Rudder on sail rig LT17

I have made a post last year about my trip to Catalina island in my kayak with the sail rig. On that trip I was smart enough to wire a hand rudder control from the smart track rudder assembly to the cockpit. It was the only way the boat could be steered really. The smart track pedals were basically power assist only. Most of the steering was augmented with paddle used as a rudder also which really was hard to do at speed.

Has anyone got experience that contradicts my experience? I really want to know if I should scrap the pedal system entirely or is there any hope? I have installed 3 different rudder sizes and the adjustment just does not change the situation. In wind, the kayak cannot be steered with that system.

Please give me hope, or confirm what I fear, that the system is inadequate for this application.

i appreciate any help!

16 replies:

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RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Commericial kayak rudders are not designed for the rigors of sailing. They lack  rigidity and foil profile of a proper sailing rudder. The bad news is that you will need to build your own system. The good news is that if you built a kayak you can built an effective rudder. It's not that hard. Make sure your rudder is thick enough for a good foil profile and has a submerged surface area of 1.5% of sail area. If you want to steer by peddle you will need a balanced rudder. About 10% of the rudder area should be in front of the pintle axis. Good luck.

RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

I use a tiller and Im sold on it. And, yes I vividly recall Toothpicks high seas trip to Avalon and the stunning photons that accompanied your log.


the thing with pedals is that due to the pressure of the water on the rudder - even when its a balanced rudder can make control feel a little spongy. Next you run the risk of spasmong one leg on a long reach or tack if the forces are there. Its a nifty thing for the paddlers but its got problems say, at 6 to 9 knots.   I personally don't like the spongy friction the lines can cause.


the tiller is the way to go. Its about ten feet for me. My rudder is balanced so in calmer waters I can actually lay the tiller on my aka for a while before it drifts. A balanced rudder is a beautiful thing. I have 20% ahead of the pivot and that seems about perfect. It hurts out 14" below the keel line.  Even though my kayak tracks like a train this beautiful rudder just takes control and frankly doesn't care about the kayaks near straight keel.


the tiller - its easy to go crazy here but the forces here are gentle. A 1" thick strip of wood does it for me. A little bendy but again the forces are mild with a balanced rudder.


well I certainly hope Toothpick has gotten some water. I've done a repaint on my sailrig and sad to say its going to look sloppy this month on the water because if I hold off till all the runs and stuff are sanded and the edges are clean.... It'll be October. So its getting wet with a rough around the edges paint job. I've got all winter to finesse it out.


please tell me of your Toothpick travels or developments. Its a nice craft dnd that Avalon Harbor---- yikes!!! Look like a damn palace out there.



RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

I meant to say the rudder jutts out below the keel line not hurts - though I suppose if it hits a crab....



RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Thank you both for the advice and suggestions. Yes I rigged a 3/4in PVC pipe the rudder as a hand tiller and it was spongie too! But a balanced rudder sounds like a dream. I will start tomorrow!

I'd love to see plans or photos if anyone can post some.

RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Al I did was add about an inch- 1.5" forward of the Clc rudder plans. This forward edge is what balances the rudder as it relieves pressure by equalizing or close to it the force at the pivot. Ill post a pic of my rudder tonight around midnight when I get out of work.


for now here's an excellent article. Steve has it 18" below the waterline which for me is 14" below the keel. This amount of depth is very effective.


heres the link:



RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17


RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Thank you Pete for showing me this. I think this is going to be easier than i thought. Amazing that little redesign of placing some mass forward of the pivot is making such a big difference.

I'll see what I can do with some of the existing materials on hand and installed.


RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

A good rule of thumb, add about an inch forward where it hurts out underneath your kayak to the clc mkII rudder plans that come with the general plans. Its so simple and headache free toile. Nice little project that moved along nicely.  And again, a very effective foil.




RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Jutts not hurts.... Damned auto correct.



RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Pete I'd love to see your CLC rudder made from the plans. I'm interested also in how you mounted it. If anyone else has pictures they want to share of any MKIII rudder installed, I'd love to see it.

just for data, my feather raft rudder w updated twice and now I use their largest. When installed on my LT17, the blade actually projects backward at at the five o'clock angle. No less. I took it off and looked and I can't figure why. So I reversed the rudder and wheel (used to cycle the rudder out of the water). Now when deployed it projects forward at the seven o'clock angle which places a good portion forward of the pivot!

its Mickey Mouse, but I'll test it this weekend.

RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

Ok some clarification. I use the smart track rudder pedals and i think a smart track rudder mount with a feather craft rudder. I use the largest rudder blade they sell, and I think CLC does not sell that size, because I also tried the slightly smaller size which CLC does sell.

I reversed the blade. When pulled tight by the cord from the cockpit, it actually has a forward pitch under the rear of the kayak now and forward of the pivot bolt. 

Guess what? That works! It steers with the pedals even if a bit spongie. I will attach a tiller to have backup, but I am so pleased that I can steer the thing in wind, at speed. I doubt that I will have to fight the rudder anymore in the ocean in the wind.

Thank you both for helping me understand balanced rudder concepts. I'm cheating, but it works. 

I hope any of this helps anyone.

RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

I'm glad it worked out for you! My next rudder tinkering is a system that allows me to raise and lower it from the cockpit.  For now its just held firm but not solid with but and bolt. Should I hit a sandbar or whatever though and Im way out there, then it involves climbing or crawling out of the cockpit, around he lines as I slither across the stern to push it back down. So... thats  my next thing to do.



RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

I have the clc triple with sailrig. I had two problems last year - leeboard snapping and rudder mount issues.


I solved the leeboard issue by tripling up (overkill for sure but NOT going to be set back by this again) the thickness of the top of the leebord and tapering it into the original board thickness where leeboard runs in water. A couple of times sailing have shown this to be more than what it needed.


As for rudder, my initial attempt used ss eyebolts into rudder cheekplate.  I have the clc rudder mount bolted to my stern.  This rudder mount works well with the smart track rudder and its system. first sail, the eyelets snapped off.....could I have tried again with bigger ss bolts? maybe.... I went to west marine and picked up two pintles to attached cheek plate to rudder mount.  unfortunately, the diameter of the hole in the rudder mount did not match up with any available (at west marine) pntle diameters.  I went with one size smaller and it worked but the slop allowed twisting leverage that exasaserbated my not quite perfect rudder mount install.


I have since corrected rudder mount install so it has no movement and found some vinyl, pvc, or nylon hose (not sure which) at the hardware store that slipped over pintle end and fit into rudder mount hole (gudgeon).  Additionally, I DID find a supplier of pintles with the same size diameter as teh clc rudder mount but my solution has worked well and was significantly cheaper (about 25 cents).


I took the clc rudder, which works well with the gigantic triple, re-shaped the top to allow rudder to be moved forward of pivot point, and installed a push pull tiller (adjustable aluminum utility handle for painting with found at a yard sale for $6, expands up to 16 feet - can steer from front seat of triple).  This rests on the amas (cross beams of sailrig) when not being held. It takes very little pressure on this tiller to adjust rudder. It works very well.  The only complaint is from sailors used to a traditonal tiller as it moves differently from what they are used to.


At some point, I may try hooking up the smart track pedal system to the sailing rudder but I have found I like the ability of moving around the boat a bit underway while sailing. With along tiller, i can grab it from anywhere on boat to steer.  When dropped it just sits on amas. 


If not using sailrig, I simply remove cheek plate, rudder and tiller and drop smart track rudder into rudder mount.


simple, effective, cheap, reliable and anyone in the boat can steer at any time.


headed for buzzards bay, MA, friday for a week of fun!

RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

quick follow up to original post - there is marine math for figuring the needed size of rudder compared to sail area (a little help here someone...?) The clc rudder design works well in achiving this.  Balancing the rudder by getting a bit of it in front of the pivot point makes holding the tiller very easy a reduces stress on the rudder mount hardware.


my triple is, of course, much bigger than your single butthe larger size smart track rudder I have does not function well for using the triple with sailrig. get some wood, build the rudder and tiller setup from your plans and plop it in place while sailing - you'll be glad you did

RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

so how was buzzards bay?



RE: Rudder on sail rig LT17

just back.  stayed mostly in westport river except a few forays out into the bay on calmer days. Boat, sailrig and rudder handled well. The rudder mount worked fine with my vinyl tube lined pintle pins.  with rudder balanced, I could leave tiller arm laying on crossbeams and sip a cold one.


I really put the setup through some hard wind, rolling waves and charging tidal changes and it held up well.


two things of note:


1) the triple is a bear to turn into the wind, paddling or under sail. Im not sure how big a rudder you might need to make a difference but I would simply turn downwind instead of up to turn around (sorry, Im lacking the correct sailing terms here...). Other than that, clc design rudder is fine AFTER cutting out a bit of material directly behind stern of boat and shifting rudder forward so that rudder was balanced.  When I caught enough eel grass on rudder to have it shift back slightly, I could tell the differenece and there was quite a bit of resistance to turning the rudder at that point.


2) this design uses a more foil shaped blade which, to my untrained self, has a lot less drag than other designs but does not work appreciablely when when not in motion.  For instance when sailing hard before wind but boat is moving with tide, the lack of forward motion of the boat, compared to the water it is moving through , greatly reduced ability ot effectively point and turn boat, despite a lot of wind pushing on sail. I found a few quick strokes of paddle to get forward motion going would make all the difference and all of a sudden everything "worked" again.

back in the 802 now, planning out a camping sailing trip around parts of Lake Champlain on the paddling trail. as well as an autumn adventure to the Saranac Lake area and late September trip to West of Baxter State Pak as part of a moose hunting trip.....


Im looking forward to building another boat but having way too much fun on this one to get started now...thats what winter is for....

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