skegs and speed, especially for QCC400

Considering buying a QCC400 for my wife. She has previously paddled boats that had both skegs and rudders but never used them. She rarely paddles in big seas or winds and has never felt the need. Two questions: 1) Is there in general a significant penalty in speed of having a skeg box present when the skeg isnt’ deployed? 2) Can anyone who paddles a QCC400 comment on handling without rudder or skeg? How often do you use it if you have it? From reviews I get the impression that it’s a boat for which there is less need than for some others. True?

QCC400/Caspian Sea/ Controllability
Here is some “controllability” advice on this subject directly from the designer of the QCC400, John Winters. Click on the link:

The QCC400 is supposed to be a wonderful boat. Before QCC started manufacturing it, I believe it was a kit boat with a different name, Caspian Sea maybe? Here is a link of a beautiful example:

This is the kind of sea kayak that should be on the short list for people looking for the benefits of a smaller sea kayak. It is the real deal as opposed to so many of the cheap plastic barges.

I got one without rudder/skeg
For a light person challenged with controlling a big kayak in 10mph+ I could see it being desirable. I’d get a rudder for long distance mindless paddling. It’s got a long waterline. For simple, get in and go, paddling in benign conditions there’s nothing about the design that requires a skeg or rudder.

When the skeg is retracted into the
skeg box, there should be only a very small penalty in drag, compared to no skeg and box at all.

The QCC 400
really is not a small person’s boat. I have paddled one briefly on a slightly choppy day and at 68" and 180 lbs, I felt like I was swimming in the boat.Did not have much trouble staying on course and it was a very nicely finished boat.

Small Person - Yes & It depends

– Last Updated: Jun-07-08 12:50 PM EST –

The QCC400 has a design displacment between 160 - 240 lbs. This means a 40 lb version is suitable for paddlers weighing between 120 - 200 lbs.

Most sea kayaks, even shorter ones, have a higher design displacement. Most manufacturers don't want you to know this number and will just as likely sell the same kayak to a 110 lb female boat as a 240 lb male.

So as far as hydrodynamic efiiciency, I would say the QCC400/Caspian Sea is definitely a small persons boat compared to the vast majority of alternatives.

As far as fit, that is a different matter altogether and more an issue of personal preference. It seems Tsunamichuck prefers a tighter fit where he isn't "swimming around" inside a kayak. Many paddlers will fit their boat with strategically placed minicell foam if they are looking for a snug fit.

The more casual paddler and the more performance oriented paddler tend to prefer a looser fit, but for different reasons. The casual paddler likes to be able to stretch, change positions, and just breathe a little more down below. The Performance stroke paddler prefers to not have any restrictions to torso rotation. Many will also pump their legs to gain more roating power out of their stroke.

There is also the matter of having more cargo capacity if that is a feature important to you.

A little more internal volume in a kayak has some hydrodynamic advantages in rougher water. Since I am more concerned with hydrdynamics than fit issues, I prefer to call this "reserve bouyancy" rather than "high/med/low volume" like the fit afficianndos. In bigger seas the reserve bouyancy makes for a dryer ride, less chance of pearling, and a more nimble feel as the boat rides over waves rather than through them. Having a deck awash by a wave anytime only has negative consequences. To me and most others who frequent rougher water, the benfits of reserve bouyancy outweighs the the negative effects of a little extra windage that close to the water's surface.

So it is my opinion, and yours may very well be different, that a kayak with more reserve bouyancy is more versatile. It CAN be made to fit more snuggly with a little outfitting. Conversely, you cant make a so called "low volume" kayak have more reserve bouyancy or have a looser fit if your paddling goals changed over time.

Well said

No skeg or rudder on my Caspian Sea
No thigh braces or extra padding either. It’s a 1997 era fiberglass boat built by QCC.

I’m 5’6" and 155 lbs fully dressed. The front deck feels very high to me. I can sit on a 4" thick square boat cusion and still have to move my knees up for good contact with the underside of the deck to lean or edge. This added seat height makes it more comfortable for using a bent shaft single blade canoe paddle.

The rear deck is very high and doesn’t allow much of a lay back - the back of the seat is too close to the rear edge of the coaming to lean back much when it’s that high.

I don’t think it handles on the water like a short boat. My 17’2" composite Aquaterra Sea Lion is much easier to maneuver (without using the rudder).

The Caspian Sea cockpit doesn’t feel to me like a small boat. The unmodded Sea Lion cockpit has a smaller and more intimate feel than unmodded Caspian Sea cockpit.

The Caspian Sea does feel much more like a small boat when handling it out of the water than the Sea Lion does - that extra 2’8" makes a big difference on the car top and in the garage.

I haven’t paddled the Caspian Sea in any type of conditions other than a bit of wind, which it handles very well.

My perception is that the Caspian Sea / 400X probably doesn’t “need” a skeg or a rudder. My impression is that a rudder would be more appreciated on this hard tracking boat than a skeg would. But, like I said above, I’ve never paddled one with either a skeg or rudder.

Good luck with whatever boat you choose.

You might be surprised…
at the speed easily attained with the little QCC.

I’ve got a 400X that I use when I want to haul photography equipment that doesn’t fit well in my Night Heron. The QCC makes for a very stable platform and the large cockpit allows me access to the camera in its drybox.

My boat has the skeg which I seldom use as the 400 tracks very well, even with a less than proper paddle stroke. I cannot image you would ever notice the small performance differential of a retracted skeg 400 vs. a clean hull 400.

I’m 6’-2" and a skinny 170#. I removed the factory seat and installed a backband - Bomber Gear, I believe - and it works very well. Installation is not overly difficult. Since I was after the most stability and I’m tall, I padded the seat pan with a piece of fitted 1/4" minicell, complete with the drain hole. Love the set up.

I’m not a fan of footpegs so removed the Sealline units and padded out the bulkhead with minicell at a comfortable angle. To me this also increases stability and control when the waters get rougher. Most comfortable as well and very easy to do.

I also had to pad out the thigh braces and hip supports since I’m built like a scarecrow. Didn’t go as tight as my Night Heron, just enough to allow light contact while leaving plenty of room to move around when shooting.

The 400 is really quite fast for its length yet still fairly nimble which were the attributes that caused me to select it for my photo-boat.

I’m in Wyoming where wind is the rule, my paddling weight is 185#, my kit adds another 20-30#. Lighter paddlers might want to experiment with ballast if they’re packing little or no gear as the 400 is a fairly high volume boat. I have to really load the little kayak hard before I begin to notice much of a speed handicap - always amazes me!

It’s easy to work seat heights with homemade minicell cushions. Glue 'em up once you achieve the fit/stability level you’re after.

The QCC 400 series is one of the finest all around designs for a variety of paddlers, in my opinion.

Good luck to you!


Actually I prefer a boat
that I do not have to raise my seat 3 inches to allow my hands to clear the deck. Hull design only plays a part in the equation but so does the deck design. That changes the equation and can make a very stable boat very tippy. Seems taller folks really like the boat and shorter folks have some issues as evidenced by the post below. I should have posted “shorter” rather than “smaller”

Agreed. N/P

envybull has his

– Last Updated: Jun-23-08 6:35 PM EST –

numbers right. Design displacement was one of the factors we considered before Rebecca (5 ft 7in, 145 lbs) purchased a fiberglass 400x with rudder.

Never having been a fan of the Seal Line Smart Track rudder system that to this old farm boy's eyes has way too many moving parts, we were able to order Rebecca's 400x and my 700x with the latest version of the Feathercraft rudder - a proven, easily field repairable design.

For the 5 per cent of the time we might deploy a rudder, at age 60 years plus, Rebecca and I are happy to paddle a boat with that option, especially on the long day in conditions.

Rebecca does not like a snug fitting boat and has had no trouble paddling the 400x on large Adironfack lakes and on the St. Lawrence river with a stock cockpit and stock thigh braces.

Yanked out the stock seat. Easily installed an NRS backband. However, Rebecca has great hamstring muscle flexibility and has ended up paddling wihout any back support.

Velcroed a minimally inflated Seal Line kayak cushion to seat pan.

This boat, like other John Winter's designs, is fast and paddles well in confused water. If I didn't weigh too much at almost 210 lbs, and didn't like to haul a bunch of camping gear, I might have purchased a 400x for myself; and alas my butt is too big for the 600x.

The 400x is a good all around kayak that would meet alot of paddlers' needs.

QCC build quality, buying experience and price were great!

Very useful comments - thanks to all.

Feathercraft vs SmartTrack
Mike T,

I agree with you about rudder selection. I paddled both the Feathercraft and the SmarTrack on my QCC700. I preferred the Feathercraft. It is much simpler, stronger and has significantly less operating friction. The blade was also much more stabile in ts housing, unlike the SmartTrack which had some side-to-side play. The Feathercraft’s housing also doesn’t drag in the water like it can do with the SmartTrack, depending on kayak. I had to get the optional riser bracket to mount the SmarTrack higher to partially eliminate housing drag. An observer noted that I still would get a small rooster tail as the water shot off the housing. I also felt the SmartTrack’s blade was too small. I ended up buying their Tandem Blade in order to get the rudder response I preferred. Then I had comfort issues with the foot pads. Their brace pad was located hard in the arch of my foot and steering was literall by wiggling the toes. That was not working for me. SmartTrack was nice enough to send me free foot pad adjustment plates. I lowerd the foot controls on the lowest setting so I could brace off my heels and operate the pedals more like a gas pedal. Anyway, I was chasing one problem after another, only adding weight and more operational friction to make the system work for me. I only used it 4 or 5 times before moving into a surfski, ao I can’t speak about reliability, bu the ol’ yankee in me was skeptical of all the small plastic moving parts.

Too much volume

– Last Updated: Jun-09-08 12:10 PM EST –

If your wife is on the small side, the Q400X is probably going to have too much volume. For someone on the light side, this means that there will be more windage.

Q400X: rear deck height: 12 inches, fore deck height: 14.5 inches.

Q700X: rear deck height: 10 inches, fore deck height: 12.5 inches.

Even with Envyabull's smart comments, the Q700X, which probably would be the choice of "performance" paddlers, has a much lower deck than the Q400.


"The casual paddler likes to be able to stretch, change positions, and just breathe a little more down below."

I think that most "casual paddlers" prefer a larger cockpit because it is unfamiliar. You don't need a "huge" cockpit to move around.

"There is also the matter of having more cargo capacity if that is a feature important to you."

It used to be common for people to buy "expedition boats" that had lots of volume for expeditions these people never went on.

Many people who have "more cargo capacity" never use it. It might make more sense to pack less crap when you need "cargo" than having that extra volume.


Unless she's a racer, I suspect that there is no measurable extra drag from a retracted skeg.

The skeg might be helpful to counteract windage.

why a 400? why not a 600?

Or also
Q10 and Q300, depending on her size, experience level.

QCC 600 a good idea
Good thought. My thinking on the QCC 400 was that because she is only an occasional paddler, a boat in the range of 14-15 feet might be best suited to her for paddling efficiency. I have been persuaded by the very useful posts of Salty and others that smaller boats are generally a better choice for paddlers like her who are most comfortable in the 3 knot range rather than 17-18 foot boats. She is not especially small - 5’7" and perhaps 160, so I don’t think she’s necessarily too small for the QCC400. But the QCC600 sounds like a good idea now that I look at the dimensions of that and the 400. The QCC400 is a lot wider at 24" compared to 21", so the wetted surface of the QCC600 probably isn’t much greater than the 400 and may be just as well suited to her paddling engine. She’s paddled my Impex Force 4 without feeling unstable, so I don’t think the narrower beam of the QCC600 would bother her. Thanks for the thought.

Maybe the Q10X if not carrying gear
and can manage the slightly smaller cockpit opening.

my wife is only 5’4" and loves paddeling her QCC-700. The length of the boat has more to do with how you plan on using it, it doesnt have much to do with the length of the paddler!!! and all the QCC cockpits are the same size ,unfortunately as i would love one that about 2 or 3 inches LONGER on my 700.