Retractable Sea Kayak Skeg Plans

A professional, reliable retractable skeg for an added dimension of control.
Sea Kayak Skeg Instruction Manual
Skeg Assembly Drawing
Retractable Sea Kayak Skeg
Retractable Sea Kayak Skeg Control Knob
Bill of Materials for a Retractable Skeg

Complete, comprehenisive, detailed plans to build an efficient and reliable retractable skeg for a sea kayak. The result of years of experimentation and testing. This design has proven to be reliable and effective after 10 years of hard use. This retractable skeg should be adaptable to any sea kayak design, wood or composite.

Skeg Features:

  • Efficient Surf-Board Fin Design
  • Positive Low Profile Control
  • Fits Under Low Back Decks (5 1/2" [14cm] clearance)
  • No External Lines - No Tangling or Snagging
  • Virtually Jam and Kink Proof.
  • Professional Appearance

A retractable skeg allows you to tune the performance of your kayak. A well designed kayak probably doesn't need a skeg, but it can add another dimension of control to your kayak. Allowing you to have a loose and maneuverable kayak when you want to play, while giving you the ability to tighten up the tracking when making a long difficult crossing.

Most production skegs are notorious for jamming and cable kinking and generally proving unreliable. I can't count the number of times I've launched from a beach after lunch and then gone around dunking my arm in the water to pull other people's skeg free.

This design has several design ideas that contribute to its reliability. The skeg is offset from the keel line to keep it out of the sand and gravel when landing and launching. The control cable is fully supported so if the skeg is forced up, the cable will not buckle and kink. The cable does not have to span an unsupported gap but instead always has backing the directs any bending into a safe direction. The tight places where sand or gravel may get stuck are either high up in the skeg box so sand rarely gets there or close enough to the pivot point that the control cable has plenty of leverage to overcome any friction. If there is a problem, the skeg can be removed by loosening one set screw.

A skeg should just work. This skeg has proven itself reliable time after time. It just works.

This design was originally for the Petrel which has quite a low back deck. On many other skegs, the control cable enters from the top which requires the cable to stick up above the box before it bends over to head forward towards the cockpit. This bend requires some extra deck height. On my design, the cable enters from the front of the box. So long as you can fit the skeg box under the deck, there will be room enough to install the whole system.

Most production skegs are so large that no one ever puts them all the way down. They deploy the skeg just enough to get the tracking they need, but most of the area of the skeg stays up in the box. This skeg design is intended to be used full extended. The surface area is not as large as commonly seen, but it's efficient surfboard fin design does what needs to be done. The positive control easily lets you adjust the extension should you desire a little less area.

Note: These plans are already included in the Petrel SG plans.


Full size drawings of all major parts in over 50 page manual with more than 120 photographs and illustrations. You should be able to make your own retractable skeg from your own materials with your own tools. Kits are available from Chesapeake Light Craft.

Digital Download