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 that their boat is their only form of residence, or 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 today's 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.
In the Cabin
There are two places inside your sailboat where you'll need high-quality foam: in your communal living area for sitting down to meals and recreational activities (called the saloon) and in the sleeping berths. For both of these locations inside your cabin, you'll want to use High Density Polyurethane Antimicrobial Foam. Why? As a liveaboard, you will be sleeping on your v-berth mattresses as often as a landlubber sleeps on their bedroom mattress. Therefore, you need something incredibly durable that will last for years. High Density Polyurethane lasts up to 12 years in your boat.
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. Using antimicrobial High Density protects your foam from any mold or mildew that could grow due to the dampness in the air.
We recommend High Density Polyurethane Foam for v-berth mattresses and saloon seating. Photos courtesy of customers Kathleen C. and Debbie G.
In the Cockpit
Let's move outside the boat. When it comes to foam for your cockpit cushions, you have two choices: Dry Fast Foam and Closed Cell 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 Foam'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 Closed Cell, but it does not last as long.
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 disintegration of the foam, reducing its lifespan. You can also cover Dry Fast in a woven canvas fabric. Though not as open 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 to last longer.
Closed Cell Foam is dense and hard. It's 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 Closed Cell 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 cockpit cushions with a durable outdoor canvas fabric. Sunbrella® Marine Grade is our preferred choice. Sunbrella fabrics are solution-dyed and won't fade in the sun. They also boast high abrasion, water and mold/mildew resistance. Don't cover Closed Cell cockpit cushions in a vinyl mesh fabric because the sun will break down the foam, drastically shortening its longevity.
Cockpit cushions covered in durable and weather-resistant Sunbrella fabric will last for years. Photo courtesy of customer Ernato E.
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 foams for all of your boating needs. Just type "foam" into the search box to explore our foam products, as well as informative "Selection Guides" and useful "Tips & Tricks" blogs on how to get the most out of your foam.