I am interested to know before attempting this. Does having a Retracktable Skeg on a  Kayak make enough of a difference to justify the loss of storage in the aft hatch compartment? I have recently completed a Chesapeake 17light and 2 Shearwater Sports. A friend suggested that a Skeg makes a difference when dealing with a cross wind, so I purchased plans for a Skeg from guillemot Kayaks. Thinking that I would add a Skeg to one of the Kayaks first and see if it makes a big difference.


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RE: Skeg

I am a big fan of skegs, and have them in my Ch17LT, my Petrel Play S&G and my wife's Frej.  The question that you are asking is kind of subjective and depends a lot on the boat.  The Ch17LT tracks pretty strongly so the skeg does not help as much in winds.  The PP is a bit more loose so the skeg helps a bit more.  The Frej is ultra maneuverable so my wife uses a bit of skeg almost all the time.  My experience is that the real advantage of having a skeg is when paddling with breaking waves from behind.  The skeg keeps the boat from rounding up when a wave hits the stern.

You have multiple choices regarding retrofit of a skeg.  I retrofit the CLC skeg kit into the Ch17LT.  The advantage of this kit is that it is the most robust.  The disadvantage is that it requires you to cut through the top deck so it takes a bit longer and it uses the most room.  I guess that it took me something like 10 hours.

I put the KayakSport Skeg kit (without flange) in the Frej during construction and retrofit it into the PP.  This is a real quick install taking 3-5 hours.  

If you like Nick's design, you can also buy that as a kit from CLC but it is expensive (

Here are picts of the KayakSport kit in the PP and the standard (not Nick's) CLC skeg in the 17LT

RE: Skeg

Hi Sandyway,

on your skeg questions, let me take them in reverse order...your question about its impact on space, and then its impact on handling.

on space, you can do an install that has almost no impact on space to the extent that you keep the skeg away from the the hatch opening.  in the picture Mark showed above, in the petrel, he has the skeg centered on the rear hatch which interferes with getting stuff in there.  on the picture he has of the CLC 17 LT, the skeg is rear of the hatch opening. and i would imagine there is very little interference.

when i install skegs, my preference is to place it well behind the hatch opening and i have never had it practically interfere with space.  as a retro-fit, it can be a bit trickier to get the skeg in well behind the hatch....but doable...just a bit more planning.

on impact on handling, i have a petrel, a frej, a shearwater 17, a nighheron and a clc17 and 14.    i only have the skeg on the petrel, the nightheron and the frej....all of which have pretty rounded chines.    on the shearwater and CLC hulls, which happen to be hard chined, they just tracked well enough in the conditions we paddled, that it never became an issue.

so my advice would simply be, if your boats are handling well and you are not making a lot of correcting strokes....then a skeg is a nice-to-have.   alternatively, if you are finding it challeging to keep the boat tracking well, then a skeg, in my experience, makes a big difference.    i would also note that how a boat handles is also very inter-related to who is doing the paddling and their weight vs the designers assumptions.  a boat that tracks well with the right person who matches the weight the designer expected can be a very poor tracking boat if the person paddling it happens to be significantly different than those assumptions...particularly if a person is not heavy enought to have the boat on its design lines.  so a skeg, as a feature on a kayak,  can also improve the usability of a boat being used by different paddlers. 

all that said, i have never really viewed this as a trade of space vs the skeg.....they should co-exist happily.   i think of it as skeg complexity/hassle vs handling improvement.

on how to do an after-market skeg, i am a fan of Superior Kayaks aftermarket skeg.   very reasonably priced and 100% fibreglass (vs plasic) doesn't take a lot of space....easy to install.

the  picture above is my petrel with the superior kayak skeg's a bit hard to see in this picture,  but when you open the rear hatch you have to put your head in the hatch and look aft to see the skeg does not interfere at all with the space with regard to what i have ever tried to carry....the limiting factor for me has typically been  the hatch size in terms of what I can get in there


RE: Skeg

I just had an exchange of e-mails with Nick Schade about a skeg in the Night Heron. He said

I am of mixed feelings about skegs. I try to design the kayaks to not need one, so I never had a skeg on one of my own kayaks until I made the Petrel. I added the skeg to that because people seemed to want them even if I didn’t think they were necessary. Having paddled a Petrel of one form or another for a while now I have found they do add another dimension of control that can be quite nice at times.

I have puts skegs on several Night Herons I have made for customers and if I were to make another for myself, I might add a skeg. It doesn’t need a skeg, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be useful.

Back at Okoumefest he had me mostly convinced that it doesn't need a skeg, that proper paddling technique would take care of things. So I spent a couple of weeks practicing, learning how to make a long pointy boat (vs. my WD12) perform and generally improving my paddling technique. At the end of that time I was pretty much in agreement with Nick.

Then came race day. The wind and tide set up the famous Chesapeake Bay washing machine waves. The race organizers were calling it challenging. The paddle boarders were dropping to their knees and/or falling in. And I so wished that I had a skeg.

Nick was absolutely right in that I paddled the entire course upright and had a respectable finish. However, the lack of a skeg cost me serious time on the downwind legs when I had the breaking waves from behind that Mark mentions. Much of the force of the paddle was spent in directional control rather than forward propulsion. The boats with skegs zoomed right past me. Fortunately, on the final upwind leg into the waves the directional control was not such an issue and I was able to catch up with and pass them.

So for most occasions I agree with Nick that skegs are sort of a crutch for paddling technique, but for races I'd class them as a necessity. Also for race-like situations. These would be any occasion when you are doing long-distance paddling with a hard time limit such as needing to get off the water before dark or a storm arrives.

As both Mark and Howard mentioned, the type of boat is important, too. In general, I'd save them for long narrow pointy boats. I see no need to retro-fit one into my WD12, for example.

Have fun,



RE: Skeg

   Thanks for all the advice. I have Nick's plan just in case I need it. I think I will work on developing my paddling skills for now , and see how the Shearwater Sport and Chesapeake 17 LT, handle in varying ocean conditions. Any thoughts on the need for the Skeg on the Artic Hawk. I haven't started building this one yet.


RE: Skeg

i built an arctic hawk....and put a skeg on it (used his skeg kit) becuase that is simply how mark rogers, the designer/builder, liked to set them up when he built them for people.

at the time i built it, i was a bit younger and more adventerous, and found it useful to trim the boat in certain wind/sea states..  that particular boat also responds very well to leaning it as another way to adjust its trim.

the arctic hawk is really a pretty machine and if you have mark'sbuild manual, you will learn a lot becuase of how generous he is in his manual about the minutae of building techniques.



RE: Skeg

oops....accidently hit post before i finished.

in addition to building techniques, the manual also goes into excruciating detail about varnish if you follow his approach (which adds be patient you will really up your kayak building skill.

other comment on the arctic hawk is that it was, for me at the time, a very tight fit (have lost some weight since then).  also a great boat to refine paddling skills and learn to role. 

not very roomy but fine for a day paddle. i also built it with the larger cockpit to make getting in and out easier. 


RE: Skeg

���Ok it helps boat handling. How much stuff do you plan to carry in the rear hatch that can't be placed in small bags.

RE: Skeg

If you are staring a new build, it seems like an easy decision to install a skeg during construction.  It is much easier than a retrofit and you can place it so that it has minimal impact on storage.  I know that every wave capable boat that I build from here on will have a skeg if not a rudder.  As a side note, a skeg is actually better in big waves than an over the stern rudder.  In big waves, an OTS rudder will ocassionally get lifted clear of the water.  The picture below was one of those days.  I paddled my Wahoo around Bahia Honda Key and on the south side of the island, we hade 4.5' breaking waves behind us.  

One question:  I am curious about the choice to build an Arctic Hawk?  As Howard reports, it seems like a good boat but it is an old design.  If you are doing S&G it seems that either the S&G Petrel or Night Heron would be better performers.  If you go with a strip build, there are almost unlimited choices.

RE: Skeg

 I purchased the Artic Hawk Kit along with the two other kits that I built. I was having a tough time deciding which three kits to try. I wanted one for my son, and daughter, as well as myself. The only design I was personally familiar with was the Chesapeake 17, that I had built and paddled, in the late 1990's. I chose the Shearwater Sport, because it seemed to suit a wide range of weight and heights, good for guests. My daughter wasn't overly excited about Kayaking. My son chose the Arctic Hawk, even though he had never paddled a kayak before.

That's is the reason that I have not started building the Arctic Hawk yet. I am hoping to build our skills using the other two designs over the summer months, so that we can be confident enough to use the Arctic Hawk, when we complete it.

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