A Simple Retractable Skeg for Kayaks
The skeg design on this page is influenced by a
skeg constructed by
Ross Leidy.  Some of the
features I like about this skeg:

A 3/16" shock cord loop holds the blade on the
pivot dowel, and also serves to deploy the skeg.  A
cord attached to top of the skeg retracts the skeg
when pulled from the cockpit control.

The following photos show the building process
and the skeg installed in a kayak.  

The skeg is built from  4mm plywood, but 3mm
would work fine, too.

The skeg box needs to be narrow enough to hold
the blade without much play.  It also needs to be
wide enough for the shock cord that will hold and
deploy the blade.  The solution here is to widen
the box only in the area where the shock cord
needs the width.

The blade on this skeg was covered on each side
with a lightweight fiberglass cloth, but that
probably isn't necessary.
The top of the skeg box is trimmed when
installing it into the kayak.  The top of the box
will attach to the underside of the deck.  The
control cord connects to the blade through a
small hole in the deck, so there is minimal chance
of leaks.  The hole through deck is lined with a
small brass collar to minimize abrasion.  
Skeg blade down.
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Created January 7, 2008
John Caldeira
The outside edges of the skeg box is covered by
a lightweight fiberglass cloth (2 or 4 ounce).

When first designing the skeg, I found it easiest
to build the blade first, then build the box
around it.

The hole near the shock cord is ONE hole, not
two.  This allows the shock cord loop to be
created first, then thread down through the hole
using a string leader.  The shock cord is then
passed up between the base block and dowel,
and stretched with a finger to insert the blade.
I have been using this skeg for one year
now and am very pleased with its
performance.  It has never failed or
become jammed.  

In hindsight, my kayak did not need quite so
large a skeg, but intermediate knots on the
deployment cord allow me to lower the skeg
part way if I choose.