I have a few questions about skegs.

I know that it will vary from boat to boat, but in general, how effective are skegs are helping boats to track in the wind? My boat has a rudder which I only use for assistance in tracking in the wind and in confused waters. I can paddle without it in the wind…but why? I don’t like to constantly have to fight the wind when I can paddle hard straight ahead and not worry about it. I believe this makes you faster and more efficient in the long run.

How does a skeg do at accomplishing the same task? Will it allow a boat to track perpendicular to strong winds without having to apply constant corrective strokes and leaning?

I ask because I have only really paddled one skegged boat for any period of time in windy conditions—a Necky Chatham 16. Although this is a very good tracking boat, I found that it tended to weather cock. After deploying the skeg, I found that it did not help much—I still would not track in the direction I wanted to although now the skeg made it harder to maneuver back on course----so I found myslef just paddling without it (and applying the appropriate corrective strokes and boat lean etc.) In short, I was not happy with how the skeg “assisted” with that particular boat. Is this just a poorly designed boat/skeg combination? Is it that I did not “trim” the skeg (I just put it all the way down)? Does trimming the skeg make a big difference?

Please excuse my basic questions but I was very disappointed and surprised with how the skeg on this boat really did not seem to do much to help. With so many serious paddlers favoring skegs, I was a bit puzzled.

Again, I do possess the necessary skills to overcome the wind, but I am not a believer in battling the wind if you don’t have to. I would reather expend my energy going faster, rather than battling to stay on course.

thanks for your help


Yes, you need to "trim"
The first time I used a skeg to help with weathercocking I dropped it all the way down. Then I leecocked, and pretty dramatically.

I have since found that it makes a tremendous difference to tweak how much skeg you use until it does what you want it to do.

I very rarely use mine all the way down.

Yes you do need to trim the skeg

– Last Updated: Feb-05-05 8:53 PM EST –

On a well designed boat a fully deployed skeg should be able to make the boat leecock unless very heavily loaded.

Most skeg boats are not as designed to be skeg dependant as ruddered boats are designed to be rudder dependant.

Assuming the wind is coming fron 12 oclock the most weathercocking will take place around headings of 1 or 11 or so. Heading to 3 there is actually very little weathercocking.

My explorer rarely needs the skeg, I use it much more often in my seaward (Foster) shadow, which carries a lot more volume, especialy above the waterline.

You didn’t specify
which direction it wanted to go when you put the skeg down. Can’t answer your question without that bit of info.


I don’t necessarily use the skeg
on my avocet, but when I do I tend to put it about half way down, or maybe a little less. I had to experiment at first.

Matt, it sounds like you are getting to test paddle some nice boats!

What did you think of the ascente?


I really did not like the Acente. The fit was poor for me, I could not get the rudder to work for me, and found the boat very hard to turn.

I am now debating between a glass Dagger Meridian with skeg (16 foot) and a Necky Tahsis with rudder (18 feet). I am trying to get some more info about skegs before I commit to one. Obviously there will be some other factors to consider between the 2 boats given their 2 foot difference in length.


My take on the subject
Please don’t take offense, but in my experience a skegged boat used correctly is no harder to paddle across the wind than a ruddered boat. I find that a rudder is often used as a sort of crutch in lieu of effective technique. Now, I’m not saying that rudders don’t have their place, or that anyone who uses a ruddered boat is a novice. However, I would tend to think that if you had trouble with the skegged boat, it was only because you’re not used to controlling a skegged boat. I think you’ll find that good technique in a skegged boat can become much easier, and much more effective than relying on a rudder. That is to say, once you get used to it, it is no more a hassle than correcting course with a rudder.

Skeg Use

– Last Updated: Feb-06-05 6:06 AM EST –

Skeg up - boat weathercocks.

Skeg midway - boat is neutral.

Skeg down - boat leecocks.

You do have to tweak it some as the wind speed changes and your direction changes. If I was a boat designer, I'd try to come up with a skeg control that was foot operated.

To answer your questions... a skeg works just fine for tracking in the wind and trimming makes a big difference. I HAVE found that when it's rocking and rolling, I would have preferred to have a foot control rather than take a hand off the paddle.

Not trimming…
From what everyone seems to be saying here, it sounds like not trimming the skeg was probably what my major problem was. I was just slamming it all the way down assuming that all the way down would be most effective. I believe that I was lee cocking when doing this because I seem to remember that dropping the skeg was causing me to change directions----but still not in the direction I wanted to go.

That being said, let me ask some questions about trimming…

When trimming the skeg, so you basically just sit stationary in the water and slowly drop the skeg until you achieve the proper drag in the water that will cause you to be facing the direction you want to go? Does sitting stationary vs. moving make a difference in terms of which direction you will face?

Will a properly trimmed skeg also be effective in correcting for confused seas?

Does it require a lot of tweaking or is it pretty quick to get the skeg where it needs to go and then take off? Does it require a lot of continued refinement on the water or is it pretty much good to go once properly set?

thanks for all the help


You need to be moving,
can’t tell anything by how the boat is behaving sitting still. This is my favorite web page on this subject:

You will find that adjusting the skeg often is not much fun. fortunately, you don’t have to. You set it so your paddling is reasonably balanced on both sides and just adjust your paddling strokes for minor corrections.


I find little use for my skeg
on the sirius, for that matter, I had little use for it on the capella I used also. I have certainly never had it more than midway down. I learned a new love for the sport when I switched froma rudder in my first two years and purchased a boat with a skeg. Many boats outfitted with skegs, you’ll find it will take a heavy state to ‘draw’ use out of them. Just my opinion anyway :slight_smile: Its nice to paddle without either. :slight_smile:

skeg vs rudder
Ah…the old skeg and rudder debate rears its head again. The other posters favoring skegs sum it up for me too but I’ll add this. Rudders flat out work but they make transporting and handling kayaks harder. I’ve seen many a kayak scratched when nesting on racks (on or off cars) with ruddered boats. There is all this sharp stuff to deal with on deck. And I’ve been out paddling with many others whose rudders have problems since they neglected to maintain them. Plus most ruddered boats don’t have lockouts (yet) for the footbraces and that drives me nuts since I give a little push off the footbrace with each stroke. I’ve had four kayaks with skegs and each reacted differently with the skeg deployed and everyone is right…you gotta trim them for the conditions. But that’s really simple and easy and produces less drag than a rudder. My opinion is that more manufacturers don’t use skegs since putting in a leak proof skeg box is no simple manner. For you guys looking at shorter boats like the Dagger Blackwater 12 with those cheesy skegs they do work but not as good as ones dropped from a skeg box. I am not one to roll my eyes and say rudders are for those who are unwilling to learn to paddle right. I say if a tool works use the damn thing to death but skegs are better in most conditions and especially handling the kayak!

link to tracking site
Hey thanks for this link, it’s great!

Skeg Use

– Last Updated: Feb-06-05 4:49 PM EST –

"When trimming the skeg, so you basically just sit stationary in the water and slowly drop the skeg until you achieve the proper drag in the water that will cause you to be facing the direction you want to go? Does sitting stationary vs. moving make a difference in terms of which direction you will face?"

What I do in a crosswind is drop it about halfway. If I'm weathercocking some, I tweak it down. If I'm leecocking some, I tweak it up a little. You do NOT have to stop and sit in the wind to set your skeg.

"Will a properly trimmed skeg also be effective in correcting for confused seas?"

Yes... however, if you are a light load in a high volume boat it can be hell trying to keep a straight line on a very windy day. I found out the hard way. Don't paddle more boat than you need... if you do, add some ballast.

"Does it require a lot of tweaking or is it pretty quick to get the skeg where it needs to go and then take off? Does it require a lot of continued refinement on the water or is it pretty much good to go once properly set?"

Doesn't require a lot of adjusting. Mostly when you or the wind changes direction. Sometimes when the wind changes speed.


– Last Updated: Feb-06-05 3:08 PM EST –

Your may be experiencing three different things

1. The longer the boat, with more rocker and with more voume, the more windage. A boat has to be designed to be turnable in heavy wind. Thus your skills may require you to be dependent on either and you actually may be unknowingly leaning your boat making for diffulty in tracking, etc, paddling more on one side, etc.

2. The more skills you have in edging and trimming your boat the less dependent you are on either skeg or rudder. Unless I am in a boat with allot of windage or on a long crossing I seldom use a skeg. If you want a boat of bigger volume, and not use skills as much or not want to, either will work as long as boat is well designed.

3. All said, though there is no accounting for individual preferences. Thus the debate of rudder skeg or nothing.

Because I like boats that track pretty well by themselves, i.e., have less rocker, low volume and low windage, I find a skeg is usefull for the big open stuff when loaded, but can't justify the extra drag, extra windage, extra damage to me and others in a capsize, and extra weight. Just my take on things though.

think of a flag
the issue of skegs, and of rudders, is that the technology may be applied without understanding the forces at work. And that could lead to mis-application.

Think of a real weathervane- it has a pivot point not balance to the windage, so it always point into the wind.

A boat at rest is fairly balanced and will lie to at 90deg to the wind (more likely slightly downwind, due to hull design). When the kayak is making way, the pivot point moves forward. The higher the speed, the more forward (one reason why boats more readily broach when surfing, very high speed, pivot point nearly at the bow). This may be why some claim their boats don’t have a weatherhelm, at low speeds the response is low.

Now, apply the skeg; all the way down, and with lower speeds, it may well fall off the wind, as the pivot poing moves astern. One oddity of a rudder is that, when at low speeds and with wind abeam, it can be very diffucult to turn upwind. In this case the rudder acts as a flagpole, the kayak the flag, and unless the paddler retracts the rudder or picks up a lot of speed, the kayak blows off the wind. With a skeg, trimming it will move the pivot point towards the bow (more up), or astern (more down).

But a weakness of skegs is when the wind is just off the bow. The kayak will want to turn into the wind, but putting a skeg down may not help- it may adjust the pivot point so that the kayak will blow off the wind. This will be more apparent at higher kayak and wind speeds; at low wind and kayak speed, the skeg may be useful in this situation. But a skeg all the way down with wind off the bow will not only have a lee helm, but will also be very hard to bring back to the desired heading.

ps, it is not the boat- I have the opportunity to try lots of boats in conditions, and one of the reasons I have a C-16 in my stable is because of it’s excellent behavior in wind.


Great question, and great answers!
… Hey, this was a great question, and some really great answers. I am looking at my next kayak to have a skeg, and I didn’t realize there was this much to a skeg. I thought you just put it down some, and paddled on.

… I really learned a lot from this post, and I even more look forward to spring, so I can have a better understanding of the kayak I am waiting to test paddle.

… Thanks to all who posted on this question!

Happy Paddling!

How the skeg works.
A boat will weathercock because the stern gets blown down wind. The reason this happens is that the bow wave is creating a high pressure area near the bow that resists the bow turning either into or away from the wind. The bow wave “V’s” out from the stern and that is a low pressure area. Therefore the stern is “looser” and will blow down wind.

By adding some skeg, you can balance these forces. Too much skeg and the bow will actually be looser than the stern and you will leecock.

I adjust my skeg incrementally by small amounts, until the boat just stops weathercocking. The only time it is fully extended is in steep following seas. Otherwise, it usually will be anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 down, depending on wind speed and direction.

You can also turn the boat with the skeg down, but you will need to aggressively lean or edge the boat.

What is weathercocking and leecocking?
“Skeg up - boat weathercocks.

Skeg midway - boat is neutral.

Skeg down - boat leecocks.”

This seems sensible enough. Problem is that I don’t have a good grasp on the terminology.

Waterdoc says:

“A boat will weathercock because the stern gets blown down wind.”

Hmm… This seem strange to me. If I’m paddling into a wind coming from 10:00, it blows my bow to my right and I have to compensate.

To me, the whole concept seems simplistic. If the skeg is in, the boat goes straighter. If the wind is blowing the bow, it will have an effect on the direction of the boat which will have to be corrected by the paddler, but the effect is reduced by the skeg.

So where am I misunderstanding this?

weathercock- the boat ‘cocks’ towards weather (wind)

Leecock- the boat ‘cocks’ toward leeward

Waterdoc did a good job of explaining why.

in yur example of the wind coming @ 1000 yes the bow will blow off (lee cock) a bit if it’s strong enough. But at 0900 or 0800 the stern will go downwind more than the bow and the bow will end up cocking towards the wind. Unless the wind is very strong, or you’re in a Mariner. :wink:

depending on the design of the vessel this scenerio could play out differently.


Wilderness Systems boat designer