Value of a skeg

In another thread the advantages/dis-advantages of a skeg were being discussed with reference to the Pintail and Anas.

My wife and I had to go test a couple prototypes in dicey conditions. Fully loaded with winter overnight gear, 24 fresh oysters in shell, a bottle of red, etc. espressso machine… you get the pic? It was our Solstice Celebration Expedition.

Wind gusted to 30+ knots on the way over, in our faces…loose boat (maneuverable)…no skeg. Great fun. Nice camp, big fire…bed @ 1945, that’d be 24 minutes after actual solstice.

The next morn we had planned on cruisin’ up the island and then heading over to the other side of the bay. The wind built to about 25kn and seas were in the 2-2.5’ range. As we turned to run with the wind we only got 20 minutes in and boooom she swung over to stern quartering and built to 25/gust 30. Lee shore on one side soooo… no choice as to course, we had to paddle with the dead quarter wind. they be closer to 3’ now. absoultly do-able in both boats we were in w/o any skeg. we did it for a few minutes here and there, as a test but holy poop batman WHY?

skegs rock.

to make a great ending of the trip we used 1/2 skeg and weathercocked back out into the mid bay for a downwinder home. These boats like to surf…:slight_smile: wished we had left our car in Westport.


Agree Steve…
I typically don’t use my skeg on my Millenium, but under certain conditions, just as you describe, the skeg is great. Just a minor adjustment makes a difference.


Some here will say that a skeg is just compensating for a poorly designed kayak.

What I have found is that a skeg will allow the designer to design a boat that has a greater range of handling characteristics thus making it a much nicer boat to paddle.

poorly designed…right.


I can design a boat that doesn’t need a skeg. totally balances in a certain range of conditions. blow a hair more and off to Japan I blow. glad I like sushi.

a retracto skeg lets me paddle a loose (fun) easy to turn boat AND adjust to conditions.

plain and simple.

btw- I have witnessed top notch, world class paddlers struggle w/o skeg in top notch, world class boats. wrong conditions and it was only 20 knots.


Following Seas…
I have an Aquanaut and like my skeg a lot for following seas. Don’t have to have it, but really helps the boat to track while surfing downwind. Reduces tendancy to broach and allows you to focus on building the speed to catch waves rather than on staying straight.



– Last Updated: Dec-24-06 7:26 AM EST –

I use my skeg on my Necky Chatham 16 in the same situation, for the same reason. It frees me up to paddle like the dickens to catch the wave and lets me worry a little less abour broaching. And in a quartering wind, it just takes so much less effort expended to keep the boat on track. Would not buy another boat if it didn't have a skeg. It would be a deal breaker.

They’re great
I paddled my CD Caribou skegless for 8 years before I retrofitted one on the boat. It’s a good skills lesson to paddle in conditions with no skeg (Especially 8 years of lessons).

I used to ballast the boat with gear and extra water to compensate for conditions if I could, and lots of times, just had to deal with it if the winds came up unexpectedly. One of my favorite techniques was tacking — allow the boat to weathercock, and then turn & surf downwind, and repeat as necessary until you reach your destination.

But you know, I find myself using the skeg quite a bit now, even though I know I can manage without it. Sometimes just going straight is a good thing. It’s also handy for preventing broaches when playing in tidal races. I’m glad I installed it.


Preachin’ to the Choir?
soundz like that’s what I’m doing! it is refreshing to hear proponents of a tool instead of the dreaded “My boat is soooo well designed and/or I’m such a great/gnarly paddler that I don’t need no freakin’ skeg!”

I make sure that the boats we build CAN be paddled and make it home w/o a skeg but…

skegs rock.

Happy Holidaze ALL!!!


Then “Man Law, skeg it is”.

Sometimes going straight is a good thing

– Last Updated: Dec-24-06 10:39 AM EST –

Wayne, I read your skeg installation review a few months ago to some amusement. As I'm sure you're aware this board and usenet have had quite a few skegless Caribou defense posts over the years, many authored by...guess who. I've probably found most all of them while carrying on my own battle with trying to go straight in my Caribou-S on the usually-breezy Hudson much of the time over the past few years. It can be done, but, as you've found, why bother if there's an easier way. I'm glad you've been willing to write about it.

This last season I had the skeg dropped pretty much the whole time I was out there, and came back with a much bigger smile on my face because of it.


I really like the Caribou. Paddled it alot when it first came out. Thought “This boat NEEDS a skeg” CD adds skeg. go figure.

velly frustrating w/o in certain beam/following conditions no matter how ‘great’ of a paddler you R.


Choir says . . .
There should be an easy listening song “a touch of skeg”, because when that bad boy is stuck, the music can go sideways on you . . .

BTW . . I hear Santa has a skeg . . . he don’t need no freakin’ rudder . . .

I find it easier
to take pictures when my skeg is down. It’s hard enough trying to focus on the subject (usually skittery wildlife), not make noise, move as close as I can without scaring the subject, and stow the paddle without having to adjust for the boat drifting around.

Design Questions
Thanks for opening this topic as it leads to some questions I have had. I used to think how much a boat weathercocked was a function of how much boat there was to catch the wind and a low windage boat would not. A few paddles in the Anas Acuta suggests that is not the case as it strongly weathercocks in light wind for me, but it is easy to paddle in high wind. It seems to me a good design criteria would be to make a boat that will weathercock worst in light wind when it is easy to correct wand will get more neutral as the wind goes up, but never get to the point of leecocking without the skeg deployed and never get to the point of getting pinned in the wind so it is hard to turn to and maintain a desired course. Is that about right for designing a solid sea kayak? My impression is these traits would be important for kayaks designed for long trips under difficult conditions, but also good for day boats too. At least the behavior of both the AA and Force 4 when it blows hard suggests that to me.

Hydrodynamics, right?
If a boat moving faster through the water builds up a higher pressure area at the bow and lower pressure at the stern than a boat moving slower, then it is physically impossible to design a boat to be neutral at all speeds in all conditions without something adjustable.

But not all of us are monster paddlers and may want to balance out the boat at different speeds than you may paddle. Maybe leads to slight differences in design.

I dunno
The Mariners have a lively feel and no need for a retractable skeg. There is a protruding integral rudder that makes the boat track well in wind and turns like a champ when leaned making the boat both playful and on a rail. It is just enough of a skeg to do the job. It seems as though the designers of those boats felt a drop skeg is a compromise of major proportions. Another moving part to fail. Still a skeg is a skeg so I guess skegs rule. Pull the string if you must but you don’t have too if you don’t want to.


Ah yes
With age and experience came wisdom (Finally). The great part about a retractable skeg is that you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. And I do try to be as conservative as I can with it.

What made me finally do it was buying a BBK Recluse 3 years ago. It doesn’t need a skeg in any conditions I’d be paddling it in voluntarily (I’d take the 'Bou in the big stuff over most boats including the Recluse). And after 2 seasons of paddling both boats, I realized just how much effort I had been putting into making the Caribou go straight in following seas or quartering winds. I honestly did not realize it until I had a boat that would go straight almost all the time.

Ballasting the boat does work very well, but you lose a little surfing ability. The skeg is a much better compromise, IMO.


skeg or no skeg
I just plain want to have your job…

notice the word
’had’ to go test proto-types. HAD as in, my workweek extends into ALL hours of the day/night. bummer. :wink: the boss asks for results and I gotta say “how soon?” well OK, “Cindy, we gotta go paddlin’ again!”

It is a pretty sweet gig, tho it does entail alot of actual work. 20 years of owning a shop, teaching and guiding folks and basically being a serious paddler was the dues. it didn’t come easy.


try reverse
Matt and I have gome on and on about design. Paddlewise…yuck. been there/ done that.

a word of advice: Mariners are balanced, in fwd, up to about 20-25 knots. above there you will be very hard pressed to turn upwind. you like sushi? and you’re right ‘on edge’ they will turn. Flat they track REAL good and don’t. try surfing a large swell or gnarly clapotis and ‘have to’ edge to turn. no thanks.

steve (Mariner flame shield up)