I built a Piscataqua River Wherry over the winter and, when I launched it this spring, I found the need to add a bit of ballast to trim the boat to its designed load waterline in order for it to track without undue effort and to reduce the quick rolling motion typical of wherry-type hulls. It turned out that I had gone a bit overboard in shaving weight by choosing lighter scantlings and plank thickness during the build and the hull came out very light—about 50 lbs or so underweight. After seeing the unintended consequences while rowing the boat, I put four, 10-liter/2.6-gallon water jugs (about 80 lbs) under the center thwart. While this did the trick, I looked for a permanent, more elegant solution. Using water for ballast instead of the more traditional approach of using beach stones provides a measure of safety should the boat be swamped, as water offers neutral buoyancy.

Jim Tolpin

The bags are stout enough to stand upright while being filled with water. The screw-on caps are tethered and have two parts. One opens the bag for filling with water (left) and the other, smaller cap leaves a valve with the bag (right) so it can be filled tight with air, orally inflated, or with water from a faucet or hose. To fill the bag with a hose, open the large valve and press the top of the bag flat against the bottom to expel the air. Insert the valve and hold the hose to the smaller opening. The valve will allow the bag to take on water until it is quite tight.

A quick search for water ballast bags online revealed a product I hadn’t thought of: water-filled weight bags that attach to a canopy’s support legs. The bags from Anavim, made of heavy-duty PVC, come with three heavy-duty Velcro attachment straps and a special fitting for filling. (The PVC is not a food-grade material and is not intended or recommended to be used to carry water for consumption.)

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