PS Advisor February 15, 2000 Issue

PS Advisor

Internal vs. External Ballast,
I own a 1982 Seasprite 34 built by C.E. Ryder. Overall, I think my boat is of excellent quality. However, I believe the keel ballast on my boat is “encapsulated” in the keel section of the hull…certainly there are no bolts to be seen in the bilge areas. I have heard that encapsulation is not a quality approach to sailboat construction.

What are the pros and cons of encapsulation vs. a bolted-on keel? With my boat nearing 20 years, are there problem areas to look out for?

Scott Rimmer
via e-mail

It’s a long-standing controversy, that to our minds leads to no definitive conclusion. Both bolt-on keels and encapsulated keels (in which the cast ballast is lowered into the keel cavity of the hull) have their advantages and disadvantages.

For a cruising boat, we think encapsulated is preferable. Keel bolts are just one more thing to worry about and with internal ballast these are, of course, eliminated.

The advantage of external ballast is to get the keel foil shape long and narrow (for added lift) and to get the ballast as low as possible. For years the conventional wisdom was that external lead ballast offered a soft, easily dented surface to a grounding on rock, etc. But that probably dates to the days of wood, when damage to the wood structure could be catastrophic.

With ballast encapsulated in fiberglass, the worst that can happen is that the keel cavity might be ruptured, allowing water to enter. So it is important that internal ballast be glassed over well so that no water in the cavity leaks into the cabin. Not only can this threaten the boat, but locating and repairing the leak can be very difficult, especially if there are tanks in the way.

We certainly would not say that internal ballast is cheap or a poor way to build a boat. Lots of good quality boats have internal ballast these days, including your CE Ryder.

Lloyds & CE Standards
I have seen the following terms in boating advertisements and articles: “Lloyd’s Standards” or “CE certified for ocean cruising.” What does each mean? Is one standard higher than the other? Is a boat meeting the requirements of one or both standards by definition a blue water cruiser?

Steven Quick
Johnston, Iowa

The UK-based insurer Lloyds has developed a number of standards indicating that a boat has passed certain construction requirements. The higher standards involve one of their inspectors being on hand while a boat is laid up and may require leaving the hull in the mold for a lengthy period (for more complete curing) before removing. Certification gives a buyer some confidence that sound building procedures were followed, but have nothing to do with the boat being blue water capable (that involves much more than building practice, but design and outfitting as well).

CE stands for European Union standards that were developed by members of the trade group to simplify importing rules. In the past, individual countries such as Italy, France and the UK, each had their own standards. Now, a company wishing to sell in Europe just has to meet the universal CE standard. Much thought has gone into these standards and they are generally a good thing. They have taken years to write and much bureaucracy to overcome, but like Lloyds, meeting a CE standard (actually called ISO) doesn’t guarantee that the boat is blue water capable.

The bottom line is that standards covering scantlings and building practices mean the builder has had to pay attention to certain obvious safety areas, such as wiring and plumbing, but they don’t mean you won’t have any problems with the boat. In our country, ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Council) and ABS (American Bureau of Shipping) perform similar functions.

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