Another opinion and question about rudders...

SWriverstone

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I know—this topic has been beaten to death (apologies). But as a relatively recent long-distance sea kayaker, I've been puzzled by the debate over rudders.

For example, I recently read this article on the topic:

In it, the author says (humorously):

I’ve heard all the arguments, including: rudders are dangerous in rescues, they break when you need them most, moving foot pedals makes it impossible to brace, rudders inhibit proper skills development, rudders contribute to loose moral virtue and the increase of gout. Rudders are bad. They will give you smelly feet.
This pretty much mirrors what I've always heard about rudders, LOL. The reason I'm posting about it is this:

I am no stranger to advanced paddling techniques and boat control. For many years I was a competitive whitewater slalom racer, an Olympic sport which arguably requires the most advanced and perfect boat-manuevering technique on Earth. Corrective strokes, sculls, feathering, draws, sweeps, and other similar corrective strokes are second-nature to me. And yet, I *worship* the rudder on my plastic Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 kayak!

With the rudder up, my kayak tracks reasonably well, but frankly, it's still a pain in the butt to paddle long distances. No matter how good your technique and no matter which techniques you use, you cannot escape one simple fact: corrective strokes use more energy than simple, straight-line paddling. You will tire far more quickly using corrective strokes than not using them.

Now I do understand what is typically suggested about not having a rudder: that GOOD, well-trimmed sea kayaks with a skeg will track perfectly and be far easier to paddle. (Or at least that's the implied suggestion.)

It's very possible that my boat is NOT well-trimmed, which is why I worship my rudder. LOL And yes, I do need to try paddling a "well trimmed" kayak someday with a skeg. But in my hundreds of miles of long-distance experience so far (including paddling with a heavy crosswind and into the wind) I have never once experienced a situation in which my rudder didn't allow me to track straight and true (even into heavy winds) with barely any effort.

With regard to weathercocking, the author of the article above says "If a fully deployed skeg makes your boat turn uncontrollably downwind in breezy conditions, won’t a rudder do the same? Of course, it will." In my experience, this is complete BS. I've never once had my ruddered kayak try to "turn uncontrollably downwind" in windy conditions. (So what is this guy talking about???)

Please know I have no agenda here to bash rudderless boats or skegs—and I'm not saying everyone should use a rudder. I'm just saying in my experience, I've never once encountered any negative issues whatsoever using the rudder on my boat...which makes me wonder why this debate seems to never end? :)

Scott
 

mick_allen

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It never seems to end - because there's no one answer: it's a simplistic question impossibly applying to nuanced situations. And when there is danger or death, no one recognizes it.

In your case, you are so nuanced and able that you have the skills and understanding to do whatever you wish and furthermore to finely discriminate between various situations to predefine and re-adjust to whatever you wish. It is irrelevant to you.

But we might be able to make it relevant for someone you might know - maybe that relevant question to pose is: Would you have this device on a typical seakayak [ie that doesn't require rudder] for a rank beginner friend and you're not there?

The answer is no, because there is increased danger in some common situations [the weathercocking that you refer to] that a beginner or even intermediate kayaker doesn't recognize. And quite frankly, even you dismiss - why? It's simple physics - especially if one hesitantly paddles, or stops paddling, because of uncertainty - and I've predefined this nuance to be about uncertain paddlers.

Does that make sense? . . . it depends . . . - to most, it doesn't. To some, it really does.
 

SalishSeaNior

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I find the rudder, no rudder debate to be most often simply one of subjective preference. I have paddled many, many kayaks, with a rudder, with a skeg and yes without either. Currently, I have four singles, two with rudders and two with skegs. I like them all and paddle them for different reasons and purposes; and for varieties sake. What I will not tolerate, is a hull design that "requires" a rudder or a skeg. That has been my absolute bottom line requirement for any boat I acquire from day one. If you cant paddle it bare hull, it is not a good design in my view.

My latest acquisition, a Nimbus Lootas, is a classic example of a ruddered boat that that can be handled and paddled without the rudder. In fact there are times that I prefer to paddle it without a rudder. It is a superb rough water boat. The rudder however is most often deployed to make time over distance without the effort of body lean and corrective strokes. It is also deployed when I want to dawdle, sight see, take photos, or just relax. I was surfing it on a 20 km downwinder last week and the rudder was deployed the whole way. With a 12 knot tail wind, and half meter + seas, both the rudder and the paddle were used to keep it surfing straight down wind, but it was easy and fun and a lot less effort than it would have been with paddle and lean alone.

My Telkwa, carries a lot more load, but is similar as far as performance to the Lootas, just a tad slower and a fair bit less "sporty". It is a true expedition boat, originally designed as a guides boat, a role it fulfils to a tee. Both boats are over 18 feet long and have quite a lot of rocker and a soft chine which enables easy edged turns without the rudder. I do however, often use an edged turn, along with a hard rudder to turn these boats around in a hurry. I have often heard some of those who do not like rudders say that a ruddered lean turn is not possible and use it in their anti rudder rhetoric. That argument is a fallacy, and is patently untrue if your ruddered boat is properly designed.

I also paddle a North Shore Ocean 17, another superb boat, 17 feet long, 21+ inches wide. A fabulous Brian Nelson design out of the UK. This one is an all rounder and does expedition touring and rough water play equally well, it also surfs very well. I doubt if there are 50 of these in North America and it is no longer in production, a pitty! It does need the skeg deployed if I am paddling over long distance point to point and don't want to spend energy on course corrections. But with the skeg down, it tracks like it is on rails even in following seas. It has an interesting hard chined wing under the cockpit but is rounded chined at both ends. A very unique hull design that makes it a boat I will keep, so a bit of a hybrid with respect to chine. I rate this one mannerly and competent, yet exceptionally agile in handling. I will be paddling this one in my 80's if the fates allow. Same can be said to the Lootas.

"With regard to weathercocking, the author of the article above says "If a fully deployed skeg makes your boat turn uncontrollably downwind in breezy conditions, won’t a rudder do the same? Of course, it will." In my experience, this is complete BS. I've never once had my ruddered kayak try to "turn uncontrollably downwind" in windy conditions. (So what is this guy talking about???"

The other skeg boat I paddle is a Impex, Category Force 5. This is an 18 foot long, 20+ inch wide Greenland style expedition boat with very steep, but rounded chines. Perhaps a "hard/soft chine" if that is possible. It has little rocker, but turns very well on a hard lean. It is a very fast sea kayak and requires little effort to paddle over distance in relatively calm conditions or into currents. It is however an expert paddler's boat, a Thoroughbred, as I sometimes call it. This boat does have a moderate tendancy to "weather cock" when the water gets rougher in a following sea. It requires skeg deployed, bracing and paddle input to keep it going downwind in a following sea that is much over half a meter. This is, in my view, due to its length, steep chines, lack of rocker and narrow width, which are the attributes that make it a very fast sea kayak. I doubt if a rudder on this boat would change a thing with respect to its handling characteristics. It is very good at what it is designed to do, but there is a trade off in the design that would preclude putting a rudder on it. The fact that it weather cocks a bit, is not poor design, it is that it is designed to go fast over long distance, not to surf. Load it with a weeks worth of gear and it still goes fast, but the tenderness and weather cocking lessen, due to decreased freeboard.

So, four different boats, 2 ruddered, 2 with skeg, all can be paddled with the hull as designed and technique alone. I feel like the argument is a bit like with sports teams or makes of cars; if you are a hard core skeg boat fan, that is it, no argument, closed mind. I know a few people like that, right down to brand allegiance. Me, I like to try different boats and will judge each boat on its fit and performance with respect to my skills and my preferences.

A good boat is a function of design, not accoutrements. The rest is preference and as the saying goes; "your mileage may vary".

Cheers, Rick

PS - I used to paddle a Mariner, the original model, for most of my youthful expedition career. I loved that boat and it served me well for almost a decade. It had neither skeg, nor rudder, was super fast and yet a gear hauling champion. But it was long, narrow and as I aged, it just got to require more effort to turn and handle than I wanted to put into it. My younger brother has it now, so I still get to take it out when I get the urge. It was a superb expedition kayak, not a play boat. But that is why many of us have over decades collected more than one kayak for in the quiver.
 

SWriverstone

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@mick_allen Thanks for the comments. I think I get what you're saying? (Maybe? LOL) But I'm still a bit confused and feel like I'm missing something in the debate.

It sounds like everyone takes for granted that having a rudder makes weathercocking worse...and I guess what I'm saying is that I've never experienced that. I've sat pointed off the wind (without paddling or just gently coasting) with my rudder down and the bow stayed right where I pointed it (it didn't "turn uncontrollably" into the wind). This is what's confusing me.

Based on my own experience, a rudder would actually be *better* for beginners because with a rudder, the bow stays pointed wherever you aim it (as long as you hold the rudder in position).

But again, I may be missing something.

I do understand the general point that having a rudder adds complexity (in the sense that for a beginner it's just one more thing to worry about).

And the other thing confusing me is why there are so many experienced paddlers who *still* don't like rudders, when (again, in my experience) rudders basically extend your range because they make paddling long distances less tiring because you aren't having to use corrective strokes all the time.

Scott
 

SWriverstone

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The rudder however is most often deployed to make time over distance without the effort of body lean and corrective strokes. It is also deployed when I want to dawdle, sight see, take photos, or just relax.
THIS. :) I just read SalishSeaNior's excellent post after making my last post. Totally agree with all you said! And it makes the whole rudder debate a bit less perplexing.

As a sidenote/counterpoint to all this, I was a canoeist when I was racing in whitewater slalom (more properly, I paddle C-1, or decked canoe). Those boats are so inherently "spinny" and maneuverable that you spend a year of paddling one everyday just to learn how to paddle one in a straight line through the use of J-strokes and crossbow forward strokes, LOL.

In addition to all SalishSeaNior said, I think it matters how you plan to paddle. Right now, I'm all about covering long distances. I really don't care much about surfing, playing in rock gardens, etc. (I got that out of my system with years of whitewater paddling).

So for me, whatever makes it most efficient and least tiring to paddle all day is the best—and with my current "non-thoroughbred" boat (LOL), the answer is...the rudder by a longshot! :)

EDITED TO ADD: Yet another wildcard in this discussion is paddler weight. With regard to boat trim, I suspect a given boat handles VERY differently with a 160lb paddler than it does with a 220lb paddler (which is me).
 

SalishSeaNior

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Just read your second post Scott. Perhaps Micks Ideas about nuance, and the idea of experience, beginner, intermediate, advanced, is part of the key to this question. The other part in my view is hull design, and purpose of that design. In my post above, where I detail my experience with four personal boats, I am speaking from my own experienced point of view about each of them.

My wife, on the other hand, is a beginner, even though she has been paddling since we met 30 years ago. She paddles for company, calm and quiet, and to tour and camp in the wild. She is not interested in practicing skills and she does not like rough conditions She does not paddle in rough water or bad conditions, unless we are on a trip and we get inadvertently caught out, which has happened twice in 30 years. She has her own boat, a Nimbus Horizon which fits her perfectly and is a stable, yet very seaworthy ruddered kayak. Early on in our marriage, we did a trip out to the Nuchatlitz Islands and paddled around to Benson Point, about an 8 or 9 kilometre open ocean, exposed paddle. Half way through, the wind picked up the waves got bigger and began capping and her rudder cable broke. My very experienced paddling friend got on one side of her, I on the other. and we talked her in until we were in protected water and we could land. To her credit, she didn't panic and she listened to instruction. The Horizon took care of the rest despite the broken rudder cable. That speaks to my point about hull design.

My point being that the Horizon, a ruddered design, can also ably handle rough water without the rudder with proper paddle technique, even with a beginner level paddler. I would never put my wife in the Force 5, too advanced a boat; or the Telkwa, too big a boat. But she has paddled the Lootas numerous times, including on a seven day trip around the Bowron Lake Chain, including a long fast water section on the Cariboo River. It is 18 feet long, 23 inches wide, but very tight fitting with an extremely confidence inspiring and capable hull design. The boat will keep beginners safe, but still please an expert surfing down wind in 30 knots and breaking waves. So in my view, the issue is not rudder, skeg, or no rudder. The conversation should be about design and intended purpose of the kayak, the competence level of the paddler, and does the boat do what you want it to do while using it for the purpose for which it was designed?

Cheers, Rick
 

Mac50L

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I know—this topic has been beaten to death (apologies). But as a relatively recent long-distance sea kayaker, I've been puzzled by the debate over rudders.
The link you gave, scroll down and see the reply to it by Sandy Ferguson. He is a kayak designer and rudder manufacturer. Pointed out are the bits that don't make sense.

See what Paul Caffyn has to say. Circumnavigation of New Zealand, Britain, Japan, Australia, Alaska, etc. etc. so should know something about them.

One of the problems with rudders is some have been made by Americans. Bad design, bad construction. The worst was sliding pedals. Another problem, putting a high point on the stern of a kayak and then the rudder mounted on top so the blade doesn't get wet. Recently noticed a double design with a single's rudder so the blade won't get wet.

My pedals have one adjustment, just in front of the seat so if it is a kayak you've not set up or you've changed your footwear, release, sit as you would, pull back on the strap and clamp. The lines auto-adjust. Pedals are full foot size and the hinge is level with the ankle. Ergonomic.

We paddled in Samoa a year ago. Four adjustments needed and way up towards the fore bulkhead. Little toe operated bits for steering.

Never blame rudders as a concept if bad design is involved.
 
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SWriverstone

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More great replies, thanks!

@SalishSeaNior - your point about boat design, paddler ability and intended use makes perfect sense.
@Mac50L - I missed those comments, but they also make perfect sense. A recessed rudder design seems more sensible than just bolting a rudder on top of the peaked stern. I'm not sure I get why sliding pedals are so bad (I've never had a problem with mine) but I've also never experienced the alternative. :)

So it sounds as if smart, sensible kayakers do NOT universally blast rudders and declare them "a tool for the weak of mind and body who do not desire to succeed." LOL

At the same time, there is very definitely a "rudder public relations problem" out there—one in which rudders do get a bad rap. Maybe someday that will change!
 

Mac50L

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I'm not sure I get why sliding pedals are so bad (I've never had a problem with mine) but I've also never experienced the alternative.
You can't brace against them, putting power right through your body. Paddling isn't bending elbows.

A few years ago I paddled a guide's kayak in Australia once, grit in the slides of her pedal slides. This is something that doesn't happen with properly designed hinged pedals.

Another thing, there are no holes in the hull for guides. Mine uses a bar running fore and aft. You could fasten such a thing to the front of the seat and a holder glued to the bulkhead. Mine have an epoxied bolt at the aft end as my kayaks are plywood.
 

SWriverstone

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You can't brace against them, putting power right through your body. Paddling isn't bending elbows.
With respect, I don't think this is true. I paddle exclusively from my back and core, and I have no trouble bracing hard against the slide-rail pedals in my boat (especially with my knees properly braced under the cockpit rim). But I do see how the better system makes bracing easier. :)

Another thing, there are no holes in the hull for guides. Mine uses a bar running fore and aft. You could fasten such a thing to the front of the seat and a holder glued to the bulkhead. Mine have an epoxied bolt at the aft end as my kayaks are plywood.
This makes a lot of sense—the fewer holes the better!
 

JohnAbercrombie

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It sounds like everyone takes for granted that having a rudder makes weathercocking worse...
"Include me out" on that one. Weathercocking happens when the stern is free to 'skid' or slip when the wind is fron the side. A skeg, prominent keel (like the Mariner kayaks have) or rudder in the water at the stern will help to prevent this.
The first time I ever paddled a rudder boat I got into some high winds and struggled to turn the boat into the wind. I wasn't thinking straight (stress induced "tunnel thinking"...). If I had pulled up the rudder the stern would have blown downwind and it would have been easy to turn to windward.
 
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JKA

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But I'm still a bit confused and feel like I'm missing something in the debate.
Don't be, you're not!

You're skilled and experienced enough to know what works for you and when.

To hell with what anyone else thinks or has done.

We all have our own bias and viewpoints and some of those border on dogma. You're not trying to influence anyone else and nor do you have to defend your position.

Just enjoy your paddling.

John (who uses a rudder, or not) ;)
 

CPS

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At the same time, there is very definitely a "rudder public relations problem" out there—one in which rudders do get a bad rap. Maybe someday that will change!
I'm not so sure about that. Many novice kayakers are really attracted to the idea of a rudder, so that if they get in over there heads they can still feel able to steer. There isn't such an interest in skegs from that demographic (which I would venture is probably the largest).

With regards to which is better, it really depends on the application. I've got eyes on a few long and pointy boats where a rudder is the perfect fit, as well as a few short and sporty boats with skegs. Clearly the real menace is the lack of storage space in my garage.
 

mick_allen

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But I'm still a bit confused and feel like I'm missing something in the debate.
what you're missing is:
". . . I've never once had my ruddered kayak try to "turn uncontrollably downwind" in windy conditions." . . .
Why haven't you experienced this?? And if you had experienced this, would you then understand the varied points of view?

**
the quick reason [I can think of] that you haven't experience this is that you have a lousy rudder that hardly penetrates the surface of the water but still has a big housing and above water blade area to present offsetting windage to the offset [from CB] underwater center of lateral area caused by the immersed rudder blade area.

but typically [ie 'typical' kayak with rudder] that's not the case - and in cross wind the whole kayak rotates more around the offset [to rear] underwater lateral area caused by the immersed rudder area. . . and hence the whole reason for the original article.

so why don't you experience this? [don't forget, it's existential for arrows, fish, aeroplanes, missiles and birdies!]
 

a_c

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So to sum it up:

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Shakespeare had the whole rudder vs skeg thing figured out a long time ago!

PS: people are allowed to like different things; can't we all just get along?

:)
 

JohnAbercrombie

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At the same time, there is very definitely a "rudder public relations problem" out there—one in which rudders do get a bad rap. Maybe someday that will change!
Look at some newer kayaks - all the 'fast sea kayak' boats have rudders, and since the best of them are influenced by surfskis, they mostly are full-time rudder boats.
Get away from the BCU ideas a bit!
 

mick_allen

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ok, let's dial it down to the disbelief of the issue or the importance of the issue presented:

It is a tale . . .
Signifying nothing.


[given that I'm also an idiot]
do you disbelieve that leecocking can be caused by a rudder? . . . or conversely if you do believe that - do you believe that it signifies nothing?
 

Mac50L

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what you're missing is:

Why haven't you experienced this?? And if you had experienced this, would you then understand the varied points of view?
**
the quick reason [I can think of] that you haven't experience this is that you have a lousy rudder that hardly penetrates the surface of the water but still has a big housing and above water blade area to present offsetting windage to the offset [from CB] underwater center of lateral area caused by the immersed rudder blade area.

but typically [ie 'typical' kayak with rudder] that's not the case - and in cross wind the whole kayak rotates more around the offset [to rear] underwater lateral area caused by the immersed rudder area. . . and hence the whole reason for the original article.
Why should a kayak rotate uncontrollably around the rudder in high winds?

If, NOTE - "IF" you hold the rudder in the straight ahead position maybe yes. BUT the whole thing about a rudder is it steers, rotates (unlike a skeg) so simply steer it to a neutral angle and there is nothing there to "uncontrollably rotate around".

As for water penetration, my blades have about a hand's width above the water. you can't make them go further under water unless they pivoted in the underside of the hull. Blade length? Over a foot (40 cm actually) of blade in the water.

As a last resort, rudders are retractable, something that seems to be forgotten by some.
 

mick_allen

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Forget your rudder [40cm! it's prob a worst-case!] - it's any rudder that has some depth on any typical sea kayak:
So forget your rudder - it's about a specific issue: leecocking.

Do you also think the leecocking scenario is BS: a tale . . . that also signifies nothing? Did the issue [rudder caused leecocking] in John's post #11 not happen as he thought?
**
has anyone been in an immoderately powered vessel in beam seas? a sailboat near a lee shore?
 
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