Skeg or Not?

Submitted byEuropa onTue, 12/15/2020 - 11:18


Many years ago I built two Pigmy kayaks, Coho and Arctic Tern 14. My wife and I use them as very casual, recreational paddlers. I got the bug to build something with strips, but chickened out on a full boat, so I got a Hybrid Shearwater 16 kit from CLC. I see that they sell as an option on many, (but not all of their boats?) a retractable skeg. We are probably too inexpert paddlers to notice, but we don't seem to need them on our existing Pigmy boats. Is there anything about the design of the S&G Shearwater hull that requires or recommends adding the skeg?

Thanks very much. On the subject of CLC, they are cutting kits for Dudley Dix Yacht Designs, and I bought one of their kits for his Argie 15, a15 and a half foot sailing dinghy. That is going on in the barn, because I would not be able to remove it from the basement like the kayaks. So it is waiting for the weather here in NW Vermont to warm up. My basement, at 59 degrees requires extra time before sanding epoxy.

Best wishes to all for the holidays,


i have built and paddled the shearwaters over the last 10 years.  they paddle and track well and my build did not have a skeg and i did not experience any significant tracking/handling issues.  so my initial thought is it is not required on this boat.  i am a very experienced paddler and i have also let new paddlers use the shearwater and they also have not had any issues.  i have also paddled coho's and boats similar to the arctic tern without skegs...and concur with your conclusion that they don't generally need a skeg.

that said, i do typically add skegs to my newer builds even if they have strong tracking properties like most hard-chined/minimal rocker boats (e.g. the shearwaters, coho's arctic tern) natually have.   my only reason for doing it is it is a lot easier to add the skeg during construction vs retrofitting,  and in certain conditions, even a strong tracking boat can benefit from the ability to trim the boat to minimize corrective strokes.  fwiw, i will often do extended open water paddles -- 15 to 20 miles --  and little things that are not issues on shorter paddles, become a little more of a pain on longer trips.   i also came up with a recipe for building my own skegs which is pretty inexpensive and i find them fun to build.....but certainly not a necessity on a shearwater.

to the extent you want to go with a skeg, there are options outside of what CLC sells that i think are more reliable and easier to work with.   nash boatworks sells a kit that i have used when i did not want to fabricate a skeg myself.  there are other options out-there....i just find this one performs well, is reliable and is 100% fibreglass/marine grade components so easily works with glass/epoxy construction.




Thu, 12/17/2020 - 13:21

I intalled a skeg in a friend's Pygmy Murrelet - another design with a hull similar to the ArcticTern where the skeg was 'optional' . My firend is a very capble and experienced paddler, and the reason for adding the skeg was simple - the boat was being left at home and other kayaks paddled instead, because in windy conditions the skeg-less boat required too many corrective strokes. With a good skeg, you can 'fine-tune' the amount of skeg exposed and paddle with only forward strokes, even in a side wind.

I've used the line control skeg from KajakSport in a couple of boats and they seem to work well; they avoid the 'kinked cable' problem so common with many push-cable skegs. I do prefer the wedge-shaped skegs vs the 'fin' style, as the working area can be varied more easily.