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Canal Cruising Skills - What Is A Ballast For A Narrow Boat?

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Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:52am

Ballast is a weight that is used to ‘trim’ the narrow boat.

Need that explaining a bit more? Read on….

If you have recently bought a narrow boat and you fit it out with your belongings this may change the way the boat sits in the water depending on where you put your furniture and household goods. So for example if you have more furniture (weight) on one side of the boat it will make the heavier side sit lower in the water. The same goes if either end of the boat is heavier than the other.

A Bit Like This Poor Chap Here!


To overcome this problem of unevenness and to make the boat sit level in the water, you need to use weights to’ trim’ level out the boat. This then gives the boat the stability it needs in the water.

Ballast can be iron, bags of sand, iron ingots, lead, engineering bricks or concrete and these weights are placed under the floor to counter act the weight on the opposite side/end of the boat.

Boats That Have Been Winterised Metal Ballasts
Ballast In Place Ballast In Place
Lead Ballast Steel Ballasts

Sometimes when a boat is left unused over the winter when it has been winterized or if some furniture/belongings have been removed the boat can sit lower in the water at one end or side.

Winterizing the boat means filling the diesel tank at one end and emptying the water tank at the other – this immediately makes the boat sit differently in the water. Sometimes when people see this, alarm bells start to ring in people’s minds, as they think that there is something wrong with the boat.

This is not the case it just needs to be trimmed and leveled out making the weight even again within the boat.

2 Comments

Tom loughran | Tue Nov 28, 2017 at 4:19pm
What is the best thing to use as ballast. At the moment my 30ft springer is been refitted and has bricks as ballast. But this takes up a lot of room. Why do you not use sand bags.? Thanks for your time
Venetian Marina | Tue Nov 28, 2017 at 4:32pm
The reason we do not use sand bags is due to the fact they will increase in weight when they get wet, and will probably never dry out, therefore the vessel will sit to low in the water. The use of sand bags for ballast is not controllable. Best ballast to use are iron weights as in the photograph shown in the blog article.

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