Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light

I have been asked to add a rudder to a Chesapeake 17 Light that I recently sold. As far as I can tell the Smart Track System is the Cadillac of rudder systems. I am wondering if anyone on the forum has added this system to their build, and how happy they are with the addition? 

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RE: Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light

I have the Smart Track system on our Shearwater Double.  It is a good system and would be my first choice for a rudder on a recreational kayak because it allows you to mainatin a good brace with your feet while steering with your toes.

Obviously, installation during construction would have been easier but you can retro-fit it.  The footbraces should fit on the holes you drilled for the fixed footbraces.  You can adjust the position of the braces with the Vertical Adjustment Kit.  I used this with good success.  You want the footbraces to be set at a height that the ball of your foot is on the fixed part of the brace and your toes on the top control arms.  Make sure you are wearing your favorite paddling shoes when making this adjustment.

The easiest approach for the rudder housing is probably to use one of the rudder mounts that CLC sells.  If you have an end pour, you can attach with wood screws.  If no end pour, you can use wire to set T-nuts in place and use machine screws.  In either case, drill, fill, drill.

With the how to out of the way, I have to ask why?  I also have a Ch17LT and it tracks very nicely and turns well with a bit of lean.  Addition of a rudder will actually make the boat less manueverable because the Smart Track System has limited deflection because it is toe controlled.  I actually retract the rudder on my SWD when making tight turns.  The other problem with a stern mounted rudder is that they are worthless in chop over about 18" because they get lifted clear of the water when they are most needed.  This is why surfskies all have underhull rudders.

A far better solution is to add a skeg.  Retracted, the boat will retain its good manueverability.  When paddling in wind/waves, you can add as much skeg as you need to get the desired tracking, and it won't get lifted out of the water. 

I retrofited the CLC skeg kit into my Ch17LT and it only took a couple of hours - nothing complicated.  I am VERY happy with how the boat now handles waves.



RE: Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light


RE: Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light

   I put the SmartTrack on my Chess 17 about a year ago.  Before technical details, I'll say that I like it very much.  I'd used the boat for about 2 years without, and put the rudder on as I began using the Windpaddle sail.  I've found it a near-necessity with the sail, otherwise there aren't enough hands for running the sail, steering with the paddle, etc.; not to mention steering with the rudder is much less drag.  I also use a clip in the center of my chest (attached to my life jacket) to hold the Windpaddle control line.  This system is the "cat's meow" for going anywhere 45 degrees either side of dead downwind (in 5 or more knots of wind) unless the only reason you are paddling is for exercise.  Still, even without the sail I like the rudder.  Steering becomes second nature with just a touch of toe pressure, and you never even think about having to paddle harder on one side, or double stroke or whatever to maintain course.  The biggest difference is in stronger crosswinds.  And I bought the rudder with the biggest blade, knowing I would use it for sailing.  I've never been in waves big enough to notice any problems with it lifting out of the water when running down a wave or whatever.  Even in the river (I don't do fast/shallow/rocky rivers with my wood kayak, those are reserved for plastic) I like the rudder for the ability to make sharper turns.  So, I think the rudder not neccessary for smooth water paddling when not experiencing much crosswind, but beneficial otherwise.  I've never really noticed any extra drag, and you can always lift it.  And the only time lifting it might be a problem is in a crosswind - exactly the time you'd have it down, anyway.

I did use the vertical adjustment kit to lower the footbrace rail about 1.5 inches, keeping the same thru-hull brace screw positions.  I had end pours, so installation of the rudder bracked was a cinch.  For the cable guides, I entered the top deck out near the edge and puposefully drilled through the gunwale stringer (at a large angle so there is minimal change of cable direction).  One lesson learned was to keep the holes through the bulkhead behind the seat just a touch smaller than the cable guide, then taper the end of the sheathing just a bit so you can get it started in the hole, then pull it through and you'll create a friction fit that is basicallly watertight even without any sealant.  But I sealed all the raw wood on all holes with a q-tip and fresh wipe of varnish even before starting the guide installation, then used silicone after the guide installation was complete.  Keeping the cable run as straight as possible and using some of the plastic cable clamps in strategic places means that there will be less "flex" in the system as the rudder is operated, and thus steering input using the toe tabs will be more responsive.

So, I absolutely need the rudder for sailing, but find it usefull even while not sailing, and relatively easy to install.

RE: Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light

I have a Smart Track rudder on my Ches 17LT. I fitted it as I was building the boat. The boat is only used in the sea and the wind around here can be a bit tricky so I thought the rudder would be a useful addition. 

It was. I use it all the time and others who use the boat agree, it gets used all the time. Probably not needed on lakes and rivers but for me, it's spot on. 

RE: Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light

 Thanks for the feedback. Mark as for the decision to add a rudder, versus a Skeg. First of all I recently built an Arctic Hawk, and added a Skeg during construction. It works great as you stated. The only drawback is the loss off storage space in the rear hatch. Secondly the woman who bought the kayak has requested a rudder to be added. Since I have never used a rudder, I wanted to see if other builders were happy with this kit.



RE: Adding Smart track rudder system to Chesapeake 17 Light

I get it Wayne, the customer is always right even when they are wrong.

As I said above, it is a good product, one that I would use if I were tro add a rudder to a rec boat.



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