How does the kayak react in a strong quarter wind when the skeg is lowered 1/4, 1/2 or all the way down?

Is there a lot of drag when it is lowered?

Is it possible to steer when the skeg is lowered?


Learned by experience

– Last Updated: Nov-07-09 4:23 PM EST –

There is no one answer. The skeg only modifies the tracking of the boat it is on to start with. If it is on a boat whose hull is designed to be a strong tracker, the effect won't be as dramatic as on a boat that is highly rockered. And for a boat that is highly rockered, even all the way down the skeg may not provide totally firm tracking in more difficult conditions.

In general the more skeg, the harder the boat is to turn. And partial skeg is often a very useful compromise. But you have to experiment with your particular kayak to see how this actually works out.

As to drag, this comes up and is debated regularly. I have never noticed drag from a skeg, certainly not anything that was a problem. If the skeg is down to start with, it's probably because you would otherwise be losing forward impulsion by constant correction. So even if there is some drag that can be calculated, it's less of a problem than not being able to go straight.

One alternative to the skeg in milder winds is to sit over on one side and put the boat on a permanent edge, in a turn that would act to correct what the wind is doing.

(Maybe recheck the profile.)

skeg or rudder help
I use a FeatherCraft Rudder. I almost never use the rudder to steer. The craft becomes a totaly different boat. Solid as a rock. I have had 3 kayaks and 1 canoe with FeatherCraft Rudders. 2 Seda Gliders, 1 Seda Impals, and 1 Seda Tango. I now have a Clipper Sea1 Hybrid Canoe. and just love it. The rudder not only adds to tracking in a quartering wind but also adds to the stability just like a sailboats leeboard give it stability. I find I loose about 1/4 mile per hour in speed with the rudder deployed so I only use it if I have to.

to start with
lower the skeg half way for rear quarter wind…

To make low speed turn sharply, it’s better to up the skeg first. But if the skeg is only 1/4 down, you can still turn pretty well even though you’ll notice it.

I’ve never measure my speed with against without. Since the skeg is typically used when the wind is from “over the shoulder”, so even if there’s lost of speed, it’s not going to actually slow me down in pratice.

In My Boat

– Last Updated: Nov-08-09 6:39 AM EST –

In my boat a strong quartering wind requires 3/4 or full skeg most times to stop weathercocking.

I can't perceive any extra drag with the skeg down.

It's EASIER to steer with the skeg lowered... if you're using it properly. The purpose of the skeg is to make your boat more steerable.

robertg, you're an 'advanced' paddler and you're asking this beginner question?

Depends on design…
…as others have mentioned. My Chatham 18 rarely called for the skeg and I could tune any amount in or out to adjust for wind directionand strength. My Tempest is pretty much an all or nothing kind of thing. If it isn’t all the way down it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

Skeg stuff…
“How does the kayak react in a strong quarter wind when the skeg is lowered 1/4, 1/2 or all the way down?”

It simply keeps the boat pointed in the direction you are paddling. In a strong quartering tail wind, I keep mine all the way down (hurricane tracer). As far as drag, it’s unnoticeable.

“Is there a lot of drag when it is lowered?”


“Is it possible to steer when the skeg is lowered?”

Absolutely! I simply rock my hips and counter steer, like you would normally turn a boat without a skeg or rudder. A course correction takes 1 stroke, hip slightly canted to the opposite way you want to steer, and becomes second nature.

I prefer skegs to rudders because of simplicity, no rigging, less weight. They both have their place. And, I’m used to skegs. My two Dagger Blackwaters 10.5’s have skegs and paddle like much longer boats because of them.

Chatham’s skeg
As others have mentioned, the more you lower the skeg the more directional stability and drag is introduced, but the amount of skeg influence is also dependent on the particular boat and paddler. Having to do corrective strokes in strong wind is probably more tedious and inefficient that the small amount of drag the skeg adds.

Im paddling a plastic chatham 17 with a thick plastic skeg. Fully deployed, it did track straight in high winds, was harder to turn, and did add some drag. It does tend to flutter when fully deployed when I’m paddling hard - probably due to the thickness of the plastic and the flat leading and trailing edges. I recently filed, sanded, and sharpened the skeg to be more hydro dynamic. It no longer flutters underwater and I don’t perceive any drag when fully deployed! Some higher end kayaks like the seda ikkuma have a carbon fiber foil shaped blade that’s probably even nicer than my diy creation.

It varies, even with the same boat
The reason is that you’re not just dealing with the effects of wind, but also of waves. Moreover, with a skeg, you’re trying to correct a wind-related issue with something you’re sticking in the water. If the wind and waves are at different angles, you’ll get inconsistent - and often unexpected - results and you may even find that using the skeg does more harm than good. Every situation is different and you generally need to try a few skeg settings to see what works best at that particular moment.

Minimum drag
In a strong wind from any quarter on the front you want to get the skeg well up or completely out of the way, This allows the boat to track into the wind where it wants to be. Running with the wind , drop the skeg. Any variation will need adjustment as you go.

The skeg or rudder does not add to stability and may trip the boat up.

There is little drag as unlike a rudder the presentation to the sea in the direction of travel is like a knife edge, a rudder varies and can be a drag but that is sometimes exactly what you want.

Most of the posts here are right on.

Turning and skeg
Second thoughts on one thing I said - yes overall a skeg being more down hardens up tracking. However, if you are in quite strong winds and in a boat that really wants to weather cock, a bit of skeg could alter the equation in your favor for turning down wind by making the bow less dominant.

Again, it’s all experience and practice.

Skeg effects
On one of my boats, the skeg is essential, but on my other boat I have not you found the need to use the skeg.

The skeg will keep your stern from sliding out. It keeps your boat tracking straight. You might need it when there are significant side forces such as wind or current. The boat will be harder to turn with the skeg down. The speed effect is negligible.

By all means, experiment with different amounts of skeg, none, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full. Use as little skeg as possible for the conditions. On most boats, you will almost never want to use full skeg.

but I can hear it when my skeg is dropped and occasionally feel a slight vibration. I switch boats because my last one didn’t have a skeg and now I have an Explorer that rarely needs it

Skeg noise

– Last Updated: Nov-12-09 7:18 AM EST –

Some skegs will flutter/vibrate in following seas, even creating a "moaning" sound. My Pintail does this at times. It seems to be a characteristic of rope skegs, as I've never experienced it in boats with cable skegs.

And there’s no truth to the rumors

that the sound resembles the mating call of large sharks.

maybe, yes, yes.
again with the modifier that “it depends”

you don’t define “strong”.

a boat will generally want to leecock into the wind. my understanding is that leecocking is the result of the imbalance in pressure on the bow end and stern end of a boat as it moves through the water…the bow has a pressure wave (you can see this) “locking” it in place and since there is no drag/pressure at the stern (when you’re moving forward anyways), the stern will swing down wind. if you are unable to control this with strokes and body position/hull then dropping the skeg will create drag/pressure at the stern and will make it more likely you can control the back end. you should still be able to do all the things you can do with the stern up, just a little slower as that blade is now having to move through the water and will impede you a bit.

You mean “weathercock”, not “leecock”

– Last Updated: Nov-13-09 7:31 AM EST –

Weathercocking is when a boat turns UPWIND, leecocking is when a boat turns DOWNWIND. A properly designed hull/skeg system will weathercock slightly with the skeg up, be neutral with the skeg partially lowered and leecock with the skeg fully down. That gives the paddler complete control over the attitude of the boat.

cable skegs do too
I love the sound. a warm, cozy purrrrrrrrrrrr as you fly down the wave, wind at your back!


That may explain
that video that circulated of the Orca enthusiastically trying to mount a kayak.

yes, weathercock.
yes, i meant to say weathercock and not leecock. thanks