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Home | Spray Foam Industry | Of Foam And Fish

Of Foam And Fish

Spray polyurethane foam helps efficiently and effectively insulate an 84-gross-ton fishing vessel from the frigid waters in which she sails.

By Jen Kramer

One hundred thousand pounds of fish. By any measure, that is a big haul. Now imagine a ship with a fish hold large enough to contain a catch that substantial. It would have to be pretty well insulated, wouldn’t it?

THE ANITA, owned by Jay Gillman and built at Fort Bragg, California’s famed Van Peer Boat Works features just such a hold. She also proudly features many state-of-the-art conveniences, including the use of spray polyurethane foam insulation, to not only insulate and seal the fish hold (and the fo’c’sle / main deck area), but also to do so in as light and efficient a manner as possible.

Anita_deck spray

“We foamed THE ANITA in two phases,” says Gary Harvey, General Manager of Wedge Roofing, the spray polyurethane foam contractor who won the bid to insulate the massive ship. “The phasing was determined by construction sequencing, with Phase One beginning in January and Phase Two in March.”

It would not have been a surprise; however, if the project had been divided into phases given the ship’s size. According to an article posted to the Fort Bragg Advocate News, THE ANITA is 57 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. She weighs 84 gross tons. And, her enormous hold can carry 100,000 pounds of fish. But, given the speed and efficiency of spray foam, each phase of the project only lasted for three days.

Phase One: Unfazed

The specifications for the first phase called for the application of closed-cell spray polyurethane foam onto the fo’c’sle (the crew’s living area) and main deck, as well as onto the side of the hull, “which had already been shimmed to facilitate the installation of the wood veneer that would eventually cover the walls” Harvey explains.

Anita_pic 1

The ship was in dry dock, under a canopy. There were 10 to 15 openings cut into the sides of the steel hull, which meant that the four-man Wedge crew would not be spraying in a confined space.

“You could walk in one door, spray the foam, and walk out the next door. There was no confined space. Then, when the construction was finished, the ‘doors’ were welded closed,” says Harvey. “Given this, there was adequate ventilation. When we worked here and on the upper levels, we were essentially in the fresh air since we were on the open deck, and so we wore half-masks. But, when working on the lower level, we wore full-face mask respirators and also used exhaust and supply fans.” Regardless of phase, they also wore full Tyvek suits, gloves, steel-toed boots, goggles, and hats. “There was no exposed skin,” according to Harvey.


For the first phase, they used Graco E30 machines and Fusion AP guns with 296-feet of heated hose to spray-apply two-inches of Lapolla’s Air-Tight foam to achieve R-12.5. “The specified minimum was R-10,” Harvey explains. “But, with two-inches of Lapolla’s SPF, we achieved an approximate R-12.5.”

Although this phase included storerooms, staterooms, washrooms, galleys, and the pilothouse, there was no intumescent topcoat specified because the foam was first covered with a layer of steel, and then with wood paneling. This meant that after the third day, when the specified part of the ship had been foamed, the Wedge crew was “done” until Phase Two, which was scheduled for March.

The Fish Hold

Project sequencing worked like clockwork, and March saw the Wedge crew in THE ANITA’s fish hold. “This was a drill and fill operation,” says Harvey. “The owner had drilled thousands of ¼-inch holes in the bottom of each bay and we had to fill each one with pour foam. Also, if there was a strut or reinforcing member, there may have been a space next to it in need of fill – and we were filling blind. So we used hand-held FLIR infrared guns to follow the cavities and verify that they were filled as we filled them.”

The specifications called for:

  • All the floor cavities within the fish hold to be insulated to R-36
  • The floor sump (the large recessed area closest to the hull and therefore exposed to the coldest water) to be insulated to R-89
  • All ceiling cavities in the fish hold to be insulated to R-42
  • All up top hatches to be insulated to R-56

To complete this project, the Wedge crew used their Graco machine and gun equipped with a Fusion AP adapter kit. “It’s a two-foot piece of plastic hose and a screw-on adaptor that we used to inject the pour foam,” Harvey explains. They used PremiPour 202m from Premium Spray Products, an Accella Brand, for the insulation on this “drill and fill” phase. In addition to the pour foam and the adaptor kit, the crew also used the Air Tight foam and the regular AP gun to insulate the fish hold aft walls to R-26 and all of the engine room to a specified R-9.9.

Anita_pour foam

Although there were no other trades allowed in the ship while the Wedge crew worked, they were very conscious of helping those who were following behind – and themselves as well. Harvey describes the process: “This is a structure that has thousands of holes that you’re injecting foam into. The key to this and to finding them all when you are done is to mark them all with pieces of duct tape when they are filled. This does several things: First, it stops the foam from pushing out of the hole. Second, it forces the foam to fill inwards into the nooks and crannies. Third, it makes it easier for the welder to see and to fill with a tiny bead.”

As with Phase One, the four-man crew was again finished with Phase Two in three days. “This was a great, straight-forward job,” Harvey says. “We were done in six days, total.” THE ANITA herself was completed in 11 months and christened by Anita Van Peer, her namesake and the wife of Chris Van Peer, the owner of Van Peer Boat Works, where she was built.

Although the Van Peers have recently retired, THE ANITA’s career has just begun. She now trolls the frigid waters off Washington, Canada, and Alaska – filling her well-insulated hold with halibut and cod – thanks in large measure to the crew from Wedge Roofing.

For information on THE ANITA:

Photos courtesy of Wedge Roofing •

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