Modern invetions for ancient kayaks

 I wouldn't call the skeg a modern invention, not really...

The kayak skeg or rudder, was invented late in the century by a Greenlandic seal hunter named Jens Reimer. It was further refined and developed by his hunting mates to the skeg we still see in Greenland today: A narrow wooden fin tied underneath the kayak's rear end. The reason for the invention was the introduction of rifles in kayak hunting. The hunter needed a little more time to get the rifle out of it's watertight case and in position to shoot, than what was needed when only hunting with the harpoon. In that time, the kayak could drift a bit, and the hunter could miss his shot. Or worse, the rifle's recoil could cause capsize.

I've been using a very similar patent for all my years of kayaking: 2 stainless steel fittings that secure a wooden fin to the wooden wear strip underneath my kayak's rear end. Simple and reliable and easy to make for any kayak. I'm not hunting, but the skeg do come handy when paddling for distances in side winds, as it neutralizes the "weathercocking" that is normal with most kayaks,  Greenland style kayaks included. I must also confess that I have always envyed the modern sea kayak one thing: the retractable skeg. It seems so easy and convenient. Also very hard to craft yourself. I have tried a few times, with OK result, but it's just too much work. However, some things change for the better.. Recently Kayaksport, Finland came with their new "pro" retractable skeg kit. It caught my interest because one of the new features is that they have skipped the steel wire that most modern skegs use. The steel wire sometimes causes problems. It is also rather heavy, but worst for mounting in a skin-on-frame kayak: it needs to work in a pretty straight line without too sharp bends. The new system seems super well thought out. A dynema string replaces the steel wire. And the skeg is spring loaded, so very little effort is needed to let it down and pull it up. 

The kit can now be purchased in my webshop. link

Now to the project... My sister's 20 year old greenland style kayak needed new skin, so I thought I would give it a try with the new Kajaksport skeg.

I did read the instruction manual first... It says nothing about skin-on-frame kayaks, though.

First I glued some extra material around the keelson. Then I took a 12 mm. router bit and cut through the keelson and one of the ribs to make space for the skeg box. I made everything ready, but did not glue it in place. I wanted the skin on first.

With the same router bit, I cut out for the control unit in a block of wood. It was then glued in position on the inside of the gunwale. Again all made ready, but not to be mounted before the skin.

Drilling holes for the cable was super easy.

I stretched the skin over the frame, and stapled it in place around the skeg box and the control unit. That allowed me to mount the whole thing and make it work BEFORE sewing the skin together around the frame.

Control unit..  Stainless staples and epoxy hold these things in place and seals them.

Skeg box is mounted now, with sealer. The skin is in this case primed with white paint.

The top of the kayak is dyed in a brown color, then primed with varnish. Control unit in place and working!

It goes up and down easily, and it is 100% watertight. It seems like a good idea.  This could be a great project for any handyguy, and I can easily see myself doing this on a custom built kayak, once in a while.


Popular Posts