Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

Monday, 27 August 2012

I read somewhere that John recommended 14 stone as temporary ballast in a navigator for inexperienced sailors to dampen the liveliness of the boat in ‘gusty’ weather. I commented on the JW forum that having used sand bags I’d swapped to 4 x 25 Lt water jerry cans strapped alongside the centreboard casing. My problem was that these took up some of the for’ard cockpit room and so I was wondering if I could use some lead flashing attached to the floor instead and then cover it with a new plywood floor.
I provide plenty of ballast with my ample girth!!
One forum member was surprised about talk of ballast in a navigator as he found his navigator had plenty of stability and even when sailing in 20 knots with only one reef there is no stability problem. He accepts that two reefs may be more appropriate and that the tiller does provide some weather helm resistance and deep attention paid to easing the mainsheet and keeping an eye out for gusts. He felt that as long as an appropriate sail area was chosen for the prevailing conditions then there should be no stability problem encountered.  Additional ballast makes the boat heavy, less nimble in light winds and difficult to retrieve onto the trailer. He finished by acknowledging that at the end of the day it was down to whatever people felt comfortable with.
I've never had a problem winching Arwen on even with 4 sandbag's of  ballast
on the floor alongside the centre case
Another member noted that reefing appropriately and at the right time was the key to stability and that if people wanted to use ballast that was fair enough. He felt water ballast was the way to go and seemed to be used quite a lot by RAID boats. Water ballast had the advantage of being easily dumped.
Someone who is building a pathfinder felt that putting slightly additional weight in the centreboard would be sufficient and would keep the extra weight really low down in the boat. This prompted an analysis of the value of an additionally weighted centreboard. A steel centreboard would be required and two navigator owners have installed 100Kg steel centreboards which made a noticeable difference in heavy weather. On the downside a really big purchase would be required to raise these boards; if it dropped accidently damage and injury could be severe; and they’d cost significantly more.
I was never happy with sandbags even when they were strapped in
They were a pain to stand on, took up room etc etc

Joel of ‘Ellie’ fame noted that too much weight in the centreboard would mean that the board wouldn’t lift if you actually accidentally touched bottom (yeah good point like that’s never happened to me before…….!!!!!!!)
An interesting point was raised about the fact that extra ballast alongside the centre case would do little to prevent a capsize but when a boat is on its side that is when it would help making it easier to right. This gentleman put lead pigs along the case in his boat and also some buoyancy bags. The ballast has had no effect on performance and did stabilise his boats by damping its movement. He did make this nice observation
 ‘When sailing alone I don't have to hop up onto the gunwale so often in gusts either. As John W wrote: "but for someone who is new the ballast will just settle the boat and slow its reactions a little in heavy winds." This is not only for someone new but also for someone who doesn't want to hop up and down a lot’.
Finally one or two people noted that the use of sandbags as ballast shouldn’t be dismissed. They fall out when capsized; and they are great to use as temporary mooring points for mooring warps to be tied to. On the other hand someone did wrly observe that is fine so long as they clear the side coaming deck when the boat is on its side. If they get caught there that could make righting the boat VERY difficult!
So there you have it. Ballast in boats, a matter of personal preference. Someone calculated that my 4 jerry cans were the equivalent to around 14 stone or so. That’s an extra person in the boat!  I think it is probably time to go out without extra ballast and start developing teh confidence to handle Arwen in slightly livelier conditions.


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