Top positive review
18 people found this helpful
Easy to install, but vibrates audibly
on October 27, 2012
I agree with prior reviewers that the rudder kit came with surplus parts and that it was easy to install by anyone with minor mechanical abilities. The video on YouTube was particularly helpful, and the printed instructions (included) were particularly unhelpful. If you are a "tall" paddler in a Wilderness Systems Tsunami boat, you need to deviate from the instructions a little to give yourself enough leg room between the seat and the pedals. Although customer service at Wilderness Systems says the rudder pedals give you the same leg room as the solid pegs, this is absolutely NOT true. You get about 2" less room in the best of circumstances, and the loss is greater if you install the cable lengths strictly according to their instructions. The reason is that the solid pegs can go very far forward, almost up to the front bulkhead, whereas the rudder pedals need room to "travel" back and forth to make the rudder work fully. In a Tsunami, even if you "fudge" the installation to favor more leg room, you'll still be tight if your inseam is greater than 33".
The rudder pedals slide back and forth in an aluminum "extrusion" that has no stops to keep the pedal slide from sliding right out of the back of the extrusion. This is a hugely bad design, especially if you have long legs, because if you take your feet off the pedals to rest your legs, you risk accidentally knocking the pedal slide out of the extrusion (while on the water with the spray skirt on!) and it's very difficult to get the pedal far enough forward again to get your foot back on the pedal without removing the spray skirt. This is EXTREMELY annoying and I have met other kayakers with this same complaint. The problem can be avoided by fabricating a large "rubber band" out of 1/8" bungie cord, and threading the bungie through the hole in the back of pedal slide near where the cable joins the slide, then tying the bungie (with appropriate knots) into a loop. The loop makes a rubber band that is then slipped over the front of the aluminum slide extrusion. This creates a pedal retractor that serves two purposes: 1) It puts forward pressure on the pedal slides that keeps them from inopportunely sliding out of the extrusion, and 2) It returns the deployed rudder always to a "neutral" position while your feet are off the pedals. The slight additional pedal resistance offered by the bungies is so small that you can't feel it, but the overall user friendliness and performance increase are significant. You need 26.5" of 1/8" bungie cord from REI or elsewhere to tie each one of the pedal retractor bands, using barrel knots to joint them, if you're interested.
The rudder itself is a hydrofoil, and like all hydrofoils it is subject to vibration at certain speeds and certain water temperatures and conditions. There are lots of very complicated theories about why this vibration happens, far beyond the scope of this review. Suffice it to say that my "Blade" rudder vibrates and produces a humming sound quite often, and I haven't yet figured out how to stop it from doing that. I understand that all the Wilderness Systems rudders are now "The Blade" design, whether factory installed or added afterwards. They all use a plastic mounting block on the stern of the boat held by two 1/4" cap bolts and a lock washer. The lock washer is ineffective on my rudder to stop the cap bolts from working loose. I have to keep tightening the cap bolts, which continue to work themselves loose after only a short time. The manufacturer provides a special allen wrench to continue tightening them, and I suggest that you tape it to the inside of the rear hatch cover, especially if you're taking the boat far from home, as you will need it. A regular 3/16" allen wrench will work, but is not as convenient to use as the one supplied. Some thread lock may solve this problem, but I'm inclined to think the design is missing two flat washers that should be between the plastic block and the lock washer. The holes in the plastic block are too small to fit a standard 1/4" stainless steel flat washer, so at present the lock washer is between the cap bolt and bare plastic, which is think is why the bolts keep working loose. The self-loosening rudder block may be contributing to the vibration and humming of the rudder, I don't know, but at a minimum, it is annoying to have to keep retightening the bolts to keep the rudder square to the boat.
If you have a Wilderness Systems "rudder ready" boat, this rudder is the only game in town, and having a rudder is better than not having one, especially on big waters, so I hope the above suggestions help other WS kayak owners who are installing rudders, and will inevitably encounter the same problems I have.
But all of that said, the rudder itself works well to control the direction of the boat and to compensate for wind and currents. I've used it in heavy winds and waves, and most recently on the Colorado River in less than true whitewater, and found it reliable.