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Author Topic:   Foam Foibles
jimh posted 10-23-2001 09:37 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
On our recent boating trip to Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks, we observed that practically 100% of the dock on that lake were floating docks. The most common form of floatation was big blocks of foam.

The foam was molded into big 3x3x8-foot cubes, and the dock structure built on top of it. The foam was not treated in any way against water intrusion--the raw, bare foam was just sitting there in the water, holding the dock up. No paint, no topcoat of waterproof material evident at all.

Some of these foam floats had been in the water so long--I think they keep them in year round down there--that they had grown enough of a scum line to support not only marine growth but regular plant growth. Small tree saplings were growing out of some of these foam blocks at the water line.

There are thousands of these floating docks down there, so I have to believe that if the foam floatation was subject to continual absorbsion of water then I should have seen dozens of them in various stages of sinking.

But not one was even listing. All that foam, in the water, nothing bad happening.

It made me laugh to think about the anguish that occurs when people find a small screw hole in their Whaler's cockpit that has not been sealed and perhaps has allowed some tiny amount of water to ingress into the foam interior.

JFM posted 10-23-2001 10:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for JFM  Send Email to JFM     
Jim you are so right. The harbor we use has had floating foam under their steel docks and cat walks for years. The only problems that I have observed over the years is the foam getting chipped away when the river freezes and then thaws. Regards, Jay
Georgian Bay Boater posted 10-23-2001 11:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for Georgian Bay Boater  Send Email to Georgian Bay Boater     
Interesting that you mention this as a cause for little concern.
However, in my area and possibly yours as well, should one not be concerned about any water that has made it's way into the foam or under the hull freezing and expanding and causing damage ?
Interested in your thoughts.


Dr T posted 10-23-2001 04:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dr T  Send Email to Dr T     
After long, long, long emersion, the foam will begin to degrade a bit. It is just that there is a whole lot of foam there to being with, and the deterioration doesn't matter so much. I would guess that there is more foam loss due to abrasion (Being launched and stacked on other things) than degeneration.

As for my Sport 13: I am more worried about water that would get into the air filled voids in the hull and suffer the freeze and thaw than what will happen to the foam.

DCPeters posted 10-23-2001 05:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for DCPeters  Send Email to DCPeters     
The problem is all foams are not created equal.

Foams inside the whaler are polyurethane based, and the dock foam floatation may be polystyrene or other material.

Boat companies like the polyurethane expanding foams to fill the nooks and crannies.

Every chemical has different absorbancies and wicking/wetting possibilities.

Add in the annual freeze and thaw...and you have a multi-variable problem.

jimh posted 10-23-2001 06:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
While I didn't do an analysis, the foam used in the docks looks like plain-jane white styrofoam, the sort of foam that cheapo coolers are made from.

Good point made by Andreas regarding the threat of water freezing in the hull and expanding.

There seems to be a notion that a Whaler foam filled hull will wick up water like a sponge and hold hundreds of pounds of it captive. I don't think that is the case, and that was the point I was trying to illustrate: the foam itself does not tend to immediately absorb and hold water.


Ray posted 10-24-2001 02:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ray  Send Email to Ray     
Wondering when Boston Whaler went to closed cell foam in their hulls.
bigz posted 10-24-2001 03:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Ray quite a time back think in the 60's.

JimH just to add a few points, most foam billets which are used for docks are made by either Dow (the blue foam and the term Styrofoam are their registered trade marks which does/will turn brownish after years of exposure and soften) these are in the weight area if I recall of 1.75 pcf or others (lots of foam manufactures around the US) using a similar expanded Polystyrene foam formulation some of these are as low as 1 pcf density. As time passes water will penetrate between the foam cells causing degradation and loss of flotation.

The white bead expanded foam used in cheap coolers could and was used until the stuff did/would continuely fall to pieces back when with in a very short time. This is not used today or in has been in the recent past.

Some states now require all foam dock material to be encapsulated with an approved material. When the foam does deteriorate chunks end up in the water ways and it is not biodegradable believe me --

In the case of foam used in Whaler's structural and flotation application, water penetration is the major cause of hull delamination/separation (few and far between). Generally the water is entrapped between the foam and the outer hull over time (water will also penetrate the foam cell structure degrading it). Important is in areas such as through hull fitting leakage, large spider cracks in the gelcoat on horizontal surfaces exposed to standing water, improperly sealed fixtures including deck railings to mention one etc. ---

Though any idea of a hull absorbing 100's of pounds or multitude of gallons is far fetched, I agree whole heartily with you on that statement--- ( as you know I did extract with the vacuum pump and other methods quite a few gallons out of the keel area of one boat)


kingfish posted 10-24-2001 03:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
jimh-(and bigz)

I built the docks at our camp in Canada with blue Dow billets I bought through the local lumberyard in Little Current, Ont. It has been two or three years or so since we last added sections to accomodate low water, but at that time there was no protective layer on the billets. (I recognize that is Canada and this is US and there are probably differing standards).

We have found that those billets (some of the oldest dock sections have been through more than ten seasonal cycles, maybe approaching 15)have held up to just about everything including very hard freezes in the winter, *EXCEPT* the critters that apparently like to crawl up inside the sections and nest there. I thought it was minks/weasels/otters, but this past summer I was able to confirm it was muskrats (caught 'em at it). The muskrats chew the styrofoam, or Dow foam or whatever into little pieces the size of your finger nails, the pieces float away and the dock no longer supports us wide bodies the way it used to. Future dock additions will have expanded mesh or builders fabric or something to make their job harder.

I'd trap and eat the little buggers, but feeling guilty I tried that once with the 14th woodchuck I shot in my garden, thinking that with the wonderful variety and quality of my vegetables he was eating, the meat would *have* to be toothsome, but it tasted just like grass. The muskrat would probably taste just like zebra mussels and seaweed.


Bigshot posted 10-24-2001 03:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
I believe all boat manufacturers went to closed cell in 1978. I know my 1964 13' Absorbed it like a sponge but that was 1964 foam. Damn boat had to weigh 500lbs. I also think the foam was not actually a sponge but that the water was laying in the hull in the voids, etc. I have not seen a post 78 whaler waterlogged. The older blues seemed to have that trait more than tan hulls. Main thing is keep the wood dry.
bigz posted 10-24-2001 04:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Kingfish don't you pull your docks in the winter?

I must admit referring to salt water docks when I mentioned the above deterioration. Then again I'm referring as Kingfish to years of use and for the cost a real bargain.

BigShot Fischer almost went immediately to urethane foam only the very early boats used open cell and over the years refinements were made and also suppliers were changed -- in the 70's they apparently could have went as you point out to EPS foam which is far superior to urethane.


Bigshot posted 10-24-2001 04:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Good to know Tom. I think that the foam in my 64 was more brown than todays foam so maybe I had the open cell. When you turned you could feel the water shift, scary!
simonmeridew posted 10-24-2001 08:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for simonmeridew  Send Email to simonmeridew     
I suspect that muskrat would not taste good; but I cook woodchuck on the grill and it's great. It can be a bit dry, sometimes cover with strips of bacon. Tastes like chicken, and very tender.
jimh posted 10-24-2001 11:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I believe that muskrat can be made more palatable if cut into strips and fried in a sauce of recycled outboard lubricating oil drained from lower units with leaking seals. Oil from older OMC engines give the best results.

After quickly frying the muskrat, toss them with some crumbled pieces of old dock flotation foam and serve warm.

Whalerdan posted 10-25-2001 03:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whalerdan  Send Email to Whalerdan     
Sounds delicious! Should have saved that oil when I redid those seals!

I'm with you Jim on this spungy foam issue. I'm alot more worried about the wood in my boat sucking up water than the foam.

kingfish posted 10-27-2001 08:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Couldn't taste any worse than that woodchuck - and maybe we'd reduce the environmental pollution of the North Channel if those croutons caught on...
Chris J posted 10-29-2001 12:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chris J  Send Email to Chris J     
Many years ago my father made a 10x10 foot swim float that was supported on white styrofoam. The wood all rotted out after about 15 years but the foam was still pretty good... a bit gnawed at where it had been dragged on the beach and a few things that looked like wormholes, but no serious damage.

I'm a bit inclined to think that some Whaler owners tend to obsess a bit over this water-trapped-in-hull thing. I know it can happen but can't consider it a serious threat to a Whaler that's treated even halfway right.

bigz posted 10-29-2001 02:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Since Kingfish might need a few of these for next season thought I'd just post them under this topic of "Foibles" since it appears others might also be interested in them ---

For you muskrat aficionado's here are a few delectable recipes which will make your mouth water



and of course who could resist --- FRIED MUSKRAT

Not to forget the woodchuck/ground hog here is a great site --

Groundhog Roundup
By Belly Buddy David Lauterbach

Are you hankerin' for some hog? Get on board with the latest health craze in the nation and dig in to some Groundhog.

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