Rudder For Coastal Tripping Canoe

I’m planning to do some tripping on the Texas gulf coast (primarily inside the barrier islands) in my Swift Shearwater solo canoe. Some of the recent threads that have discussed rudder equipped canoes have peaked my interest in possibly adding a rudder to my canoe for coastal tripping.

My plan would be to cover 20 to 30 miles per day on some multi-day trips with hopefully a multi week trip in a year or two. Even with good route planning and traveling early and late it is nearly impossible to avoid wind completely on this coast. I’ll have a spray cover, but still assume the wind is going to be a fight much of the time. Should I seriously consider a rudder to help with stearing and overall seaworthiness? I’ve been experimenting with the loaded boat in various wind situations on local lakes. With larger following waves and wind, the boat can get hard to handle unless you’ve got the trim just right. The sliding seat helps with that. Would a rudder also help deal with weathercocking?

I’m also wondering if the rudder would help with overall efficiency. Would it let me do 30 miles in a day versus 20 for example for the same level of effort?

Howdy Osprey
I would have to answer a big yes to all your questions, especially since I just got back from two days out on Christmas Bay and Cold Pass. I have thought about a rudder, but not sure how I would do it. I still struggle with my Shearwater in a following sea, I am even thinking of moving the seat back a little further, but time has eluded me on doing this.

I think the rudder is definetly more efficient at course correcting than a paddle stroke. Do you have an idea on how you would add a rudder?

Hi Osprey

– Last Updated: May-31-05 10:30 AM EST –

I uploaded a pic of my rudder on imageshack. It's a basic kick-up design I came up with after being inspired by the simpler non-controllable kick-up that came with my Sailrig plans from CLC. Mine is controllable as it uses a bungee to hold it down and a control line to pull it up. The control line leads back to a ratcheting pulley shackled to a caribiner at my center seat in the Penobscot 16 I sail. Rudder plans are all over the place. Just take what you like from free or purchased plans and reduce/enlarge for your particular needs. Mine has 1 percent of the surface area of my sail. That, coupled with the leeboards gives me the magic 2 percent (roughly) of lateral resistance I need to sail upwind. I find that a rudder makes paddling more efficient as I do not have to employ any of my stroke to correct. I drop my rudder about 60 percent for steerage (when only paddling) and paddle on the same side til my arm falls off if I want. When fishing in windy conditions and motor-less, I also bring along my leeboards. A leeboard down and a rudder down makes a canoe extremely wind resistant. Tracks like it's on rails. In the pic, you will see both sticks lashed on. Double-enders (narrow ends) like canoes and canoe yawls use a stick versus a tiller quite often as it is simpler and you can sit farther away sitting in the proper position. Push or pull the stick for rudder movement. I rarely use both port and starboard sticks but they are both on in this pic. Gudgeons and pintles are up to you. I use stainless eyebolts for gudgeons on both the rudder and permanently mounted in my hull. A peice of steel round stock with a spring clip to retain it slides thru all 4 "eyes" to hold the rudder onto the stern.
I think you will enjoy having that option with you.
Here's the link:

Rudder Installation
Hey Bryan,

I’m interested to hear about your continued experiences with the Shearwater on the bay.

“Do you have an idea on how you would add a rudder?”

Not yet. I was going to save that for another thread :-). Seriously, the mechanical logistics of installation are a put off for me. One of my favorite things about canoes is the simplicity. Trying to think outside my range a little here on the rudder thing. T G rigged one up on the Sandpiper of someone I’ve met here in S.A. so it is bound to be doable. I was going to broach the subject with the folks at T G and AOGG next time there. It would be great to find a used rudder that could be retrofitted. I’d want a set up that was removable too I think.

One or two leeboards help alot.
First, I should disclose that I row my Shearwater and so I’m not so hampered by following seas as if I were paddling with just one blade. But when I’m rowing without a load in 10-20 mph breezes from the side or rear quarter, I will sometimes have to “rudder” with one oar while rowing with the other … which ofcourse halves my efficiency for those strokes. I’ve experimented with Spring Creeks clamp-on thwart which receives bolt-on leeboards. These are simple plastic blades, not sophisticated foils. But, I can control their depth and angle of insertion for shallow or deep “skeg assistance” for when I umbrella sail or row in heavy breezes. I think it cuts down my need to correct for weathercocking by about 40-60% and is fairly easy to put on and take off … leaving no installation marks or hardware behind. Not too pricey either.

Ofcourse, deploying leeboards as double skegs is just for straight-lining it in difficult conditions and sailing … but it’s not hard to reach back and pull them up and tighten them in an out of the water position for shallows or landings. My spray cover helps about 20-30% by itself … adding the leeboards and a load practically eliminates the problems altogether.

Good luck, Shawn

Thanks for posting pictures of your covered canoe outing. When and where can we read your detailed evaluations of the four beautiful boats? I thought that I read that you guys were combining your impressions for an article to be published somewhere. Is this true?

If so … can you give us dreamers a heads up as to where to read more of your fantastic comparison opportunity? That Loon sure looks fine for light cruising !!! Is the larger Sea Wind really faster? The Sea-1 looks incredible too! And the Rob Roy seems nicely proportioned as an everyday boat. I’d love to own any of them … for awhile at least.

Good Photo
Thanks for that photo, David. It puts ideas of do it yourselfing this back in my head. Then again, the thought of learning the names of let alone function of gudgeons and pintles is a little intimidating. :slight_smile: What is the reason behind two sticks for turning the rudder?

I usually only use the starboard

– Last Updated: May-31-05 6:03 PM EST –

stick. It's to control the rudders movement. Push-pull versus a tiller. Common on double enders. You can sit facing forward as you should in a narrow hull yet still turn the rudder... Cables and foot pedals would do very well too as we know from kayaks.

There’s an interesting discusion of rudders over on the kayak forum

Near the end of the thread is an interesting post on the function of a skeg.

OK, I was already dreaming up a shock cord, friction controlled, adjustment set up for a stick. The stick jumps out at me as being preferable to the cables for some reason. It seems like it would be up out of the way of gear and such. I’ll bet there is a way to set it up for foot control too.

How you doing Shawn? Thanks I’ll check out the spring creek site again.

I’m still in the dreaming stage on all this. Haven’t forgotten about the Essex Industries rowing set up you put me on to. Hoping late this summer and fall will give me some time to follow through on more of these things.

Rudders are great.
I find larger metal rudders to be much more efficient. Metal rudders are thinner and slide through the water with noticeably less drag. Oversized works better and has more reserve for those times you really need it. During the decked canoe test I came to realize just how good I had it with my metal oversized Kruger rudders!

Happy Paddl’n!



Unique rudder system with no permanent

– Last Updated: May-31-05 10:25 PM EST –

fasteners on the hull. Can easily move from canoe to almost any canoe without special fastners on the hull. Interested? I have had this in mind for a long time. Even bought most of the parts. Never built it as had no real need; hulls that need rudders have them and the rest just have not been in situations where a rudder might be needed.

Call me if you want to talk about it. See your e-mail.

Happy Paddl'n!



Careful if you add to much junk
it won’t be a canoe anymore. It will end up a kayak. With a deck and a full set of rudder lines you may as well add a sail and a double blade too. You can build whatever you like but when does it stop being a canoe and start being a so called “decked canoe”/kayak?

Who is the person who changes the rules and definitions when it comes to these things?

Does Webster need updated?

Anyway, yes a rudder would be a big help but is one more thing to deal with. In spite of the thrashing that rudders take from many “skeg” kayakers they are a lifesaver at times.

In a canoe like the Shearwater I think being able to adjust the balast would be less taxing than working a rudder, and much less complex.

are you calling kayaks junk?
better grab a chair leg!

I have toyed with this idea
and came to the conclusion that yes, it would be more stuff to complicate the canoe. So ordered a big roomy kayak for my coastal trips. But the idea of using my canoe one day on a long coastal trip whem my skills improve is a goal.

Meanwhile, I have also thought of instead of a rudder, just rigging a simple skeg to flip down and keep the canoe on track. This may not be a bad idea on those horrid long mileage wind days. It doesn’t have to be complicated and heavy.

skegs would be great…
if they didn’t come with the box. i’ve seen other models, but none that impressed. i’ve thought it would be nice to have a strap-on style skeg that could be positioned at different places along the keel. then you could move it forward when paddling into quartering headwinds and the resistance would keep you on track. move it back during tailing winds. basically it’s a stolen idea from small sailboats. they often have swinging centerboards that can be moved, to a degree, to help balance the boat. just an idea.

Do I sense Canoe snobbery?
I am a canoeist and I prefer a double bladed paddle. A rudder on a canoe is a reasonable idea except if you are in shallower waters. Decks make very good sense on canoes too. They reduce windage by minimising the wind’s purchase on the hollow interior. If the freeboard is cut down on a decked canoe, you further reduce the windage and get a weight tradeoff for the what mass the deck weighs. Try a double bladed paddle in a Bell Rob Roy. Consider bringing some foam blocks to elevate your seating position. Sitting on or near the bottom is not very good for paddling with a single and especially double bladed paddle.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
N.T., that has tended to be my thinking, less is more in terms of putting stuff on the boat. Dealing with some of the canoe’s limitations is part of the challenge and adventure of the trip. After looking at sea kayak information it dawned on me that I ought to just get over the canoe thing and do what Beachcamper did, get a sea kayak. After studying those models and thinking through storage wants I come back to thinking the canoe is the better way to go.

Its little matter to me what we call them (you’re joshing, right?). Its is about what works well and what I like. Plus the Shearwater is paid for and I really love the boat.

I can move the sliding sea around pretty quick by just leaving the stops loose. Maybe I can also plan ahead by having a water container tied to a rain fly pole so I could slide it backwards or forwards as conditions demanded.

There may be some portaging involved on these trips so that too seems to favor the canoe. Toting a 18’ plastic sea kayak over the dunes or through a marshy area might be more than I’m up for.

When it comes to moving ballast around
… I like having my four 2 gallon waterbags (the ones with a rubber pinch-open plug) deployed in pairs on towels dragged by parachute cord loops … two up front (30 lbs) and two in back for day-tripping. I have the front and rear bag pairs separate (you don’t want to have to move all 60 lbs at once) their cords “looped” around the carry handles. Depending on whether I want to move them forward or back, I just pull on one side of the cord loop or the other … like a pulleyed clothes line. Thus, you can “drag them away” (or towards) from the center by pulling either side of the loop … no pushing/prodding involved.

Those sixty pounds plus my 180 body weight and light day gear add up to about 260 lbs. This is what I consider the ideal daytripping weight for the Shearwater in rough, windy conditions … just enough inertia to keep it tracking and resist unwanted weathercocking.

Why four waterbags instead of other kinds of ballast? Well, they lie nice and flat, are soft (i.e. don’t tumble around in the boat when it’s rough) and non-damaging … and ofcourse, you fill/empty them there (i.e. no need to transport ballast). To keep from having any minor leakage problems, I set each pair on a small towel and slipknot the cord to the towel ends … and drag the towel back and forth with them just lying on it. Any seepage from leaky valves (or wave splash) is absorbed by the towels. This arrangement makes for a very low center of gravity … and with the Shearwater’s design (full hull, flared sides, etc) … and rowing from a comfy bean bag (butt 5 inches off the hull floor), it’s super seaworthy. I’m “locked” into the boat in a 3-D configuration … both laterally and longitudinally (with foot rest) … which is very secure for when things really get really rough (admittedly rare, but it’s nice to know I can handle the whatever weirdness that might blow up).