should I add a rudder?

I am new to kayaking and have recently purchased a 18 Chesapeake and have been cruising the local lakes. I have close to 70 miles under my belt now so I am feeling comfortable with the boat. With the boat came a feather craft rudder and since I have never had a kayak with a rudder I don’t know if I should install it or not. The boat sits high in the water unloaded and when I am just out for the afternoon, and when the wind comes up it wants to weather cock. I think that is what you call it. I don’t have any trouble maneuvering the boat at all, but would love to hear from those that use a rudder. My concern is that if I do install it and don’t end up using it much, or don’t like using it. It will be in the upright position and will catch even more wind and I won’t be able to take it off.

I really don’t even know how one uses a rudder efficiently when cruising. Do you just set it to counter the weathering or do you have to constantly adjust it? Can you just “center” it and that eliminates the weathering?

Thans for you advise it is appreciated.


I have used rudders
I have had boats that had rudders and found that I rarely used them, they also can be problematic when doing some forms of self rescue. I now have boats with skegs, but I also find myself not using them very much, only in very (30mph+) windy days. Skegs do take up a lot of space in the rear hatch. I have found that edging or paddling can easily correct wind issues.

There is a pretty big division on the rudder vs. skeg vs. nothing camps; all have valid points, it just sort of matters your personal water of choice and paddling preference what you will finally like.

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My 2 Cents
Some boats do need a rudder, but that depends on the design. I have a boat that came with a rudder, but I took it off. This boat is capable of being controlled by edging fairly effectively.

Another boat I’ve owned absolutely required a rudder in crosswinds and following or rear quartering seas. My paddle partner, who had an identical boat, had the rudder fail to deploy right as we were entering an open water area that is notorious for having conditions change w/o warning. My rudder failed deploy that exact same day as I was getting ready to land. This incident changed my opinions on rudders.

I ditched that boat and chose one that, even though skeg equipped, does not need the skeg deployed under conditions to maintain control even though having the skeg as an option is nice.

One can also become rudder dependent and not develop the skills needed to control the boat. I prefer to keep things simple and only will paddle a boat that can be controlled w/o the aid of a rudder or skeg.

If your boat is amenable to not needing a rudder, I’d be inclined to not install one and focus on learning the boat control and paddle skills needed to control your craft.

That being said, I primarily paddle open water coastal areas where having a rudder fail on a rudder dependent boat would put me in a pickle so I will admit I’m biased against rudders. However, they do work quite well.

put it on
If you dont like it, don’t use it.

Good advice…
…to put it on and try it out. A smart track rudder doesn’t catch that much wind, I don’t think. If you don’t like it, you can always take it off the boat and try to sell it.

A to B
On a course with steady 10-15 mph wind and current aside, a rudder holds the hull at an angle effective in the course A to B while the paddler balances in the immediate ongoing activity for each wave and gust.

This is effective and energy efficient.

The argument ‘rudder use becomes addictive thus limiting skill levels’ may or may not be true. Skills are developed in the ‘immediate’ while using and completing course A to B is the overall goal in kayaking the water.

I can and do paddle all day long without
using my rudder, but if I am on a large lake or out in the ocean in a strong quartering wind, I love it.

I don’t think you will notice any difference with the wind catching it if it is up.

I never have in twenty years of kayaking with two different boats.

The other plus with one is if you want to go fast, you don’t need to waste any correction strokes or leans

Jack L

After Sleeping on It.
You guys all have some valuable insights on this subject.

My partner always rags me whenever he sees my skeg deployed like I’m less of a paddler for using it. I don’t say anything other than chuckle to myself as he zig-zags around in the funky seas and winds playing super paddler. I think our shared rudder failure experience put him into the non user camp as he used to not be that way, and his replacement is skeg equipped. Skegs can jam too so the same principle applies with them.

It really is all about maximum efficiency and safety under a given set of conditions, and I have no qualms about dropping my skeg or a rudder if I had one. Like was mentioned prior, you can always take the rudder off as I did with my one boat or just not use it.

The lesson I had to learn for myself is to avoid any kayak design that requires a rudder or skeg. I really don’t have any issues with rudders as I’ve found them to be incredibly useful for the purposes stated by the other posters.

I’ve just come to prefer skegs mainly because I don’t have to worry about working any rudder pedals.

one more thing
I too am not a rudder guy for all the reasons already stated, but I am also very partial to the looks of a kayak with upturned ends. So it’s skegs, or nothing.

Another consideration is your feet. After hours in the saddle, I often need to stretch my legs and move my feet around and don’t want to be tied to a rudder. When the seas are kicking up and the paddling gets serious, I often find myself bracing fairly hard on the peddles and I’m happy not to have to worry about breaking something.

I’m curious ?
Why are you and the poster above posting under my post?

You would do a lot better posting under the OP who originally asked the question.

I don’t need any education on what works and what doesn’t. I have paddled them all and know what works best for me.

Jack L

ask your partner
If he still drives a car without power steering.

A rudder is technology, use it or not.

You said: "The lesson I had to learn for myself is to avoid any kayak design that requires a rudder or skeg. I really don’t have any issues with rudders as I’ve found them to be incredibly useful for the purposes stated by the other posters. "

I have long objected to the term ‘requires’ in this context. Most well designed boats don’t ‘require’ a rudder or skeg. But most are enhanced by one. If you can save 5 or 10% energy by using the rudder or skeg, why not? I do not see why one would not deploy either of these trim devices to save a bit of energy. I always own one boat with a rudder and one with a skeg, and enjoy both, using skeg or rudder at the slightest temptation.

lots of great info
Thanks for helping me with my question.

It sounds to me like it would be more of a benefit than a hindrance. One question that I have came across is the style of peddles this boat has. I think the builder called them “floating” foot braces. The peddle is locked in a track, it is adjustable of course but the peddle itself Pivots on its centerline. So there is a stud that is perpendicular to the track that locks in place and the peddle, which is shaped like a small foot, pivots fore and aft on that shaft. There is a hole in the top of the foot peddle where the cable can mount but it seems like it would interfere with my foot, which is taller than the top of the peddle. So is this a common peddle for a rudder system or do I need to switch to a track that moves in another track which is what I see on most rudder kits?



Pedal Types
One of my kayaks has a SmartTrack rudder and uses the toe-control style of pedals. So it has larger locked pedals underneath smaller pivoting pedals. The upper pivoting pedals are pressed just with your toes. This is the style I personally prefer.

The ones you described sound like the Sea-Lect pedals. I think people refer to them as gas pedal style. Same idea of pushing your toes to work the rudder, but the whole pedal will tilt instead of the lower portion staying rigid like with my pedals. The control wire is at the top of the pedal, but off to the side near the hull, so it shouldn’t be in the way of your foot.

I never cared for the sliding type of pedals myself. I don’t like the “squishy” feeling. When you pump your legs while paddling, the pedals will each slide a little. For me it makes it hard to feel secure.

Some of my paddling buddies, mostly the type that do long expedition paddling, swear by the sliding type though. They say that they are less likely to jam due to sand or break, and if they do break they are easier to repair in the field.

The proof is in the paddling. Some boats handle rough conditions better than others. You have a big boat that is susceptible to the wind especially when unloaded. I have found that a rudder is unnecessary most of the time, but when you need it you really need it. I remember a sea kayak paddle coming back to Anacortes, WA in confused seas and lots of big power boat wakes. Waves were washing over the forward deck and it was very helpful to have a rudder on the rental Eddyline kayak.

I agree
That’s why I chose a better designed boat for my purposes as the replacement. For me, it was one of those cases where I evolved to the point where the boat was no longer serving my current needs properly.

As soon as I reach a point where it takes more energy than not to maintain a track down goes that skeg or, formerly, rudder.

The prior when paddling in even a 10 knot cross wind one would expend way too much energy in corrective strokes.

There’s nothing wrong with rudders or skegs it would be foolish not to use them when needed. My main reason for liking a skeg is that I don’t have to worry about working the rudder pedals. I will admit rudders give better directional control plus my surf ski has a rudder too so I’m still a rudder user.

As far my partner, he’s just stubborn and likes the challenge.

To JackL: I see your point and will strive to make sure I hit the proper reply button in the future :wink:

your partner’s not very smart
Ask him why he needs two paddle blades.

Not necessarily.
Kayak rudders require infrastructure on and in the boat. You have cables entering the hull through holes in the deck. You’re also driving screws or bolts into the hull. Finally, a different set of foot pegs are used as well.

With wooden boats, this is a big deal. Once you make a hole, that hole is there forever, and subject to the elements. Installing a rudder and then removing it would be a terrible idea.

Yes, why not
A rudder can be a great mechanism and a saving grace for holding course in wind and waves and when paddling up-current.

If you don’t want to use it, don’t deploy it. But you’ll never find out whether you want or need to use it unless you install it.

Paul Caffyn installed a rudder
on a Nordkapp, I believe.

I’m sure everyone at Valley had a good sneer at that, but Caffyn paddled around Australia.