Skeg Cable Repair for Pre-2011 Model Year WS and Dagger Sea Kayaks
Wilderness Systems & Dagger sea kayak Skeg Cables for all pre-2011 Tempest, Zephyr, and Alchemy 14 sea kayaks
About 90% of the time a bent skeg cable can be straightened well enough by hand or with pliers that replacement isn't necessary, but it's always nice to have a spare cable in case you can't get the old one to work. A slight waviness in the cable after straightening is okay as long as the cable slides through the poly tube sheath without sticking. Waves in the cable that are less than an inch or so long or still have a tight kink to them will likely stick and bend again, but a cable with long smooth waves usually works as good as new.
About the only place the skeg cable is likely to bend on these kayaks is in the first few inches above the skeg blade. Most likely the cable bent when landing with the skeg down. In that case the beach pushes up on the skeg blade putting the cable in compression - if you are lucky, this may cause the cable to slide and move the skeg control knob at the other end of the cable to the up position while the blade retracts. But trying to move the control knob by pushing up on the blade is like trying to push on a rope. So if you land with the skeg down it is quite likely the cable will bend and kink where it is unsupported between the top of the blade and the hole where the cable enters the skeg box. Sometimes these bends can be straightened without removing the cable from the kayak, and if this works it will save a lot of time. However, it is easier to straighten the cable if you take it all the way out so the choice depends on where and how badly the cable is bent.
1/16” hex wrench (Allen wrench)
#2 Philips screwdriver
Needle nose Visegrips
Needle nose pliers (2 pairs)
Cable cutters – the type sold for cutting sailboat rigging or bike control cables. With a good pair of cable cutters it is easy to make a clean cut so the cable can be reassembled.
Support the kayak right side up on two sawhorses or on vehicle’s roof rack. Lower the skeg and drill 1/8" hole through blade about 3/8" from lower aft corner of the blade (When done, use this new hole in the blade to tie a few inches of cord to the blade so in the future when the skeg gets jammed by a rock you can pull the cord to free the skeg rather than bending the cable.). Put a 1/16" cord through the hole you drilled in the blade and tie the cord into a sling (a loop). The “taught line hitch” knot is perfect for making adjustable length loops at both ends of this cord; the taught line hitch knot can slide to adjust the length of the loop, yet the knot will not slip under load. Adjust length of the sling so that with the ball of your foot in the sling and your heel on the ground, the toe of your shoe is just a bit above the ground.
The cable can be removed from either inside the cockpit (the forward end) or from the skeg box (the aft end). We recommend first trying to straighten the cable without removing it, and to do this follow the steps for pulling the cable out from the aft end but stop as soon as you have access to the kinked portion of the cable. If you are not able to straighten the cable well enough this way, then continue pulling the cable all the way out the aft end. If the cable is bent above the skeg blade and you need to remove the cable but can’t get the cable out from the aft end, cut the cable above the bent portion of the cable and remove the cable by pulling it out the forward end (skip to instructions for “Removing the Skeg Cable from the Forward End”).
Removing the Skeg Cable From the Aft End
Position the control knob in the middle of its range. On either side of the control knob mark the stainless steel sleeve so you will be able to put the knob back in the same spot. Use a #2 Philips screw driver to loosen the set screw in the control knob several turns. Hold the stainless steel skeg cable sleeve that the skeg control knob rides on with needle nose pliers and wiggle the control knob until you can slide the knob to the aft end of the skeg control system recess (the recess in the deck of the kayak). (Note there’s a hole in the stainless steel skeg cable sleeve for the set screw in the skeg control knob. When you reassemble the control knob, be sure the set screw on the control knob is centered over this hole in the cable sleeve so the set screw passes through this hole and clamps down directly on the skeg cable, thus preventing the skeg cable from sliding within the stainless steel sleeve. The marks you made earlier will help you realign the knob on the sleeve.) With the skeg blade still in the middle of its range of motion, position the control knob so it butts up against the aft end of the skeg control recess and/or the end of the aft stainless steel threaded “Guide Tube”. Tighten the set screw on control knob – make it snug but not so tight as to strip the threads in the plastic control knob. The set screw needs to clamp onto the stainless steel cable sleeve well enough to hold the sleeve from moving aft while you slip the cable aft through the sleeve via pulling down on the skeg blade.
Your goal is to get the cable to slide through the sleeve far enough to bring the skeg blade down until you can straighten the cable, or if removing the cable then far enough to unhook the front end of the skeg blade so you can pull the cable all the way out. If you are doing this solo, grip the stainless steel skeg cable sleeve with needle nose ViseGrips set for light clamping force. Let the Visegrips or pliers butt up against the control knob. Alternatively, a second person can grip the stainless steel cable sleeve with one or two pairs of needle nose pliers that they let butt up against the aft end of the skeg control knob. With the skeg cable sleeve held in place with needle nose pliers or Vicegrips at the control knob end, pull down on the skeg blade with your hands or by using your foot in the sling to apply tension to it. You can usually feel and/or hear when the cable moves within the stainless steel sleeve. If there is a second person assisting you, have them look through hole in stainless steel skeg cable sleeve to see when skeg cable moves relative to the sleeve. Once the cable is out of the stainless steel sleeve it will easily pull all the way out of the kayak. Be sure not to let the stainless steel sleeve move aft with the cable, this sleeve must remain in the control recess at the forward end of the system while pulling the cable out the aft end. Once the blade is hyper extended, use your fist to tap aft on the end of the blade near the pivot to get the blade unhooked from the pivot pin.
Removing the cable from the forward end
If the skeg cable won’t slide through its stainless steel sleeve, cut the cable at the skeg blade end above the bent portion of the cable and remove the cable by pulling it out the forward end. First remove rubber end cap from forward Guide Tube in the cockpit at the very forward end of the skeg system, and loosen the Philips head set screw in the black plastic skeg control knob. Pull the whole cable with its stainless steel sleeve out the front end into the cockpit. Once the cable and sleeve are out of the kayak, the cable can be removed from the stainless steel sleeve by gently clamping the sleeve in a vise and then pulling the cable by hand Just clamp the vise enough to hold the sleeve while pulling the cable out, don’t clamp the vise so hard that it deforms the sleeve.
Inspect the stainless steel cable sleeve tube. It should be straight. If there are any burrs at the ends or in the hole for the set screw, file or sand them smooth. If tube is bent or deformed (flattened from clamping in vise etc.) it is best to replace it. Lubricate the inside of the sleeve with WD40 before reassembling skeg cable and sleeve.
Reassembling Skeg System
Lubricate the skeg cable with paraffin wax before reassembling system. When reinserting the cable into the kayak, keep spinning the cable in the direction of winding the cable’s twisted fibers tighter (this keeps the cable from fraying and helps the end of the cable slide around corners), especially spin the cable each time the end of the cable meets a fitting or edge of a tube. Note when the aft end of the sleeve hits one of the guide tubes this can also cause the cable to stop moving, but wiggling the sleeve to center it in the guide tube will fix this.
The brass fitting in the skeg blade has a set screw that secures the cable at the aft end. To disconnect the old skeg cable from the skeg blade, loosen the set screw in the brass fitting several turns with a 1/16” Allen wrench, and pull the cable from the blade.
To reinstall the skeg blade, hold it nearly perpendicular to the keel and get the end of the grove in the blade lined up with the hinge pin in the kayak’s skeg box. Give the skeg blade a slight forward tap near the hinge end of the blade with your fist so as to make it click into place on the hinge pin.
The skeg cable can be reassembled from either end of the system. If the cable slides through the stainless steel sleeve without much force, try feeding the cable in from the skeg box at the aft end (if you can’t slide the cable through the sheath by hand, then pre assemble the sheath onto the cable using a vise then feed the cable into the kayak from inside the cockpit at the forward end of the system). When the end of the cable is visible at the control recess, slide the stainless steel sheath over the cable by spinning the sheath in the direction that winds the strands of the skeg cable tighter. Keep pushing the sheath over the cable until the cable nearly comes out the other end of the sheath.
Insert the aft end of the skeg cable into the skeg blade and its brass end fitting, the end of the skeg cable must be free of any fraying and tightly wound. If you need to trim the cable either to clean up frayed ends or to shorten it for length adjustment, get a pair of cable cutters sold for cutting sailboat rigging or bike control cables. With a good pair of cable cutters it is easy to make a clean cut so the cable can be reassembled. The cable should go all the way through the brass fitting and protrude past the bottom of the brass fitting and further into the skeg blade. A light finger torque on the 1/16” Allen wrench is all that’s needed to hold the set screw on the cable.
Center the skeg control knob over the hole in the stainless steel sheath tube and tighten the set screw against the skeg cable with a #2 Philips screw driver. Move the control knob back and forth to check the range of motion of the skeg blade and to be sure the system moves freely. The aft tip of the skeg blade should protrude 3.75” - 3.875" below the keel in the full down position and it should be flush or slightly recessed when fully retracted. If the skeg needs adjusting, loose the set screw on the control knob and push or pull on the skeg blade while holding the stainless steel skeg cable sheath to force the cable to slide inside the stainless steel sheath; reassemble the control knob and check again.
Be sure to replace the black end cap on the forward end of the guide tube inside the cockpit, otherwise water will leak into the cockpit from the forward end of the skeg control recess.