Age of Sail: How did the ships ballast themselves on long voyages?

If you watch the linked video in the OP you can see that the consumables were kept in the bottom of the ship… They were not buried in ballast but still…they were about as low as you could get in the ship other than the ballast. It seemed to sit on top of the ballast. And, the ballast was ~450 tons compared to the consumables ~600 tons.

Makes sense. But still…600+ tons of cargo is a substantial percentage of the ship’s weight (in the case of the HMS Victory in the OP). Surely that makes a difference in how the ship sails. We see modern ships with no cargo riding high out of the water and I would guess that is not ideal (as was posted up-thread). For a sailing ship being pushed over by the wind I would think that 600 tons as 20%(ish) of the ship’s mass matters (I get it is unlikely they ever burn through all of their consumables but the question remains).

It’s an interesting topic and I have spent a while scouring google for any clues without success. I don’t recall the problem coming up in either the Aubrey/Maturin or Hornblower books either.

No ship would dare risk a Hornblower “Ha-rumph” by having an incorrect amount pf ballast.

I see they are sitting on top of the ballast. That indicates to me the ballast is sufficient without the additional weight of the consumables. I don’t know if they count on refilling the water barrels for their weight. In a pinch they could refill them with seawater, don’t know if that would ruin them. I suspect not since salt is an excellent wood preservative.

I read somewhere that, on warships at least, it was common practice to dismantle empty barrels to save space.

My guess is they never really got close to consuming all of their consumables.

While they had enough on board for six months I doubt they ever got close to running out of anything. If they were in a battle I suspect they ran to a port afterwards to repair and stock-up.

So, while they carried 600+ tons of supplies I would be surprised if they ever got through more than half that on a voyage. That is still considerable weight but maybe not enough to notice as it relates to sailing a ship that big.

I dunno…just guessing.

Victory’s muster roll prior to the battle of Trafalgar shows 822 men* on board. At an average weight of 150 lbs, that would be a bit over 60 tons.

*Though not listed, there were no doubt some women as well.

I don’t think the personnel would be considered consumables. I suppose if you were dead you were tossed overboard (buried at sea…they had no refrigeration to get dead people home).

To be fair, I really do not know how many could be killed before it affected the ship’s ability to operate. A lot of that number were marines meant to assault other ships and they had little to do with ship operations (I think).

When in Charleston., SC on tour of some sort, the guide noted that the coble stone streets were constructed with the ballast carried on the westbound ships form Europe. On the return trip, cargo took its place.