Valley Sea Kayak Skeg Cable Repair/Replacement for 2011 and later mode
Note we have a separate set of instructions for Pre-2011 model Valley Sea Kayaks.
2011 and newer kayaks have a skeg controller that looks like this:
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 completely 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. If the bends form a "Z" shape with sharp corners the cable will need to be replaced.
2.5mm hex (Allen) wrench
3mm hex wrench
#2 Spade tip screwdriver
#2 Philips screwdriver
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.
The cable is best removed as a unit with the skeg blade from the aft end of the kayak. 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. Mark the sleeve the knob rides on so you will be able to put the knob back in the same spot. Use a 2.5mm hex wrench to loosen the set screw in the control knob about 5 complete turns. Hold the 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 off the end of the sleeve. (Note there’s a hole in the 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 sleeve. The marks you made earlier will help you realign the knob on the sleeve.) Use a 3mm hex wrench to remove all four bolts that hold the black plastic guide module into the control recess in the deck of the kayak. Use a 2.5mm hex wrench to remove the set screw at the aft end of the guide module. (Note this set screw touches the poly tube that runs from here aft to the top of the skeg box. The set screw should be just aft of the brass ring which is permanently compressed onto the poly tube.) Lift the guide module out away from the kayak enough to slide it and the cable sheath off the end of the cable.
Your goal is to get the cable to slide out the aft end of the kayak 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. Once the cable is out of the guide module and cable sleeve at the front end, it will easily pull it all the way out of the aft end of the kayak. 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.
Once the skeg blade and cable are of the kayak you can remove the cable from the blade. Easiest way is to clamp the blade in a vise. Loosen the setscrew in the blade. Use a large standard ViseGrip tool to clamp onto the cable just above where it goes into the top of the blade, then roll the round nose of the ViseGrip along the top edge of the blade. This acts like a cam lever to pull the cable out of the blade - really slick!
Inspect the sleeve tube. It is common to find cracks and chips missing from the black carbon sleeve tube near the area where the knob's set screw passes through the sleeve. Usually this can be ignored as long as the sleeve is intact enough to stabilize the knob and move together with the knob when the set screw is clamped against the cable. Lubricate the inside of the sleeve with WD40 before reassembling skeg cable and sleeve.
Lubricate the inside of the guide module with WD40 before reassembling skeg cable and sleeve. Test that the black carbon sleeve slides through the length of the guide module with only slight friction. If the sleeve jams inside the guide module, this will make it difficult to use the skeg. Jamming is usually due to defective, warped guide module (look at the ends to see if they look bent). Most likely the module was bad from the start. We have tried drilling the passageway in the guide module as well as heating and straightening the ends of the module but none of this has worked for fixing a bad guide module. So if your guide module looks bent and/or causes the carbon sleeve to bind up, we recommend replacing the guide module.
Removing the cable from the forward end
It is very unlikely you'll need to pull the cable out the forward end of the system, but if so, 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 (after removing the guide module and cable sleeve as described above).
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.
The stainless steel set screw secures the cable to the blade. To disconnect the old skeg cable from the skeg blade, loosen the set screw 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, but generally you'll feed the cable in from the aft end. When the end of the cable is visible at the control recess, slide the black carbon 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. Slide guide module over the cable and sheath with the set screw in the guide module facing aft. Insert the poly tube into the aft end of the guide module and tighten the guide module's set screw down onto the poly tube. Tighten the control knob's set screw down onto the cable being careful that this set screw is lined up with and passes through the hole for it in the cable sheath. Install the four screws that hold the guide module onto the deck (get all four screws finger tight before wrenching on any of them).
Insert the aft end of the skeg cable into the skeg blade. Note 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 in past the perpendicular hole where the set screw clamps on the cable and into the hole for the cable till it bottoms out. Tighten the set screw enough that it slightly bends and deforms the cable, but not so much that the cable bows out sideways.
Center the skeg control knob over the hole in the black carbon 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 5.25"-5.5" below the keel in the full down position and it should be flush or slightly recessed when fully retracted. If the skeg needs adjusting, loosen the set screw on the control knob and push or pull on the skeg blade while holding the black carbon skeg cable sheath to force the cable to slide inside the black carbon sheath; reset the control knob's set screw and check again.
Lower the skeg and drill 1/8" hole through blade about 3/8" from lower aft corner of the blade. 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.
Replacing the Poly Tube
In the unlikely event that the Poly Tube is kinked or needs to be replaced for some reason here are some extra notes.
The original poly tube from the factory has a crimped ring at the fwd end; I bought a 6 mm compression fitting and several additional compression rings from McMaster Carr. I used that compression fitting to press the fwd ring on the new tube, then removed the compression nut before sliding the tube into place from the fwd end. Another new compression ring (and the original 6 mm compression nut) is needed to re-affix the aft end of the tube to the compression fitting above the skeg box. You will also need to cover this fitting with Marine Goop to make it all water tight. At the forward end of the Poly Tube, use marine grade clear silicone to seal up the penetration at the slider assembly end.