Installing a Rudder to a Prowler Big Game kayak

One thing I'd chosen not to fit to my yak was a rudder. Why?, partly because of the expense, it seemed a lot for what it was. Plus I didn't really feel the need, after all is there really a requirement for a rudder??

One thing I have noticed over the months is how annoying it can be paddling across wind and tide, having to tack across, pushing the nose at an angle away from your destination in order to keep on track. There's often been a need to correction strokes to get back on course. Being quite high out the water leads to the Big Game getting caught be the wind only exasperating these problems.

I did a few favours for a fellow kayaker the other week expecting nothing in return, well, a did request a bottle of Bacardi !. However, he didn't feel this was anywhere near sufficient for the work done and I was rewarded with a new rudder, awesome!!

I soon set about emptying the contents of the box and getting to grips with the instruction. Sadly it turned out that the instructions are rubbish, poor explanations with even poorer photocopied photos to back it up. I decided to take the opportunity to produce something that's hopefully of more use to someone carrying out the same job.


The guide below is by no means a definitive guide, it should be used in conjunction with the supplied instruction where hopefully it'll make the procedure of installing the rudder far easier to understand and carry out.

One item that you do required if not already fitted is a centre hatch in order to provide access to the inside of the kayak. These can be purchased separately and there's a guide in my rigging section of fitting the hatch if required.

The first step is to gain access to the inside rear of the kayak when the rudder cabling will exit the kayak in order to attach to the rudder itself. The kit comes with a paper template which is placed on the rear circular moulding at the rear of the tankwell. All nine holes are to be marked and drilled prior to removing the main access hole with a 4" hole saw. If you don't possess a hole saw it can be achieved with a jigsaw aided with a Dremel tool or rough circular file.

The photo below shows the location where the holes are to be drilled. This photo shows the frame of my screw-type hatch fitted to the yak. The principle is exactly the same. Bolt holes have been drilled with a large 4" access hole.

I was fortunate in the fact that I'd previously fitted a screw-type round hatch many months earlier when fitting my stern light. I'd personally recommend that you fitted a screw type hatch in lieu of the fixed blanking cover that is supplied with the kit. It's quite possible that you may need access in the future and having to de-rivet the blanking cover would be a real pain.

It's worth removing the existing footrail assemblies at this point, 2 cross-head screws hold each footrail in place, removed these and the footrails will fall away.

The next job is to drill the four tubing holes to allow fitment of the steering lines. There are two holes are the rear of the yak and two holes in the rearmost section of the footwells (see photo). These are to be pilot drilled and opened up to 3/8" prior to fitting the four supplied grommets.

Rear guide holes with grommets fitted

Front guide holes with grommets fitted

Take the supplied tubing and snip one end to a 45 degree angle, this will make inserting the tube into the grommets that much easier. Wet the tubing with very soapy water thus enabling the tube to slide through the grommets. Insert the tube into one of the footwell grommets from the footwell side. Thread it to the rear of the kayak keeping it between the tankwell and the outside wall of the kayak (outboard of the scupper holes).

Reach through the 4" access hole drilled previously and guide the tube through the stern grommet, paying attention that it's on the same side as the footwell grommet used previously. Pull the tube tight, removing any soap solution close to the grommet, this will prevent the tube sliding back into the yak. Once the tubing is taught cut the tubing 1" from the grommets as shown below.

The new footrails can be fitted at this point, refit as per the removal mentioned above, ensuring the pedal is towards the bow of the boat. You'll notice that these footrails use a different bolt hole to the removed type, however it's already existing so that makes life easy.


Repeat for the other track.

The steering cables can be un-wound and straightened. Feed each cable through it's respective footwell grommet so all the excess passes through the stern grommet. Keep it tidy at this point as kinking it would be bad news.

The supplied instructions stated to 'adjust the pedal on the track using the tri-glide, so that the cable loop is at the back edge of the track when it is pulled straight'. I found this actually put the cable too far back, this would lead to fouling in the 1" of tube exiting the grommet and thus not allowing full lock of the rudder. I found having this loop further forward gave the desired result, see the photo below.

Next is the installation of the rudder body. I neglected to photograph this though it's straight forward enough and the supplied photo shows the process clearly enough. Basically you remove the existing four screws at the rearmost of the kayak where the rudder body is to be fitted. The rudder bracket is then attached to the transom using the supplied machine screws. It needs to be orientated correctly so take note of the supplied photo - again, do not over-tighten.
The rudder body itself can now be fitted. Remove the 4" screw from the rudder body and insert it between the mounting tabs of the rudder bracket previously fitted. Fit the 4" screw with nyloc nut. Do not over-tighten, the body should swivel freely on the bracket.

The photo below shows the rudder bracket and body installed onto the transom of the kayak.

The rudder blade can now be fitted. Disassemble the large screw and bush assembly from the rudder body. Insert the bushing into the rudder blade prior to fitting and lining up the centre holes of the blade and the body. Fit the screw and nyloc nut. Again, do not over-tighten, the blade should be able to move freely. The photo below shows the rudder blade fitted, ignore the ropes, they are fitted at a later stage.

Next to fit is the strap eye and clam cleat. One the right hand side of the yak, where the seat well and tankwell meet there are two 'O' ring marking spots where these items are to be attached.

My setup differs somewhat as I have RAM tubes fitted just aft of this position. However, I decided to go ahead and fit these items in the suggested location as it makes deployment and retraction of the rudder relatively simple. I use screws with nuts and washers as opposed to the supplied rivets, purely as I'm not a big fan of rivets. also the centre hatch allow sufficient access to fit nuts and bolts which is always a better option. Always use sealant when fitting nuts and bolts in order to retain the watertight integrity of the hull. The rope shown below is not actually fitted at this stage.

Next in installation of the rudder retraction and deployment lines. On the rudder body, viewing from the top looking forward, feed the retraction rope aft under the grey cam, around an over the top, ensuring enough has been fed through to reach the clam cleat. Feed this long length through the holes on the rudder blade itself. This is explained adequately on the supplied instructions, see the photo below for the finished detail.

The next step is to attach the two loose end of the retraction/deployment rope. This is achieved with the aid of some supplied bungee cord utilising the explained knots. The knots are straightforward enough and well explained, though it may take more that one attempt to get them located in the desired position. when tying the second not you need to keep the bungee cord tight in order to retain sufficient tautness in the cord loop that you've created.

The finished result in as shown previously and again below.

The final step of the leaflet covers the fitment of the steering lines. It's worthwhile putting the rudder in the stowed position to prevent rudder movement during this operation.

Remove the nut and two washers from the left wing of the rudder body. Fit one piece of black shrink tube of about 1.5" along the cable followed by a supplied copper crimp. Take the end of the cable and pass it back through the crimp creating a loop.
Place this loop around the screw in the left rudder body wing.
Tighten the cable by feeding the cut end through the crimp bringing the crimp with 1/4" of the wing. The rudder body should be aligned in the dead ahead position at this point due to the rudder being stowed. Whilst retaining some tension in the cable crimp using the correct crimping tool (not supplied). Cut the loose end close to the crimp.

Finally slip the black heat shrink over the crimp and cut wire, heating down with either a lighter or a heat gun.

Attach the other rudder cable in the same manner.

Fit the cables as follows: put one washer onto the screw, place the crimped cable loop onto the screw followed by another washer. Finally fit a nyloc nut and tighten down. (see photo in supplied leaflet). However, do not over-tighten, the cable loop must be able to move freely.

The final job is to fit the supplied blanking plate to the 4" hole made earlier in the rear tankwell. Remove any debris and apply a bead of silicon to the mating surfaces and rivet in place.

The foot pedals can be adjusted to suit the individual. A length of webbing it attached from the cable to the pedal and be adjusted to ensure the control cable is kept suitably taught. A length of bungee from the pedal to the front of each pedal track is used as a 'spring'. Again this can be adjusted to suit the individual be setting the correct length with a single overhand knot. In the dead ahead position there should a small amount of tension on the bungee. Once pedal positrons have been set the loose webbing strap could be cut off, though I elected to tywrap it away.

I also fitted a rope guide next to the rear tankwell, close to my stern light fitting, to guide the ropes around the tankwell and light fitment (visible in photo below)

The final job I carried out was to fit a retaining bungee over the rudder pedal to prevent inadvertent deployment should the yak be mounted upside down on a vehicle roofrack.

So was it worth all the effort??. Absolutely, the yak tracks brilliantly now, whereas previously it would nod slightly from side to side whilst paddling . It makes crossing over wind and tide so much easier, no corrective strokes required, just a slight pedal input as required. If I'd fully appreciated the effectiveness of a rudder I'd without doubt have fitted one much sooner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I've been debating where to route the rudder retraction lines on my PBG, and your rigging photos show a suitable solution to my problem. BTW, if you have the center hatch, you can complete the install without cutting out the rear hole and adding the small hatch. I'm not saying it's easy, but certainly possible.