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post #5 of Old 11-28-2009
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Skegs are nice for the protection they provide for the rudder from things like lobster pots. In the past forty years two boats I've been on had entanglements with lobster pots. One was heading out to the start of a Newport-Bermuda race, and our prop snagged one. The skipper (who was steering) had his eager son go over the side to clear it. The second was this past summer in Maine, in our twelvth season on our spade-ruddered J/36. We were powersailing, close to high tide, trying to make Frenchboro Long Island before it got too dark to see. The high water and current dragged the float under and we ran it over without seeing it. Thwop,thwop, thwop, (we thought the shaft might break) thunk.
Silence. No gushing water. Ooof. The prop cut it off (?!?) Who knows? Essentially, the rudder seems to be adequately protected by the keel most of the time, and having the engine running is the problem, not the spade rudder. Having a skeg in front of the rudder would make clearing any snags much simpler (stop, and the line would drop out of the way) without the possibility of getting a line caught between the rudder and the hull. If the boat comes with a skeg, it's nice insurance to have. If the boat doesn't have a skeg, being a tad more careful doesn't hurt. For the number of times it's been an issue for me, however, it's not something to worry much about.
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