The Blue Water Sailor's Guide to Foam
Blue water sailing is a form of long-term, open sea sailing in which you are away from land for extended periods of time. Some forms of blue water sailing include ocean crossings and even circumnavigating the globe. Blue water sailors are at least part-time — if not full-time — liveaboards. This means either that their boat is their only residence, or that they spend half their time on their sailboat and the other half on land.
In any case, blue water sailors all have one thing in common: They spend a lot of time on their sailboats. This means that they need high-quality materials to get them through their long journeys. In this blog, we're going to discuss which types of foam a blue water sailor needs for the various cushions and mattresses that fill their boat — inside and out.
There are two places inside your sailboat where you'll need high-quality foam: in your communal living area (called the saloon) for sitting down to meals and recreational activities, and in the sleeping berths. For both of these locations inside your cabin, you'll want to use CushionRite® Premium Antimicrobial polyurethane foam, which is a high density foam rated at 2.8 pounds per cubic foot. Why? As a liveaboard, you will be using your cushions and v-berth mattress as often as a landlubber uses their couch and bedroom mattress. Therefore, you need something incredibly durable that will last for years.
CushionRite Premium high density foam lasts up to 12 years on your boat. The only antimicrobial foam in the CushionRite Premium lineup is the firm variety. You can get other firmness options of Premium foam, but they won't be antimicrobial.
You might be thinking, "Why antimicrobial?" While it's true that the cushions inside your sailboat won't get as wet as the ones in your cockpit, it's still a good idea to choose antimicrobial foam. Even inside the cabin there's moisture and humidity in the air, especially when sailing in a tropical climate. An antimicrobial treatment protects your foam from any mold or mildew that could grow due to the dampness in the air.
Let's move outside the boat. When it comes to foam for your cockpit cushions, you have two choices: CushionRite® Dry Fast foam and CushionRite® Flotation foam. Your cockpit cushions will take the brunt of the sun, rain and saltwater. Even if your cockpit is covered with a dodger or bimini top, your cushions will still be exposed to the elements. Let's take a closer took at these two very different foams to help you decide which one is right for your boat and your sailing needs.
These foams are very different, so choosing between them comes down to personal choice and what you want to get out of your cockpit cushions. Dry Fast's main advantage is its quick-drying properties. It's an antimicrobial, reticulated, open cell foam. Water runs right through it so your cushions will dry out very quickly, even after a storm. Another plus is that Dry Fast is much more comfortable to sit on compared to Flotation foam; however, it does not last as long as Flotation foam.
To promote the foam's quick-drying abilities, you should pair it with a cushion fabric that won't hinder water drainage. A vinyl mesh fabric is the best choice for promoting water drainage. However, sunlight will be able to penetrate the mesh and reach the foam. UV rays will speed up the foam's disintegration, reducing its lifespan. You can also cover Dry Fast in a woven canvas fabric. Though canvas does not have as open of a weave as vinyl mesh, the Dry Fast will still be able to dry out. Covering Dry Fast in a woven canvas fabric will also help it last longer.
Flotation foam, also called closed cell foam, is dense and hard. It's a PVN foam three times firmer than polyurethane foam. Closed cell foam is antimicrobial and its main selling point is that it floats in water. So if you want your cockpit cushions to also function as flotation devices, then Flotation foam is your only choice. The foam's density can be an advantage when climbing in and out of the boat. The stability of the foam means you are less likely to lose your footing or roll an ankle when stepping onto your cockpit cushions.
We recommend covering closed cell foam with a durable outdoor canvas fabric for cockpit cushions. Sunbrella® Marine Grade and Sattler® Marine Grade are both excellent choices. These fabrics are solution-dyed and won't fade in the sun. They also boast high abrasion, water and mold/mildew resistance. Don't cover Flotation foam in a vinyl mesh fabric because the sun will break down the foam, drastically shortening its longevity.
We hope this information has been helpful to you! Let us know if you have any additional questions about foam types and usage. We carry an excellent selection of high-quality CushionRite foams for all of your boating needs. Just type "foam" into the search box to explore our foam products, as well as informative blogs on how to get the most out of your foam.