Kayak Skeg Issues

Kayak Skeg Issues
Skegs are self-housing rudders found on the bottom of sea kayaks and designed to help steer and keep the kayak on track. They retract into the hull of the boat, keeping the lines of the boat sleek and contained. Because the skeg is attached to the kayak via a movable housing with cords and straps, issues arise with skegs. Several techniques may be employed to keep the skeg aligned and functioning properly.


Skegs will go out of alignment and need adjusting over time. One method of testing an out-of-alignment skeg is to put the kayak in the water on an extremely flat day, deploy the skeg and then put it in the neutral position with the foot pegs, which are the steering mechanism. If the skeg is out of alignment, after you paddle two or three strokes, the kayak will turn either to the left or right, depending on how the skeg is out of alignment. Once you determine where the alignment needs to be reset, pull the boat out of the water, roll it over and use a small Phillips-head screwdriver to adjust the steering pitch back into true.


Skegs can get stuck in the internal housing and not deploy properly. Cord becomes eroded with salt and brine, or the pulleys get gummed up with sediment and salt corrosion. Using a little bit of spray lubricant, spray down the pulleys and let the liquid settle in. Then simply wipe down the pulleys and housing. Deploy the skeg to check for smoothness on the pulley and to ensure that the cord activates the skeg. If the skeg still does not deploy properly, pull out the cord and replace with a new set. Most outdoor gear shops sell skeg cords.


Skeg-equipped kayaks are easier to store and transport with the skeg retracted into the boat, leaving no exposed portion. However, when the kayak is attached to a roof rack or sitting in storage, the housing can get gummed up with road debris and other contaminants. Like cleaning salt corrosion, you simply need to spray down the pulley with a little spray lubricant to keep the mechanism fully functioning.


When storing the skeg equipped kayak for long periods of time, be sure to spray down the pulleys with spray lubricant before placing in storage. The lubrication will act as a barrier against sediment and grime.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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