# weathercocking and skeg musings

So as I understand it, weathercocking (turning into the wind) occurs because when you are underway the bow is pushing water out of the way creating high pressure areas on either side of the bow (and I guess on all of the boat up to it’s widest point) whereas the opposite is happening at the stern, hence the bow becomes a pivot point. It stands to reason, I think, that this effect becomes progressively greater as velocity increases. I wonder if there is a point at which you are able to make more headway by using a slower cadence, or if a graph plotting stroke rate vs velocity made good would be non-linear (i.e., diminishing returns). The idea being that the faster you try to paddle, the more your stroke has to incorporate corrective elements to counteract the increasing effect of weathercocking.

And what happens when you put a skeg into the mix. I would think that a skeg (which my autocorrect keeps trying to change to keg) doesn’t have much of a low and high pressure area as it is nearly 2-dimensional. But does a skeg become more effective with increasing speed because there are more molecules of water passing over it per unit time? Maybe that makes no hydrodynamic sense at all. Just curious. I suppose I could test some of this on my next outing if there is sufficient wind.

I think the main thing with the skeg is that its action comes into play primarily IF the boat veers off its heading, and in the situation you describe, that means the stern is skidding sideways. When the skeg finds itself going a little sideways, that definitely creates a force in opposition to that form of “misbehavior” by the boat.

Actually, the skeg does not self-correct the path of the boat. What it does in increase the side surface area of the stern of the boat, which balances the pressure of the wind at the bow, so the boat tracks straight. Because the skeg is in water rather than air, it doesn’t need to be very large.

IMHO weathercocking is the result of the gravity attempting to get the boat in a lower more stable position. The boat being held by the crest of 2 waves is not stable and gravity is pulling both sides down the face to the trough. The bow of the boat tends to be held in the bow wake, but the stern can easily slide. The skeg helps resist that slide.

@Mousehunter

Here’s a good article on the topic by Bryan Hansel: http://www.paddlinglight.com/articles/kayak-weathercocking-vs-tracking/

In the end, you do whatever works to hold your course–add skeg, edge the boat, shift the paddle and I’ve even encountered conditions where paddling on one side of the boat only is what keeps you on course–usually very large waves and lots of wind.

Dave, I am using a computer and the word “skeg” does get a squiggly red line, so I right clicked and then clicked on “add to dictionary”. Now skeg is a good word. If you’re using your phone, or tablet, I guess I’m not sure how you access the menu. I’m going to check that out.

Ah yes, very good. I just added it to my dictionary as well. Thanks magooch! (OK, just did it with “magooch also”).

@magooch said:
In the end, you do whatever works to hold your course–add skeg, edge the boat, shift the paddle and I’ve even encountered conditions where paddling on one side of the boat only is what keeps you on course–usually very large waves and lots of wind.

Dave, I am using a computer and the word “skeg” does get a squiggly red line, so I right clicked and then clicked on “add to dictionary”. Now skeg is a good word. If you’re using your phone, or tablet, I guess I’m not sure how you access the menu. I’m going to check that out.

I once had a Tempest 170 that didn’t have to be moving forward at all for the skeg to work. Just drifting on a breezy day the bow would point into the wind. I’d drop the skeg and the bow pointed downwind. Pretty cool.

My simple mind just thinks of what’s “locked in” or fixed. Paddling forward the bow is locked in to the water and the stern isn’t. The stern gets blown more by the wind. When I drop the skeg the stern is locked in, too. It’s as locked in or fixed as I want it to be.

That’s exactly what’s happening under those conditions and it’s what I was trying to explain above.

While this works for weathercocking, which caused by wind, it gets more complicated when waves and currents are involved. This is a common point of confusion. Kayak naturally tend to breach (turn sideways) in waves. That has nothing to do with weathercocking or lee cocking. A skeg can be of value to help correct this at times, but as often as not, it either doesn’t help or it makes the problem worse. It all depends on the relationship between the wind and the waves (are then coming from the same direction, which is the stronger force on the boat, etc.) and the course you’re trying to paddle (parallel, perpendicular or at an angle to the wind and waves.

There is also a common misconception about “tracking” and weather helm. They are separate issues. “Tracking” is the boat’s relative resistance to turning efforts of the paddler, whereas weather helm is caused by wind, as we discussed above. Some boats track strongly, others are highly maneuverable, but most are in-between. However, it’s entirely possible to have strong tracking boats that either weathercocks or lee cocks badly and I’ve owned examples of both. This makes the boat really difficult to bring back into line in the wind, sometimes dangerously so. It’s definitely not fun, which is one of the reasons that I prefer more maneuverable boats. The worst-case scenario is a strong tracking boat that tends to lee cock and I had a Nordkapp HM that did that. Under some conditions, it was a very difficult boat to control.

A skeg affects both tracking and weatherhelm, making the boat harder to turn (stronger tracking), but reducing weathercocking at the same time.