Sailing ballast
Ballast is used in sailboats to provide moment
Moment (physics)
In physics, the term moment can refer to many different concepts:*Moment of force is the tendency of a force to twist or rotate an object; see the article torque for details. This is an important, basic concept in engineering and physics. A moment is valued mathematically as the product of the...

 to resist the lateral forces on the sail
A sail is any type of surface intended to move a vessel, vehicle or rotor by being placed in a wind—in essence a propulsion wing. Sails are used in sailing.-History of sails:...

. Insufficiently ballasted boats will tend to tip, or heel, excessively in high winds. Too much heel may result in the boat capsizing
Capsizing is an act of tipping over a boat or ship to disable it. The act of reversing a capsized vessel is called righting.If a capsized vessel has sufficient flotation to prevent sinking, it may recover on its own if the stability is such that it is not stable inverted...

. If a sailing vessel should need to voyage without cargo then ballast of little or no value would be loaded to keep the vessel upright. Some or all of this ballast would then be discarded when cargo was loaded.


Ballast takes many forms. The simplest form of ballast used in small day sailer
Day sailer
A daysailer, day sailer, or dayboat is a small sailboat with or without sleeping accommodations but which is larger than a dinghy. Dayboats can be monohull or multihull, and are typically trailer-able. Many dayboats have a small cabin or "cuddy" for storage and to provide a shelter, or for...

s is so-called "live ballast", or the weight of the crew. By sitting on the windward side of the hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

, the heeling moment must lift the weight of the crew. On more advanced racing boats, a wire harness called a trapeze
Trapeze (sailing)
In sailing, the trapeze refers to a wire that comes from a point high on the mast, usually where the shrouds are fixed, to a hook on the crew member's harness at approximately waist level...

 is used to allow the crew to hang completely over the side of the hull without falling out; this provides much larger amounts of righting moment due to the larger lever
In physics, a lever is a rigid object that is used with an appropriate fulcrum or pivot point to either multiply the mechanical force that can be applied to another object or resistance force , or multiply the distance and speed at which the opposite end of the rigid object travels.This leverage...

age of the crew's weight, but can be dangerous if the wind suddenly dies, as the sudden loss of heeling moment can dump the crew in the water. On larger modern vessels, the keel
In boats and ships, keel can refer to either of two parts: a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, in British and American shipbuilding traditions the construction is dated from this event...

 is made of or filled with a high density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 material, such as concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

, iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, or lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

. By placing the weight as low as possible (often in a large bulb at the bottom of the keel) the maximum righting moment can be extracted from the given mass. Traditional forms of ballast carried inside the hull were stones or sand.

High-density ballast

There are disadvantages to using high-density ballast. The first is the increased mass of the boat; a heavier boat sits lower in the water, increasing drag when it moves, and is generally less responsive to steering. A heavier boat is also more difficult to put on a trailer
Trailer (vehicle)
A trailer is generally an unpowered vehicle pulled by a powered vehicle. Commonly, the term trailer refers to such vehicles used for transport of goods and materials....

 and tow behind an automobile. Secondly, since the ballast needs to be as low as possible, it is often placed into a centerboard or retracting keel, requiring a heavy-duty crank to lift the massive foil
Foil (fluid mechanics)
A foil is a solid object with a shape such that when placed in a moving fluid at a suitable angle of attack the lift is substantially larger than the drag...

. The simplest solution is to use a fixed ballasted keel, but that makes the boat nearly incapable of sailing in very shallow water, and more difficult to handle when out of the water. While prohibited by most class racing rules, some cutting-edge boats use a bulb of ballast on a long, thin keel that can slide from side to side to create a canting keel
Canting keel
A canting keel is a form of sailing ballast, suspended from a rigid canting strut beneath the boat, which can be swung to windward of a boat under sail, in order to counteract the heeling force of the sail...

. This lets the ballast be placed on the windward side, providing a far greater righting moment with a lower angle of heel. Tilting the keel, however, greatly reduces its lift, so canting keels are usually combined with a retractable centerboard or daggerboard
A daggerboard is a retractable centreboard used by various sailing craft. While other types of centreboard may pivot to retract, a daggerboard slides in a casing. The shape of the daggerboard converts the forward motion into a windward lift, countering the leeward push of the...

 that is deployed when the keel is tilted, and retracted (to reduce drag) when the keel is straight.

Water ballast

A common type of ballast for small boats that avoids many of the problems of high density ballast is water ballast. While it seems counter-intuitive that placing water in the hull (which is, after all, the same density as the water outside the hull) would add any stability, in fact, adding water ballast below the vertical center of gravity increases stability. The water ballast does not need to be lifted above the waterline to affect stability, as any material having greater bulk density than air will have an effect on the centre of gravity. It is the relationship between centre of gravity and centre of buoyancy that dictates the righting moment.

The advantage of water ballast is that the tanks can be emptied, reducing draft
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

 or the weight of the boat (e.g. for trailering) and water added back in (in small boats, simply by opening up the valves and letting the water flow in) after the boat is launched or cargo unloaded. Pumps can also be used to empty the leeward ballast tank and fill the windward tank as the boat tacks, and the quantity of ballast can be varied to keep the boat at the optimum angle of heel. On empty cargo vessels water is added to ballast tank
Ballast tank
A ballast tank is a compartment within a boat, ship or other floating structure that holds water.-History:The basic concept behind the ballast tank can be seen in many forms of aquatic life, such as the blowfish or argonaut octopus, and the concept has been invented and reinvented many times by...

s to increase propeller immersion, to improve steering, and to control trim and draft.

A disadvantage of water ballast is that water is not very dense and therefore the tanks required take up more space than other forms of ballast. Some manufacturers offer flexible ballast bags that are mounted outboard of the hull on both sides, and pumps that use the boat's speed through the water for power. When under way, the pump can be used to fill the windward side, while the lee side is allowed to drain. This system, while not very attractive, does allow significant gains in righting force with no modifications to the hull.

A trick commonly used on boats with water ballast is to link port and starboard tanks with a valved pipe. When preparing to tack, the valve is opened, and water in the windward tank, which is higher, is allowed to flow to the lee side, and the sheet is let off to keep the boat from heeling too far. Once as much water as possible has been transferred to the lee side, the boat is brought about and the sail sheeted in, lifting the newly full windward tank. A simple hand pump can then be used to move any remaining water from the lee to the windward tank.

Environmental issues

Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a tremendous amount of ballast water, which is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded. Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s, animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s, virus
A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea...

es, and other microorganism
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

s. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems. Ballast water discharges are believed to be the leading source of invasive species in U.S. marine waters, thus posing public health and environmental risks, as well as significant economic cost to industries such as water and power utilities, commercial and recreational fisheries, agriculture, and tourism. Studies suggest that the economic cost just from introduction of pest mollusks (zebra mussel
Zebra mussel
The zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, is a small freshwater mussel. This species was originally native to the lakes of southeast Russia being first described in 1769 by a German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas in the Ural, Volga and Dnieper rivers. They are still found nearby, as Pontic and Caspian...

s, the Asian clam, and others) to U.S. aquatic ecosystems is more than $6 billion per year.

See also

  • Ballast water discharge and the environment
  • Environmental issues with shipping

External links

  • Globallast partnership (IMO
    International Maritime Organization
    The International Maritime Organization , formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization , was established in Geneva in 1948, and came into force ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959...

  • Profile- Ballast Water, National Invasive Species Information Center, United States National Agricultural Library
    United States National Agricultural Library
    The United States National Agricultural Library is one of the world's largest agricultural research libraries, and serves as a National Library of the United States and as the library of the United States Department of Agriculture...

    . Lists general information and resources for ballast water.
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