Home-making a keel vs. adding a rudder to Old Town Loon

Submitted by Lyn on Sun, 06/21/2020 - 02:19

The keel of my old, Old Town Loon kayak is pretty flat, so the boat sways markedly from side to side. I use it on mountain lakes and quiet rivers, where tracking matters more than quick turns.

To improve tracking, I might jerry-rig a keel by duct-taping a strip of wood or plastic molding to the hull. I might blow-dry the tape to soften and set it.

Am I misguided? Or might such a keel last a while? A taped keel would, at least, put no drill holes in the bottom of my boat. And if it didn't help, might I peel it all off and clean up with Goo Gone and Dawn dish detergent?

Alternatively, I might add a skeg or keel. My other kayak came with a foot-operated rudder. It tracks like an arrow and turns smooth as butter. I LOVE it. Would it be feasible and harmless to add a retractable rudder with foot pedals to the Loon?

This is Lyn again, acknowledging the striking inelegance of my keel plan. My apologies if it offends the sensibilities of crafters who know what they're doing. Perhaps it will give you a laugh.

JayBabina

Sun, 06/21/2020 - 12:51

You're not off track with experimenting with a keel. Use an electric glue gun to fasten it to the hull. Steel wool it first for adhesion. You can then plane it down or sand it down if it tracks too strong. That could last a long time or later epoxy one in place once you are happy with the shape. You can easily scrape off the gun glue if you need to. Yea, we are all top shelf, obsessive craftspeople here. But you have to start somewhere.

JohnAbercrombie

Sun, 06/21/2020 - 13:20

It seems that most of the Loon models on the OldTown website are fairly short rotomolded ("poly") kayaks.

Does that describe your boat? Short boats tend to turn more easily. 'Wandering' can be an issue with paddling technique or fore and aft weight distribution. Lots of different elements to consider. 

Adding a rudder would be tricky IMO unless the kayak has pre-molded features for an optional rudder.

A skeg could be a 'bolt-on' option but has the possibility of ruining the boat - or requiring a trip to a plastic welder-  if you make a mistake. Hiding mistakes in fiberglass (or glass sheathed) boats is easy; not so with poly.

Tom at Topkayaker could give you advice on skegs and rudders - he usually answers my emails within a few days.

Also contacting OldTown might get some useful suggestions.

All in all, your 'temporary' skeg seems like the best option, and that's what I'd do. Using hot glue as Jay suggests would be a good tactic.

The add-on could be wood or plastic from a cheap cutting board (or a plastic supply place).

 

Yes, the Loon is medium-short. And I might need to dig my paddles down more vertically than I do. (Short in comparison to our 18.5-foot tandem kayak.)

Would molding for a rudder be a part that you could drill without having the hole penetrate into the main hull? Mine doesn't have that.

Sounds like you might go for a skeg over deepening the entire keel?

I'll read those links, Mac. And, Jay, I appreciate the glue-gun idea. John, thanks for the referrals to Tom at Topkayaker and Old Town.

I'll need to consider whether it'd be better to add a short skeg to the back end or deepen a long section of the hull.

Thank you all.

JohnAbercrombie

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 13:38

Yes, the Loon is medium-short. And I might need to dig my paddles down more vertically than I do. 

Most 'rec kayaks' are quite wide by sea-kayak standards - a 30" wide kayak makes most forward strokes have a 'sweep' component, turning the boat.

The Loon is going to 'waggle' from side to side a bit even with good paddling technique, I think. Perhaps the easiest thing would be to just put up with that behaviour and enjoy the boat for what it is?

Though it won't harm anything to get out the glue gun and add some depth to the keel. You may be surprised how effective a keel 'addition'/skeg of an inch or so will be.  

Would molding for a rudder be a part that you could drill without having the hole penetrate into the main hull? Mine doesn't have that.

Adding a rudder is a big step - you need a way to bolt the rudder assembly to the stern, and then a way to route the control lines forward while keeping the boat waterproof. For me that would be a difficult job in a poly kayak, unless the manufacturer had provided for a rudder.

And expensive, too.

Keep in mind that any irreversible 'mods' to a kayak usually reduce the resale value, unless they look like 'factory' options.

Better to enjoy the boat for what it is, or sell it and buy something different, IMO.

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