides.
The skeg is used to balance the sideways water resistance of the front and rear of the boat so it is neutral to sidewind:
- If the skeg is too high up, the rear of the boat will be pushed by the wind, and the boat will tend to turn into the wind.
- If the skeg is too far down, the front of the boat will be pushed by the wind, and the boat will tend to turn away from the wind.
- In between, there is a neutral point where the boat will go in a straight line.
Unfortunately, that neutral point is never exactly the same, because it depends on weight distribution, wind direction and speed and boat speed. So during the trip, one has to occasionally stop up and think “From which side is the wind coming? To which side is my boat turning? Will I have to raise the skeg a bit or lower it a bit to make the boat more neutral?”
I do this almost all the time. I see absolutely no shame in that. If I don’t use the skeg, I will have to rely on constant edging to one side or an asymmetrical paddle stroke, none of which I see the advantage in.
Of course, skegs will often malfunction, so one should also practice to keep the boat in a straight line in sidewind without skeg (or with a skeg which is jammed in fully down position). But doing that all the time is in my mind not a goal to work towards.
With all that said, I have to add that I have been so lucky to take a few lessons at Nigel Foster who is probably on the world top 3 of most technically skilled sea kayak paddlers. And he doesn’t agree with me. We were taught that when paddling in sidewind we should first use edging to compensate, and if that wasn’t enough, we should use skeg. But whether that was intended as a learning tool to force the practice of edging, or he actually saw a benefit from edging in comparison to skeg usage, I never found out.