Unfortunately, while the boat and mechanicals are in overall great shape, after a couple months of use, I found myself unable to retract the rudder from the cockpit. This had been working just fine, and is normally done by pulling on a rope with a toggle on it.
A jam cleat holds the rope in place when the rudder is up, and gravity takes care of deploying it when I need it down. To bring it up, I just pull the rope, and the SmartTrack rudder system comes right up. Everything was fine, until it wasn't.
It took a couple of examinations to determine the problem, and ultimately it's easier to show before I try to explain.
This is what a good rudder assembly is supposed to look like. Note the arched piece at the top.
This is what mine looked like. In fact, you can't see from this angle, but it looked more like two offset half-arches. In this photo, you can make out a white fracture line where the plastic was already starting to bend.
Before we get into the assembly/disassembly process though, there was a minor detour in getting the right part. Essentially, you can't buy just that little arched piece. You don't have to buy an entire ne rudder kit (nearly $200), but you do have to by the control sub-assembly.
When I first ordered it, I said it was a Tiderace Pace with a SmartTrack rudder system. My friendly regional kayak parts supplier (Tom) sent me a replacement - and only after taking it apart did I notice that the Pace uses a "compact" sub-assembly, and by default I'd gotten the "original".
They're kind enough to print it right on the tin, so to speak.
Compact vs. Original
I thought I might make it work, but even the mounting bracket is a different size - off just enough that you can't mix and match.
Thankfully, Tom was able to find the correct part and send it to me. We managed to overlap each other's efforts to - at one point I wrote SmartTrack asking about the right part, and had some correspondence that went something like this (I'm paraphrasing).
Kayak Cowgirl: Hey there, I'm looking for the correct rudder assembly a 2012 Tiderace Pace 18. I asked my friendly region kayak parts guy to help me out, but thought I'd ask around as well.
SmartTrack: Oh yeah, Tom contacted us already and we shipped it to him.
Sure enough, the right part arrived a day or two later, not to mention an earlier email from Tom.
I'd been dreading taking this apart, because the mechanical complexity of rudders kinda scares me. However, replacing the part pretty easy. First, since I'd taken it apart previously, when I had the wrong part, I already knew what to do. Second, even that first time, since the control cables and pedals were fine, all I really had to do was detach the control cables from the sub-assembly, and change the foil from one to the other.
The cables are kept on with a simple pin and cotter pin arrangement. The pin goes through the wings of the sub-assembly and a round attach point on the cable, and the cotter pin holds it in place.
To take them apart, you have to carefully (very carefully, if you're working over a plank-decked floor directly over water) take the cotter pin off like a key ring, then pull the pin loose.
Once you do that, removing the sub-assembly is as easy as pulling out the long vertical pin, which you can make out in the first pictures.
It's pretty neat. It turns out the spring is adjustable. With the adjustment knob on, you can tighten the coiled spring pictured below, to add a little pop to your deployment.
Ultimately, the hardest part of this whole process was threading the deployment cord through the new part. You can see above that the end of the cord gets tucked in a hole, tied off in a wee knot. To thread it, I had to undo the knot, and that took some pliers and an f-tonne of patience. I have a marlinspike knife, but doubt even that could have gotten in to such a tiny knot.
Annnnnnd . .. that was that. Once I threaded the deployment cord, I tied a new knot and threaded it into the foil. The blad was mounted, the sub-assembly was mounted, I put back the control pins, and tested a couple of deploy/retracts from the cockpit. Perfect. Like butter.
I can't want to paddle the Pace again. I've been favoring the Gemini, which is better for teaching, but I've got some journeys planned that will definitely be Pace-perfect.