The history of rudders & skegs has several stages. In the 1980's, many designers of hardshell kayaks tried to persuade us that their designs were perfect, and needed neither skegs nor rudders--any handling problems that you encountered with their boats was YOUR FAULT. Rudders were, especially, an abomination in their eyes--always breaking, jamming, interfering with rescues, etc., and preventing people from learning how to paddle. The great embarrassment to these designers was the paddling career of Kiwi sea kayaker Paul Caffyn, who circled New Zealand's forbidding shoreline and tempestuous waters in a skeg-equipped Nordkapp, and then put a rudder on it and circled Australia. He said he never could have completed the trip without the rudder. More rudders began to appear on boats.
The designers then discovered retractable skegs. Here was the answer with which to trump the hated, loathesome rudder. Lots and lots of boats began being made with retractable skegs, and still are. They're great, but a lot of paddlers have found their skegs jamming in their housings, clogged by sand and gravel, or their cables wearing and fraying and breaking. I remember one trip where 3 out of the 6 or 7 paddlers with me jammed their skegs one way or another, and had to hit the beach or otherwise get somebody to help deploy the skeg.
Meanwhile, rudders have also continued to appear on boats, and, as far as my experience goes over 24 years of paddling a ruddered boat and with other ruddered boats, I have only very rarely witnessed a rudder jamming, or failing to deploy--maybe twice? But since in many quarters rudders are still regarded with disdain and loathing, when people ask me if I have a rudder on my boat, I say Oh No; I have a stern-mounted, foot-controlled, variable-azimuth, retractable skeg, and it works just great! Never jams; never fails to deploy.
On a more serious note--Every kayak I've owned or own has been retrofitted by me with both a non-retractable, permanent skeg, usually of solid oak, AND a good rudder. The skegs are just big enough to ensure that the boat will glide in a straight line; the rudder I deploy only during difficult quartering winds and for twisting salt-marsh creeks, overall maybe 10% of my time on the water. My rudders are all controlled by toe pedals mounted to rigid, immovable footrests, or by homemade T-bars that I pivot with my toes while my heels remain anchored firmly againt the base of the T-bar assembly. The effectiveness of this configuration was recently demonstrated (again) when, during a difficult 4-nautical-mile passage into and beam-to measured 20-knot winds and horizon-high chop, I easily maintained my course, while my skilled, experienced companion found himself repeatedly struggling to maintain his position in his rudderless but skeg-equipped craft.
Rudders are or can be, in my opinion, a useful item on many sea kayaks--the key is to rely on them ONLY intermittantly, as essentially variable-attitude skegs to ease long crossings with strong quartering winds, or for negotiating twisty, narrow channels and creeks. Their critics are correct in warning against their being used as a substitute for proper boat-handling skills, and paddlers becoming dependant upon them.
Carl W (Strange Magic)
Edited by Strange_Magic (02/27/08 07:10 AM)