Installation of the Ballast

The ballast for the new keel was installed once the keel itself was in place.

In the old days, perama-type boats did not use ballast. The reason for this is simple: as cargo boats they were usually heavily loaded (“loaded to the brim” as the expression has it) and did not need extra ballast. They regularly transported local products from one place to another.

For instance, a caïque might take on a load of watermelons in the western Peloponnese and transport them to the Sporades islands. At this destination it might replace its load with pears or prunes to be transported back to the Peloponnese, or somewhere else, and so on.

But, if the captain could not obtain cargo for a return passage (an infrequent occurrence), he would go to a beach and load the caïque with either shingles or large pebbles. He did so because the vessel should always be loaded to ensure stability under sail-power.

Today perama-type caïques no longer transport cargo. If one intends to put a perama under sail there is need of suitable ballast.

Usually  the ballast is placed inside the boat, down low in the bilge, under the floorboards, near to where the ribs of the frame are attached to the keel. The ballast usually consists of pieces of cast iron called kentledges.

I did not like this practice because it has several disadvantages:

1. the inspection and cleaning of the bilge is difficult
2. the cast-iron kentledges oxidize (rust) and must be removed at intervals to be cleaned and repainted
3. finally, the center of gravity of the ballast is too high and the vesselʼs stability is compromised

Of course, the practice of placing the ballast inside the boat is fairly easy and economical.

There is, however, another option: to place the ballast on a vesselʼs exterior and to keep it underwater as a false keel. In this case the center of gravity is appreciably lowered and thus the boatʼs stability is improved. And if the ballast is of lead rather than of cast iron, the problem of oxidation is also removed. For these reasons I chose this second alternative.

So I placed an order with a foundry in Piraeus for four pieces of lead (although more expensive than cast iron, lead does not rust) with the same width as the keel but with the following dimensions overall:

  • Length: 150 cm (59.1 ")
  • Width: 13 cm (5.2 ")
  • Height: 15 cm (5.9 ")

Each piece weighs 250 kg (551 lb). On one end there is a mortise (notch) and on the end there is a tenon (projection) so that the pieces mesh with one another. This interlocking system ensures a secure installation (see the drawing).


Figure showing how the lead ballast pieces lock together.

Drawing by Elina Dallas.