Keeping Sailing Ships Upright

Emolecipation mentions the ballast space at the bottom of sailing ships. Sailors filled these spaces with heavy stuff: smooth stones, dirt, anchors, or extra cannons. (Stones with jagged edges can damage the wooden hull, so smooth stones were preferred.)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vasa_-_Querschnitt.jpg

It may seem wasteful to add useless material to a ship, but weight at the bottom helps stabilize it. A top-heavy object tends to tip over. Especially if you stick tall sails on it and ride it into heavy winds.

Without ample ballast, a ship can capsize:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seawise_University_wreck.jpg

Unladen cargo ships sail out with ballast and swap it for cargo it picks up in port, dumping the rocks and soil onto the shore. Another ship unloads its wares at the same port and onboards that very ballast. This sometimes brings invasive species to new lands. Not that Gondola Moles are invasive! Well, slave ship captains would think so.

The term “ballast tank” may sound familiar to the modern ear because they’re used in submarines to control depth: pump extra water into ballast tanks to dive. Discharge water to rise.

Some modern surface ships use water-filled ballast tanks for stability. They can even pump water between the tanks as needed:

Modern pumped ballast tank
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2QfV11XYD8

For a deeper dive into modern ballast systems, watch the YouTube video linked above. The Casual Navigation channel has dozens of well-produced videos on topics like this.


I dressed up as a slaver at the Ghost Walk Market in Portsmouth, VA. It’s actually a pirate costume, but that’s close enough, right?

Photo of me at the Ghost Walk event in Portsmouth, VA

I sold 23 unpirated copies of my books in those 4 hours! That’s a new record. One customer went straight home, read Emolecipation, then immediately posted a review on Amazon 🙂 That might be another record. Thank you, Alex!

Have you read Emolecipation yet? It’s only 58 pages, so give it a try. And reply to this email with any questions you may have. Also reply if you climb to the bottom of a ship and find crates of Scribes’ Descent and Emolecipation being used as ballast. I’ll need photos of that for my next newsletter. 🙂

I’m hard at work revising book two of the Scribes Series. I can’t wait for you guys to read it!

See you next month,
Dylan West

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