Sunday, July 13, 2014

Started ballast

Anyone who's thinking about building a boat, take some advice from me and don't wait until a few weeks before your anticipated launch to start pouring your ballast.

I don't think I could have picked a worse day to start pouring lead ingots. At noon today the temperature in the shade was 94, and the dew points seem to be in the 70's making for oppressive humidity. I consider myself a pretty tough guy regarding manual work as I'm in decent shape, and I've been doing physical work all my life. I have  no problem admitting that today's task of pouring lead ingots kicked  my ass.
The design of the boat calls for 4300 lbs of ballast  under the forward sole. For our ballast, I'm using lead that came from the demolition of an MRI machine. The material is as clean as can be, and with each lead shingle weighing 30 lbs, it's relatively easy to handle.  I must have messed up somewhere at some point, because I only have 3000 lbs of lead on my site. I could have sworn I had 4500 lbs, but I now know for a fact that I'm going to be lite.

Having a skid steer loader at our place made this nasty job a wee bit easier. Moving the lead from the storage area to the melting area was made easier with the loader as was handling the fire wood and moving the freshly pour ingots in to the shop for cleaning up and weighing.

I made a melting pot out of a piece of 12" pipe and framed a stand for it to sit on giving me room for the fire. Lead melts fairly easily, but it helped immensely by using my back pack blower to force feed the fire. The melting pot comfortably handles 200 lbs of lead.  The pour spout is a 1" nipple welded into the melting pot with a 1" 90 and a short length of pipe to get the material to the molds. Before I pour, I have to use a propane torch to heat the pour spout so the lead from the previous pour can be melted in the spout.   I made two molds to try to  help speed things up. Each mold contains six ingots, and once the mold is full, it weighs about 100 lbs. After a pour is made and the lead has set up enough to pick up the mold, I drop the mold forcefully into a spare bucket for the loader to part the ingots from the mold. The problem is that if the lead doesn't part on the first throw, picking up the 100 lbs mold a few times gets tiresome.

Using a circular saw to cut the thin piece of lead between each ingot is how I process the ingots prior to weighing each ingot. I write the weight on each ingot so I can keep track of how much lead is going into each ballasts compartment.

I  now know I'm going to be  lite on the ballast, so the question is how will this effect my launch. Out of the 4300 lbs designed, I think I'm going to end up with 2700 - 3200 lbs installed for launch. Because the boat is going to spend the rest of the season on the Ohio River ( about as tame a mill pond as one can find), I think I'm going to be OK. If I was launching at the Ocean or Gulf, I'd feel a lot less comfortable being lite, and for sure would not try to go off shore without the designed ballast.  I'm going to run this scenario past the naval architect and see what  he says.

For some reason, I thought I'd get all this ballast poured in one day. Today's pour netted me 1300 lbs of ingots.  



  1. Just the 94° will kick my butt. LOL

    Do you think somebody helped themselves to some of your lead ?

    Bill Kelleher

  2. Hmmm....I loaded about 12,000 lbs of lead ingots into our hull over a 4 hour period - with a 7 man crew, a forklift to get it up to deck height from the ground, and a roller conveyor to shuffle it right to the main hatch. It's tons of work :)

  3. That thought is crossing my mind Bill. I remember loading it and paying for it, and I paid for 4500 lbs.

    Norm. Bruce suggested launching with no ballast with water and fuel half full, then relaying measurements and pictures to him for his recommendations as to ballast. This alleviates my fear of my lite ballast issue, but is causing me to wonder the logistics of moving ballast from my truck to the launched boat. As she sits now, I can borrow the boat yard fork truck to move it over the rail, and use my kids to help load it. I trust Bruce's judgement, but I'd sure l like to get a portion of it installed while the installing is relatively easy.

    This job is ranking up there with sand blasting.


  4. Pretty much every new boat I've seen go in the water has been light on ballast. I personally would load it all on board while it's easy. Put it as low as you can and centered and shift it later as required. You can do a dockside inclining test, your NavArc will tell you how and from there you'll know more about final ballast requirements. The boat will miraculously gain weight as you commission her! :-)

    We're trying to send the Polar Vortex your way but it just won't quite reach that far! Sorry!

    1300 lbs of missing lead is no small accounting mistake. Someone snatched some I'm sure which really sucks. :-(

  5. The weather forecast has shifted for us Rick as today finds highs in the mid 70's... Spring like.

    I'm leaning towards loading some ballast to save some labor, and will be precise on amount. I wont' have the time to obtain and melt all required by design, and will wait and see how she looks, then talk to the naval architect as how to proceed.

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