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Author Topic:   Water Logged Foam
Ray posted 01-30-2001 09:46 PM ET (US)   Profile for Ray   Send Email to Ray  
I keep hearing about water logged foam inside the hull of whalers. It's got me wondering. What do I have in my 1985 Revenge 25? I thought whalers all had closed cell foam in the hulls. What's the scoop?
B Bear posted 02-01-2001 06:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for B Bear  Send Email to B Bear     
I can tell what what the Dealer had told me about the older Whalers. I believe that he had said that in 1986 BW had changed the coring material from open cell foam to closed cell foam. Even with closed foam there can be some intrusion with water. He had also told me that when ever they took a trade-in (esp. a pre-1986 BW), they weighed the boat and compared it's manufactured weight to the current weight to determine water intrusion into the foam.

I also understand that this intrusion may come different sources such as; drilled holes that have not been sealed, stress cracks in the gel coat, possible gouges or wear that penetrated the gel coat from beaching or striking objects with the hull in the water. The last is that gel coat does absorb water and could leach in over time if the boat is docked or left uncovered.

I believe it boils down to maintaince. There are many Classic Whalers that are in fantastic shape, in like new condition, becuase somebody cared and took pride in their boat. The same goes for all the new boat owners, after all it all the classics started out new, and the best ones now have owners that have pride in their ownership at the begining and at the present.

Maybe some of the more experienced members can be more enlighting on this subject.


jimh posted 02-03-2001 09:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The notion of comparing one's hull weight to published weight is an interesting one.

Exactly what does the published hull weight include? Or not include?

Certainly the weight of:
-the engine(s)
-the battery(s)
-the fuel and external fuel tanks
-any owner added gear
would not be included in the published hull weight.

But, would the hull weight include:
-engine controls
-wood trim, wood hatch covers, wood doors
-standard seats

Factory components like this could add up to several hundred pounds.

It may be rather hard to determine what the target weight should be for a typical boat.

Then there is the problem of actually weighing the hull. Most of the time the boat will be on a trailer. The weight of the trailer will have to be accurately known, too.

Finally, the published weight may not reflect the actual weight of your hull. Manufacturing tolerances probably allow for variation in the total weight of the hull of at least a few percent. Thus a boat specified to weight 2,150 pounds might easily weigh in at 2,250 pounds.

Is the extra 100 pounds due to having a little more resin in the laminate or having 12 gallons of water trapped in the foam?


bigz posted 02-03-2001 11:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Whaler made the switch early on(meaning I believe the early 60's)from the Styrofoam open cell to a urethane foam. They very may well have changed again in recent years as new developments in foam occurred.

Using the hull weight method isn't going to give anyone any exact measure of moisture or water content (you might get some indication of excess weight on a 13 maybe even a 16-17 but as a percentage wouldn't be significant and on the larger hulls probably wouldn't tell yeah a darn thing since even a couple hundred pounds over the specification could be unaccounted for based on exactly what is being weighted --- wouldn't trust anyone that feeds this line to me on whether a boat is "waterlogged" or not) --- the only way to tell is using a high quality non-destructive moisture meter these run in the range of $400 to $800 (the Wagner meter isn't even close to the sensitive of these professional models) or of course opening up the hull would tell yeah too ---

Now solid properly cured gel-coat won't absorb water period! --- Gel-coat that is cracked or crazed can allow water through to the glass fiber which in turn will allow it to enter the boat hull whether from inside or out. Gel-coat that was improperly applied and cured can absorb water with in itself, the water then dissolves the uncured chemicals causing what is commonly known as boat pox or blistering. Speculation has it that boats stored year round in higher temperature waters have a higher rate of this occurring ------ now all that is said --

The bottom line is if the boat isn't delaminating, spongy deck/hull areas or has boat pox, what water might be in there is in there and shouldn't cause any major performance problem (unless of course the foam has disintegrated and water has filled the cavity -- then you'd be faced be a big problem). Though on any boat would make sure all possible moisture/water entries are sealed properly. Through hull and deck fittings are the biggest culprits --- next is untreated cracks or gouges ---

Professional surveyors will tell you just about any boat that uses sealed in positive foam floatation regardless of make will have moisture trapped with in after some years of use ---

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of my dog, not necessarily mine, and probably not necessary. Though I stated them so I'll stand by them ----


Ray posted 02-03-2001 08:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ray  Send Email to Ray     
Wow, didn't know that this would get so complicated. I remember the old 60's photos of 2 or 3 guys chainsawing a 13 footer in 2 or 3 pieces and paddling away with each piece. I always thought that the unsinkable whaler was indestructive!!!! And I'm still wondering how pervious the earlier 80's models are to water. When you say waterlogged I think of a common sponge soaking up water. I can't believe that any of the whalers can get that waterlogged no matter how old. Are we talking something that happens over many months or years of neglect? Ray
whalerdoc posted 05-20-2002 03:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerdoc  Send Email to whalerdoc     
Was going through old threads and thought i would bring this back up. From my 1985 catalog (outrage with sun behind boat) page 5 "The Boston Whaler hull is the strongest, most durable, and most vibration free you can buy. The reason is our foam-core construction. Polyurethane foam is injected under pressure to fuse with tough outer layers of gelcoat-smooth fiberglass, forming the unique one piece boston whaler foam-core hull. The foam is closed-cell, which means it can't absorb water." The post above mentions change in 1986. Is it possible this was earlier? Interested minds want to know!
whaleryo posted 05-20-2002 04:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for whaleryo  Send Email to whaleryo     
Don't know if this is meaningfull or not, but the 2002 catalog refers to "proprietary closed-cell foam".
Seabrook posted 05-20-2002 04:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for Seabrook  Send Email to Seabrook     
The foam injection hole on my 1983 Montauk does not have a cover on it. It is in the bow storage compartment, which regularly gets wet. Does not appear that it came with one. If the foam was to soak up water, you would think they would put a cover on it, as they do with the McKee Craft boats.
Fishcop posted 05-20-2002 05:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for Fishcop  Send Email to Fishcop     
Sad to say, I have some experience in hull damage. I can tell you that we had a 1979 revenge that hit a sumberged post in the harbor. The operator of the boat left it in the slip and never reported the damage. Several weeks passed and the boat was again used. As it was powered up, it was obvious that something was wrong. As it was hoisted from the water, we could see that a large section of the stern and port side of the bottom hull was missing. exposed foam and glass was all that remained. Marine life was growing on the exposed foam.

The boat was sent to repair facility and evaluated. The repair yard informed us that the repairs could be made and that litte or no water had penetrated the foam more than the area of the damage. Boat was repaired and is in service today.

Same scenerio, 1985 20' Guardian. Ran aground across a reef and left to sit in water. When repairs were made, water had not gone past area of damage. Boat is still in service.
Now I have seen whalers that have water between the foam and fiberglass. These boats are soft when you press on the hull or deck. Water will drain from them if you drill a hole and let stand.

Commercial fishermen cut holes in the deck of many whalers and use as fish holds. Some just leave the exposed foam. The whalers seem to float high and dry. I am constantly amazed at the abuse a whaler can take and still remain seaworthy.

As far as foam absorbing water, sure it happens, but not to the extent of a sponge that will continue to absorb water to the point of saturation.
Anyway, just my two cents.

Tom W Clark posted 05-21-2002 01:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
This thread is interesting to review now with the hindsight of Chain Saw Whaler substantially behind us. The above comments are a remarkable combination of insight and nonsense.

Until this past January I never believed a Whaleris foam could absorb water. It is contrary to all of the published comments of Whaler that I had ever read regarding their foam and yet now I know Whaler hulls can absorb water whether new or old. How a hull has been treated has everything to do with how much water it may hold. Letsi review what we do now know.

Boston Whalers have always used polyurethane foam in their hulls. It was the polyurethane foam itself that inspired Dick Fisher to build a boat in the first place. No Whaler ever had a Styrofoam core, (though the Whaler prototype that Fisher built was of epoxy over Styrofoam, the molds for the first 13is being pulled from this plug).

Polyurethane foam is closed cell foam. There is no open celled polyurethane foam.

Reports continue to surface about the foam in Whalers changing from absorbing foam to non absorbing foam at some point in time like 1986 as a dealer is credited with stating above. This is not true. Spectral and microscopic analysis demonstrates that foam from a 1970 Whaler is the same as foam from a late 1980is Whaler.

We have been misled by reports of foam being different colors and concluding this indicates a different type of foam. This is also incorrect. Up until 1993 all the polyurethane foam in Whalers is white as seen in color photographs of freshly cut hulls. Upon exposure to sunlight the polyurethane foam turns tan or brown as seen in display hulls of cut Whalers.

Starting in 1993 Whaler has been using a yellow foam. The change in color is the result of a different blowing agent in the foam. Formerly Whaler used a foam with CFC 11 as the blowing agent and after 1993 HCFC 141b was used. This change was the result of the iMontreal Protocoli which is an agreement among nations to reduce ozone depleting chemical emissions. The E.P.A. has forced manufacturers who utilize polyurethane foam to use less polluting polyurethane foam with these alternate blowing agents.

The increasingly stringent requirements of the Montreal Protocol will require Whaler to abandon HCFC 141b after the end of the year. What Whaler will be using in the future is a tightly held secret. Some of Whaleris competition would love to know what they are planning to use. This may be what is referred to in the quote whaleryo provides above.

Itis also amusing to hear the dealeris comments that B Bear reports above about weighing all trade-in Whalers. jimh makes a good point about the variation of any two whalers and how hard it would be to get accurate measurements. When I have read discussions of wet foam I had always imagined we were talking about a few or maybe several gallons of water in a hull. 50 pounds of water seemed a huge amount and yet a 50 pound difference in weight is well within the hull-to-hull variation of any given Whaler off the line due to slightly different amounts of resin being laid up into the hull. In other words if your Whaler hull varied 50 pounds from its published hull weight, what would that tell you?

Well the answer is: not much. But when your 13i hull weighs an extra 700 pounds and is four times the published weight of that hull, then you know the hull can absorb huge amounts of water. This is exactly what happened to CSW.

Regardless of the particular formulation of polyurethane foam in a Whaler, the process is the same. The foam is created by mixing chemicals and then pouring, not iinjectingi the foam into the hull through the sprue hole.

The quote provided by whalerdoc above is reproduced accurately. I have that 1985 catalog myself. But it is a slight abuse of the term iinjecti. The pressure comes from the foam expanding after it is poured into the hull not from being iinjectedi into it.

As anybody who has ever used a can of expanding polyurethane foam to seal a door jamb knows, it can exert considerable pressure as it expands. This is why Whaler molds are so heavily reinforced to resist this expansion pressure.

Regarding sprue holes and their covers, Whaler owners like Seabrook keep reporting their sprue holes have foam exposed. This is not quite true. On the newer (post late 1970is) hulls the sprue hole does not have a gelcoated fiberglass cap but rather a clear coating that prevents water from contacting the foam. Polyurethane foam is abrasive to the touch like sandpaper. If you look at the clear coated sprue holes you will see a smooth surface that may be clear allowing you to see the foam (which will appear brown or tan) but you will not be able to dig it out with a thumbnail or scratch out into dust as raw foam will allow.

WhalerAce posted 05-21-2002 10:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for WhalerAce  Send Email to WhalerAce     
Tom--that was a GREAT post. Good summary of lots of different points previously discussed. Perhaps Jim could start another section of the forum titled "Whaler Myths Corrected" or something like that and put your post there. That way, we could just provide a link to someone who spouts off with a "I have heard..." or "It is a know fact..."
Dr T posted 05-21-2002 10:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
Tom--very, very nice post. How is the reference article coming?
B Bear posted 05-21-2002 11:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for B Bear  Send Email to B Bear     
Tom--maybe I should read the Chainsaw Whaler thread, but it is sooooo long.

This post is enlightening yet I am still at a loss.

Well the answer is: not much. But when your 13i hull weighs an extra 700 pounds and is four times the published weight of that hull, then you know the hull can absorb huge amounts of water. This is exactly what happened to CSW.i

Are you talking about absorption of water in the hull in the void space that can happen when the hull delaminates from the foam? Or in the foam, or between the foam if it breaks down?

iUntil this past January I never believed a Whaleris foam could absorb water. It is contrary to all of the published comments of Whaler that I had ever read regarding their foam and yet now I know Whaler hulls can absorb water whether new or old. How a hull has been treated has everything to do with how much water it may hold.i

Does this mean the second half of my original post, my conclusions, is basically correct? That is about how water may get into the hull and good maintenance.

Salmon Tub posted 05-21-2002 12:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Salmon Tub  Send Email to Salmon Tub     
As I recall, my friends have a house with a dock located at Clear Lake Ca., their dock is basically made of lumber sitting on top of large foam blocks. This is a typical type of setup for floating docks. I recall that the foam is not styro-foam but rather an orange foam. It is rough to the touch. I recall many times swimming and hanging on to the dock, rubbing off grwoth from the foam. It is possible but difficult to scratch off pieces or rub off particles of the foam. The blocks are about 12" thick and do sit about 4" in the water. I do remember them having to every so often change the blocks because after a while of weathering and such, the blocks begin to soak in water and slowly sit deeper and deeper in the water. Others have styrofoam blocks which don't seem to absorb water, but are easier to destroy by gougeing and obviously, have no resistance to gasoline, if spilled on them. I don't know what is required there by law, but I am sure that the local Gov't has set standards for docks. What I recall is that every so often, there will be a foam block that will float onto shore from acroos the lake, these seem to wash up and dry out. I wonder if this is the same foam, I would asume it is, just with a color agent added to it or a UV protection agent that gives it that orange-ish color.
Tom W Clark posted 05-22-2002 01:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
B Bear--the Chain Saw Whaler thread is long but worth the read. Apart from some silliness, there's lots of good information there.

To answer your question, the water in CSW is in the foam itself. All the foam had water in it. Taylor and I found absolutely no dry foam anywhere. While not totally waterlogged, CSW did float rather low and did not support the 1000 lbs of swamped capacity that it did when it was new.

Here is a photo of CSW and me in my Dick Fisher costume about a week before we cut her up: Note that the only thing keeping her from sinking even lower is the fact that the stern is resting on the bottom. The only weight on board at this time is maybe 200 lbs of me and my chain saw.

There is no possible way a 13' Whaler could be so delaminated that there would be room for 700 lbs. (over 80 gallons!) of water. While there was extensive delamination of the deck from the foam underneath it, there was no water sitting there nor did water come dribbling out when the wet foam was exposed. The thing with CSW is that it was full of holes, especially on the inside.

We know how the water made contact with the foam, it was through these areas of damage and many, many screw holes holes that were left unsealed. But it is the foam itself that holds the water. The cell walls of the foam seem to have broken down to some extent and capillary action has drawn the water into the cellular structure of the foam.

How the foam cell walls broke down I am not exactly sure but it seems that this hull has seen lots of abuse as well as living in an area that is subject to freeze/thaw cycles that may have exacerbated the problem.

One of the things I am curious about is whether there is a correlation between geographic/climate differences and the prevalence of soggy Whalers. In other words, I wonder if there are more waterlogged Whalers in the Northern climates than in the Southern climates.

And yes, I think the observations in your original post are right on the money. Holes should never be left open for water to come into contact with the foam. Hulls should not be abused, especially if they are going to be moored in the water. As tough as Whalers are, they are not invincible. CSW floats no more.

On another note, I have discovered that I was in error when I said there is no such thing as open cell polyurethane foam. There certainly is. It is typically flexible. You may all be familiar with it as it is commonly used in such things a car seats and foam pillows. Do not replace the foam in your Whaler with seat padding! And no, it was never used in Whalers.

B Bear posted 05-22-2002 09:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for B Bear  Send Email to B Bear     
Thanks Tom. I'll take the time to read the thread!
BOB KEMMLER JR posted 05-23-2002 11:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for BOB KEMMLER JR    
I wonder if they ever had "bad batches of foam" at the factory? I work for a construction equipment manufacturer and we run into bad batches of stuff often, just thought this might be a explanation too.
BOB KEMMLER JR posted 05-23-2002 11:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for BOB KEMMLER JR    
When I cut into my Rage transom, I will be removing a lot of the foam there, if anybody wants a sample, just pay for shipping. It is a 1995 and I think the same foam they use today.
Tail Chaser posted 05-21-2014 09:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tail Chaser  Send Email to Tail Chaser     
[Revived this thread after it had been dormant for 12-years in order to change the topic. Please do not revive 12-year-old threads, and then change the topic. --jimh]

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