Feathercraft flip-up rudder rejuvenation and improvements

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Foot controlled rudder with sliding pegs is simple and has stood the test of time.
Note that I usually wear booties because the sliding action wears down on my heels!

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When I purchased my Seda Glider aka the Banana Boat‘ brand new in 1992 it did not come with a rudder. Paddling the boat for a few months convinced me that the nearly 20ft boat really did need a rudder, so I installed the (then new) “Feathercraft rudder” system. At the time this rudder was the only option that I could find and was sold by Seda directly as it still is today.  Since then, the basic Feathercraft rudder setup has been a staple in the sea kayaking world and has spawned many imitations of varying quality. I would say in comparison to some other offerings on the market today it stands as an excellent choice.

Since the Glider is a “North American” style touring sea kayak, the stern is not pointed up as in say Greenland or British style boats. This means that there’s no need to attach any brackets for the rudder. Instead, the Glider uses an ‘end pour’ in the stern to hold the rudder in place. To do this I had to cut open my (then new) kayak, which I was naturally apprehensive about. Finally I installed it myself by cutting about three inches off the deck at the stern and pouring in an epoxy and filler mix to make a solid “end cap” in the hull. Then I drilled a half inch hole straight down into the solid pour where the anchor pin for the rudder would sit. The procedure was very similar to these excellent rudder installation instructions from CLC. The final result worked well for steering the boat, although in the original design the raising and lowering (deploying) of the rudder was always finicky. In 1995 I upgraded to the current rudder pulley system that I use to this day. It’s good to know that replacement parts are still available from Feathercraft!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida rejuvenation

Bent rudder blade resulting from a shark attack upon it?

Something hit my rudder with a lot of force just off the beach at Camp LuLu. It felt like being rear-ended in a car, so strong that I was concerned about the well being of the animal that hit me, but never saw anything. Straightened the blade in a vise, and good as new!

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One thing that I did not like was that the end pour and rudder combination added a good 5 lbs at least to the stern of the boat and this changed the way I had to carry it from then on. On the plus side, the benefit of relatively effortless paddling under almost any conditions, especially following seas was worth the extra weight penalty. My particular rudder has seen a lot of abuse and proven quite durable. Still, after 24 years of ownership, it was long overdue for a rejuvenation and further improvements!

Fast forward to 2008 and I had switched out the stainless steel rudder cables to Spectra® / Dyneema® line. I believe I replaced the stainless steel cables twice before this as they had a tendency to snap at inopportune moments! By switching to Spectra® or Dyneema®  there would be no more rusting, no more metal fittings, no more frayed cable ends poking my legs and I saved a bit in weight. What’s the difference between Spectra®  and Dyneema® ? For all intents and purposes relevant to a kayaker they are essentially the same thing. The names refer to the registered trademarks of two different manufacturers of competing products both made of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibers. Either one works great!

This setup worked well until the end of 2015 when one of the Spectra®  lines snapped half way through paddling the 2015 Winterfest Boat Parade in Ft Lauderdale. This incident reminded me what a chore it is paddling the Glider sans rudder and I decided to overhaul and refurbish the whole setup.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

New for 2016 are these much improved rudder line exit cover shrouds that I glassed on. They help to keep the tubing liners as straight as possible and are also foolproof easy to waterproof with some RTV sealant.

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I noticed that the Spectra® line was abraded to the point of failure right where it exits the deck to come out on top. After seven years both sides were severely abraded, although only one side actually snapped. This was despite being encased inside a polyethylene tubing liner! I decided to ream out the deck opening to allow the tubing to run as straight as possible and this in turn created a large oval opening. To cover this I glassed in small sections of half of a cut pvc pipe that would then let me to properly seal everything in.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Closeup of the cover shroud made from a 1/2″ pvc pipe section and glasses on.
Wish I could find matching yellow paint!

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This rudder has put up with quite a bit of abuse over the years without any cracks or breakage. Flip the boat over to drain the cockpit? No problem!

Try this with some of the other bracket style upward pointing rudder kits that are commonly sold today. Actually please don’t – you WILL break those!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Inside the rear hatch looking back to the stern showing the polyethylene tubing liners tucked up and out of the way of gear loading and unloading.
Note the foam pressed into the stern to cover the rudder end-pour.

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At the back end, the rudder post pin had been riding inside a half inch hole drilled into the solid end pour.  After 24 years the hole was worn enough to make the rudder wobble. I decided to upgrade with a bronze bushing sleeve for the pin to ride in.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Feathercraft rudder pin with bronze bushing – a match made in kayak heaven! 🙂

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Here you can see the enlarged opening ready to receive the bushing in the end pour on the Glider.

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The rudder pin and bushing form a nice tight fit, so no sand should be able to get in!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Testing the fit before permanent bushing installation.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Bronze bushing epoxied in place inside the end pour.
The other hole is for a ‘set screw’ that keeps the rudder from falling out.

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Note the custom stainless retaining plate in the rudder block that I added years ago to keep the rudder from falling out.

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

Happiness means no more wobbles! 🙂

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The rest of the refurbishment consisted of new Spectra® lines inside new polyethylene tubing and a new uphaul line. I also sanded down the plastic rudder blade pulley to reduce friction when deploying the rudder from it’s flipped over position. This was something that’s bugged me for a long time as I usually had to hand deploy the rudder ahead of time. It’s still not perfect, but I can live with it now.

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It also really helps to have cool stickers on your boat.

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As luck would have it I didn’t actually have to replace any rudder parts at all, but I’m happy to know that they are still available from Feathercraft!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Seda Glider kayak tech rudder repair refurb fix review photo upgrade banana boat Miami Florida

The Banana Boat rides again!  

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 The whole rudder setup now feels smoother and works much better!

Just like the boat it is attached to, this rejuvenated 24 year old Feathercraft rudder system has a lot of life left in it. 🙂

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Enjoy!

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! Bless

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