The skeg control currently used in P&H‘s Cetus line of kayaks is a well-intentioned system that was designed to be trouble free from the perspective of both the user and the manufacturer.  By using a bungee cord to provide continuous motivation for the skeg to deploy and a locking/ratchet device in the skeg control to harness that motivation, the hope was that this would be a simple and reliable system with the added benefit of minimal returns to retailers due to inexperienced kayak owners having skeg troubles as a result of misuse.

In reality, paddler’s experiences have been varied with some finding operation of the control to be difficult. The goal of this project was to replace the existing skeg system with one that was a little easier for a small hand to operate while retaining the reliability of the original design.

The boat I replaced the skeg system in is the Cetus LV.  This is very nice boat that is maneuverable, fast and straight tracking.

The first decision to make is whether or not to make use of the existing skeg box.  This one decision can change the job from daunting to doable. I elected to work with the existing skeg box.

So lets get started:

Remove the old components:

Remove the existing skeg system components. Cut the old rope guide tube as close to the fitting in the skeg box as possible from inside the after hatch.  I utilized the original tubing as it is high quality and there is no reason to replace it.  The old skeg control unit is cemented in place and you have to be careful and take your time so that you don’t damage the surrounding gel coat. I was able to gently pry this controller out.  Once out, you will need to remove the old cement.

Cleaned out and ready for the new control unit
Cleaned out and ready for the new control unit

Install the skeg control unit:

The next step is to install the new skeg control unit.  I bought this one and a skeg with pre-installed wire from Kajaksport in Finland.   I just called them up and spoke to a fellow named Marko. I found the folks there to be quite helpful. (The part numbers are listed below)  A rat tail rasp is handy to adjust the hole that the after end of the skeg control fits through.  The control unit needs to be able to lie flat against the hull within the cavity.  The needed adjustment(s) becomes clear once you start fitting it into the kayak.

New controller fitted
New controller fitted

Filling the void:

Once fitted properly into the cavity the extra void space needs to be filled in a way that the new controller doesn’t appear to be something cobbed on as an afterthought. I used epoxy pigment with added Microballoons and West System epoxy. The area is completely masked off and everything lightly sanded before taking this step.   To add the pigmented epoxy mix, the boat must be propped up on its starboard side and leveled fore and aft so that the mixture will settle out nice and level in the control cavity.

Mask the area off well and fill in the void space.

Mask the area off well and fill in the void space.

New skeg controller box in place
New skeg controller box in place

Fitting the new skeg to the old box:

The next step is to prepare the old skeg box and the new skeg so they work together properly.  The skeg box in the Cetus is shorter and more shallow than the replacement skeg so the new skeg will need to be trimmed.  Once the new skeg is trimmed to length, a 1/4″ hole needs to be drilled through the top of the skeg box so the wire can pass through it to the inside of the boat.  (A long drill bit is handy here) Position the hole so it corresponds with the location of the fitted wire in the skeg.

Now the skeg needs to be trimmed for depth so that in the stowed or retracted position, it is flush with the bottom of the hull.  Pass the wire through the hole you drilled in the skeg box and be sure the skeg is settled into the box as far as it will go.  If the hole and the wire line up correctly and the trimmed skeg fits such that it lowers into the slot with no binding at all due to length, the skeg should come to rest against the bottom of the skeg box.  Mark the protruding portion of the skeg with a pencil using the hull as a guide.  Remove the skeg and wire and measure how much skeg extends beyond your pencil mark.  This is about how much you will need to remove from the TOP of the skeg.  You will only be trimming material from that portion of the skeg that is aft of where the wire is fitted to the skeg.  Do this a little at a time until you get it to fit just so.   The plastic used in the skeg is easily cut with a band saw and finished with a low angle block plane or sandpaper.

Red shaded area indicates where I trimmed the new skeg.

Red shaded area roughly indicates where I trimmed the new skeg.

Fitting the skeg pin:

Once the skeg fits into the skeg box a “hinge” pin needs to be installed into the forward end of the skeg box for the skeg to pivot on.  Use a 1-1/2″ x 5/16″ stainless bolt/lock nut.  The location of the hole is determined by the skeg as it rests in the box in the retracted position.  Drilling the holes in the sides of the box can be a bit of a challenge.  I used a long drill bit and drilled from the outside.  You could also use small tools like a Dremel and possibly manage it from within.  I drilled low and filed my way to the correct position.  Patience is handy here.  Once the pin is positioned correctly, it needs to be glassed into place.  Use thin stainless washers on either side.  The lock nut should NOT be tightened past the point where it just meets the wall of the skeg box.  Now the pin needs to be secured in the correct position while it is glassed in place.  I made the rig below with a piece of left over electrical wire, some string and a piece of bungee cord.  Notice I also placed a couple of nylon washers on the pin inside the skeg box to help keep the skeg centered.

The pin is set in position and ready to be glassed into place.  Notice the filler in the bottom of the skeg box.  This is neccessary to prevent the skeg from risin up and coming off the pin unless it has been pulled free of the skeg box to remove it.
The pin is set in position and ready to be glassed into place. Notice the filler in the bottom of the skeg box.   This is necessary to prevent the skeg from rising up and coming off the pin unless it has been pulled free of the skeg box to remove it. I used some minicell foam with a single layer of glass to cover.

Making the fairlead:

At this point, it is time to make the wire fairlead that will later be attached to the skeg box.  I used some 1″ kevlar tape to do this but only because that was what I had handy.  Any similar weight cloth will do but a finished tape is easier to work with and neater.  Using a piece of tubing that I also ordered from Kajaksport, I slipped a piece of copper wire into it and then formed the curve that I wanted.  What I don’t want is the wire entering the skeg box at a 90 degree angle. This predisposes the wire to kinking.  The goal is to have a skeg system that is reliable and forgiving.  Done correctly, this system will allow the fully deployed skeg to be abruptly jammed back into the skeg box without kinking the cable.  Crafting this part of the system properly is an important part of that ability.

Use copper wire to create and maintain the fairlead shape.
Use copper wire to create and maintain the fairlead shape.

Note: If you have not replaced the wire guide tubing you will need to attach the length of tubing that the fairlead is made from to the original tubing.  I did this with short pieces of electrical tape running along the length of the tubing.  To get the total length, pass the end of the fairlead tubing through the hole in the skeg box and position it from inside the after hatch.  Once it looks right, mark the overlapped section of the old tube with a sharpie.  Cut both butt ends square and clean before joining.

Using a darning needle and any handy thread, sew the cloth sleeve around the fairlead tubing being sure to cover the joint in the tubing if you have one. Then apply resin to the cloth and allow to set up while keeping the copper wire in place to maintain the fairlead shape.

The finished fairlead. The old tubing is mated to the fairlead inside the fiberglass sheath.
The finished fairlead. The old tubing is mated to the fairlead inside the fiberglass sheath.

Attaching the fairlead to the skeg box:

The next step is to install the fairlead into the skeg box.  Trim the bare tubing that extends beyond the fairlead so that only about 1/4″ of tubing is exposed.  Prepare the skeg box from inside the after hatch by sanding the area all around the hole.  Place the fairlead in position and using a couple of 3/4″ x 5″ strips of glass cloth, glass the fairlead in place and allow to set up being sure that it is stable in its proper position.   Once the initial glassing has set up completely, sand the area again and glass it in securely.

Fairlead glassed in place.
Fairlead glassed in place.  The old tube fitting remains but is plugged.  At the base of the skeg box you can see where the pin has been glassed in place.

Installing the new skeg:

The last piece is actually installing the skeg.  The wire is too long and will need to be trimmed to length.  This is done after the wire has been passed and the slider control has been placed on the wire.  First place the skeg in the retracted position and mark the wire with a Sharpie about 3/8″ back from the forward end of the control box.  Place the skeg control slider on the cable before you cut it to length.

To position the slider control knob correctly, put the skeg in the perfect deployed position. (The skeg is fully deployed but the top of the skeg is still within the skeg box)  The control slider wants to be hitting the after end of the control box when the skeg is in this position.  Tighten the set screw carefully securing the slider to the wire.  Place the retaining caps on either end of the control slider mechanism and go paddle.

New skeg control installed and ready to go.
New skeg control installed and ready to go.

New skeg deployed.  The skeg can be aggressively pushed back into the skeg box without kinking the cable.
New skeg deployed. The skeg can be aggressively pushed back into the skeg box without kinking the wire.

If you have questions about this project you can email them to me:  jdkilroy@this website.