It is most essential to the safety of a canoe that there shall be some means of steering besides the paddle. The boat is so long that it cannot be turned quickly by the latter, the leverage being comparatively short, and on all but the smallest Rob Roys a rudder is a prime necessity. The first canoes were built with stem and stern nearly alike, both with a long curve, to which it was very difficult to fit a rudder. One plan was to use a curved rudder and braces fitted to turn, but such a rudder is not only difficult to ship but will unship itself on the least provocation. In another plan a false stern was made fitting the sternpost, to which it was fastened, but straight on its after edge, to which the rudder was hung. This plan also was clumsy and unsatisfactory, and finally discarded. Another plan was to use a long arm for the lower brace, projecting three or four inches from the sternpost, so that the rudder hung vertically; but this, too, is now little used. For many years the sternposts have been straight, though mostly set at an angle to the keel, as in the old Shadows, giving a good support for a rudder. There was a decided objection to this plan, however, as it was very difficult to launch the canoe from a bank or dock if the water was shoal, the sternpost sticking in the mud and, in addition, it made the canoe hard to turn round. To obviate these objections and yet allow the rudder to hang properly without causing a drag, as it will on a curved or raking sternpost, some canoes of late have had the sternpost vertical, or nearly so, from the water up, giving 7 to 9 in. to support the rudder, but below the water the heel is rounded quickly away into the rocker of the keel, allowing the boat to be pushed stern first into mud without sticking fast, and also increasing the ease of turning.
In form the rudder, especially for rough water, should drop below the level of the keel several inches so as to have a good hold on the water, even when the boat is pitching among waves. With this form of rudder, shown in the large plates of canoes, a tricing line is sometimes used, being made fast to the rudder, and running over a sheave in the sternpost at deck, by means of which the rudder may be raised in shoal water. The idea of a drop rudder in two parts is not new, but its practical application to canoes is of recent date, one of the first having been fitted to the Atlantis by Mr. S. R. Stoddard in 1888. These rudders, now coming into general use, are made of sheet brass, as shown nn the drawing, a portion being fitted on a pivot like a centerboard, allowing it to drop to a distance or to rise on striking any obstacle, while it may be raised by a line from the well. This rudder acts, to a certain extent, as an after centerboard, allowing the centerboard proper to be placed further forward than would otherwise be possible. Besides this it has a further advantage, that on most canoes it may be so proportioned as to fold up, leaving nothing below the water-line, thus obviating to a great extent the necessity for removing the rudder at all, as the boat may be landed with the rudder attached, but folded up so as not to strike bottom. If the rudder and yoke are both strongly made, they offer excellent handles by which to lift the after end of the canoe. The stock of the rudder is made of one piece of sheet brass doubled, the rod on which the rudder hangs running down inside the seam as shown. The top of each side is turned down horizontally, and to the two the rudder-yoke is rivetted. The drop portion of the rudder fits between the two sides, a bolt or rivet passing through the three.* (* See page 198).
The usual way of hanging the common rudder by pintles and braces, is shown also. A better plan is to have two braces on the rudder, as well as two on the sternpost with a rod of 1/4 in. brass running down through them, allowing the rudder to rise up, but not to unship. An old but very good plan is shown at m. On the rudder are two braces, each with a bole through it. A similar brace is placed below on the sternpost and a brass rod is screwed or riveted permanently into it. The upper end of the rod is held by a flat strip of brass, m, brazed to it, while in the lower brace, n, on rudder, is a slot, allowing it to slide past m on the rod.
The rudder yoke should be strong and well proportioned, as it sometimes receives heavy blows. The arms need not be over 4-1/2 to 5 in. long each, as the shorter length will give power enough. Sometimes instead of a yoke a grooved wheel is fitted to the rudder head, the lines running in the groove. This gives control of the rudder in any position, even when backing. and has another advantage in that the mizzen sheet cannot foul and the yoke cannot catch in lines or bushes* (* See page 190).