Aug 17, 2021

Tom JohannsenTom Johannsen 1933 - 2021

We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Tom Johannsen, a pioneer in the development of light weight foam cored composite laminates, and a true gentleman in an often competitive industry. Tom was born in Germany in 1933 and immigrated to Canada in the 1950s, abandoning a career in the family textile business to carve out his own career in the rapidly expanding plastics industry.

He ultimately focused on the promotion and sale of Airex linear PVC foam cores. At the same time he became involved in competitive dinghy sailing, ultimately combining both passions with the building of an Airex foam core Finn dinghy that he named Huckleberry. Cored construction, of course, was outside the class rules, but that was not Tom’s point. Tom almost single handedly pioneered the use of foam cores in North America, competing against the dominance of balsa cores in the marine industry. Indeed, it was through his input and efforts that the Peter Hatfield designed Porpoise III, the first fully foam cored hull, was built in Vancouver in 1967, barely two years after Red Jacket, the first fully cored balsa cored hull. Further projects followed as diverse as fishing boats, mega yachts, racing sailboats, high speed powerboats, and impact resistant architectural applications.

Moving to New Jersey in the 1970s with the building of an ill-fated Airex plant in the US, Tom continued to promote and sell Airex cores through his own company Torin, a name derived from Tom and his wife Karin. This is when Tom published his first book on cored construction – “One-off Fiberglass Sandwich Construction” in 1973. This was eventually superseded by his publication of the “Core-Cell Design Manual” in 2001. In that respect, Tom Johannsen literally wrote the book on foam core construction. After Airex cancelled their distribution agreement with Tom in order to hand the product to a large nationwide distributer, Tom and Karin returned to Canada, relocating to Oakville, ON, and established a new company ATC Chemicals, named for the partnership between Bill Borntraeger and his distribution company Armkem, Tom Johannsen, and Raymond Conway. ATC was based in Drummondville, Quebec, producing polyester bonding compounds that Tom and Raymond had pioneered for the installation of Airex core and the bonding of the Laser dinghy.

Tom Johannsen and Members of his ATC Sales and Marketing TeamTom Johannsen on right with members of his ATC Sales and Marketing Team – L to R, Rob Mazza, Rita Barclay, JP Schroeder, Maureen Bookbinder, Jef Benkelman, Al Horsmon.

However, Tom already had another ace up his sleeve. Working with his former mentor from Airex, the retired Karl Brandl, a new formulation for a linear foam core was developed that Tom named Core-Cell. This was an entirely new formulation of a linear foam core based on new SAN chemistry that started limited production in Drummondville in the mid-90s. With Tom’s development of Core-Cell, the ATC partnership was restructured with Tom attaining two thirds ownership. Demand for the core, as well as for the polyester bonding compounds, especially the pump applied Poly-Bond B39, increased exponentially, resulting in the badly timed decision to build a larger plant in Drummondville, Quebec. Timing could not have been worse, with the groundbreaking for the new plant taking place on 9/11 - September 11th, 2001. The immediate decline in demand in both the marine and the rapidly emerging wind energy markets, as well as cost overruns in the building of the new plant, resulted in ATC being acquired by SP Systems and later Gurit. Tom lost his ownership in Core-Cell, but retained the bonding compound business and the ATC name, and rapidly re-established the financial viability of the company, before eventually selling to Scott Bader in 2013.

That is when Tom and Karin finally retired from a life in cored composites and the marine industry, with Tom returning to his other love, sailing, spending more time on Huckleberry II and racing Ideal 18s at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Huckleberry II, of course, was an Airex cored boat that Tom had promised to own 20 years previously. In retirement Tom also enjoyed canoeing in Algonquin Park with his ATC associate Steve Crow.

Tom’s contribution to the development of lightweight cored composite laminate structures cannot be over stated. When Tom entered the industry in the 1960s, foam cored sandwich construction was in its infancy, and it was only through Tom’s dedication and technical expertise that light weight foam cored construction is now the norm for products as diverse as boats, trucks, aircraft, and wind turbine blades. Tom Johannsen taught the world how to do it properly and successfully. His primary sales philosophy was simply “to tell the truth” as he explained to a new arrival to the company. Throughout his career he always was about to have success in hand, until it was snatched away often by people who did not always share his philosophy. But he always bounced back, often going on to greater success. He put teams together of dedicated individuals, who worked tirelessly to grow the companies for Tom. Working for Tom was always a pleasure because you knew you were part of a team, even a family. His was an old world philosophy that people mattered, whether they were customers or employees. Tom earned the respect of all his competitors, and established friendships with his customers that lasted decades. This was summed up by Tom Preisel, past Sales and Marketing Manager of Tom’s main competitor, the Baltek Corp. Upon hearing of Tom’s passing Preisel said; “He was one of the good guys. I always jokingly and seriously said that as a competitor Tom was the last one I wanted to put out of business”. Every year for the past several years, former ATC employees have organized a gathering around Tom for dinner at a local restaurant to maintain the comradery that Tom had instilled in us.

Tom Johannsen With Members of Extended ATC Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Johannsen, with cap, among the members of the extended ATC family in the 1990s

Tom is survived by his wife Karin, who, as the name Torin indicates, was very much part of the business, and his two children Christopher and Tania. As a friend, a husband, a parent, a pioneer, a collaborator, and as a competitor, Tom Johannsen will be sadly missed.

Rob Mazza
August 10th, 2021

  • Prev
The federal government’s proposed luxury tax on new boats will likely lead to significant job ...
Covering the square footage of 26 football fields, nearly 1,300 exhibitors in four huge halls ...
Reserve your space today before the class is full. CDI Electronics is fully committed to training ...
On November 17, the NMMA announced the postponement of the 2022 Progressive® Insurance Atlanta, ...
Calling all Jeanneau Owners! We are going back to the BVI on March 12-19, 2022 for our Jeanneau ...
Join us on January 12 for the ABYC Standards Certification Course! This fast-paced, one-day course ...
At Total Battery we stock 1000’s of batteries and power solutions from the smallest of watch ...
Kropf Industrial, located in Parry Sound, Ontario, is a major manufacturer of marine hydraulic ...
The world’s largest B2B exhibition for the leisure marine industry is almost set to open its doors ...
The American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) has announced the agenda and speaker lineup for the ...

Impact: An Interview with Jordan Kropf

 

KropfBy Alyssa Kerslake

Kropf Industrial, located in Parry Sound, Ontario, is a major manufacturer of marine hydraulic equipment and dock systems. The company was founded in 1977 and has become well established for their products in the marine sector.

Kropf Industrial works within three divisions: Kropf Conolift, Kropf Aquaculture and Kropf Marine. The Kropf Conolift division offers marine hydraulic equipment such as marine lifts, self-propelled trailers, boat stands, and yard & highway trailers to assist boat handling and storage operations. The Conolift line of equipment became a primary focus of Kropf Industrial in the early 1980s.

Read More


 

Boating Industry Canada News Week

 

Every Tuesday we publish a fresh Digest with informative articles pertaining to the Canadian boating and marine industry. Stay up to date with the latest products, research and industry developments.

Missed an Issue of Boating Industry Canada News Week? If you're looking for a specific issue, or simply want to catch up on previous issues, check out our Boating Industry Canada News Week Archives.

Not signed up for News Week? Subscribe here

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Scene

  • Prev
Torqeedo has announced that the company will be the main sponsor of the new Blue Innovation Dock ...
When highway washouts and emerging sink holes threatened to cancel Marine Service Tech (MST) ...
Navier is a Silicon Valley startup that’s introducing the boat of the future — a 27-foot ...
On November 16th the DAME Design Awards announced its winners. Volvo Penta’s Assisted Docking ...
Freedom Boat Club, a division of Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC) and the world’s largest boat ...
Groupe Beneteau’s first step into the future of marine propulsion is a collaborative solution ...
“The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was a resounding success, welcoming thousands of ...
Vision Marine Technologies, Inc. announced on October 26th that it has executed a Manufacture and ...
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named his cabinet last week following the September 20 election that ...
In case you missed IBEX 2021's Industry Breakfast last month in Tampa, you can now view NMMA ...

Vision Marine Technologies Partners with Linamar Corporation Subsidiary McLaren Engineering on E-Motion™ Fully Electric Outboard Motor

Vision and LinamarVision Marine Technologies, Inc. announced on October 26th that it has executed a Manufacture and Supply Agreement (“MSA”) with Linamar Corporation (TSX: LNR), a global leader in manufacturing solutions and world class developer of highly engineered products.

Under the terms of the agreement, McLaren Engineering, Linamar’s leading-edge technology and product development team for its advanced mobility segment, will manufacture and assemble the Company’s E-Motion™ technology through testing, parts, tooling development, and designing the union assembly...

Read More


 

Raymarine introduces Cyclone Solid-State CHIRP Pulse Compression Radars

Raymarine Cyclone Solid-State CHIRP Pulse Compressed RadarsBoating Industry Canada News Week was on hand at the Raymarine introduction of Cyclone™, the newest range of open-array radars, conceived and crafted to give mariners the confidence to tackle the harshest conditions, gain distinct advantages in the hunt for fish, and safely navigate busy waterways. The introduction was at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, October 26.

All-new Cyclone radars are available in 3-, 4- and 6-foot arrays and two high-power output options for each size. Each model features innovative detection technologies, including Cyclone Bird Mode, that elevates Cyclone into a class all its own.

 

Read More


 

Keith Yunger named President, Sea Ray Boats

SeaRayBrunswick Corporation (NYSE:BC) announced on October 25th, that it has named Keith Yunger as president of its Sea Ray boat brand, effective immediately.


Yunger has been with Brunswick Corporation for 16 years in several leadership roles, including president of the Bayliner brand, and most recently, president of the Venture Group, which includes Brunswick’s Bayliner, Heyday, Quicksilver and Uttern brands. Steve Langlais, who has served as Sea Ray president since 2019 is currently taking an extended medical leave of absence.

 

Read More