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 This was eventually superseded by his publication of the “Core-Cell Design Manual” in 2001.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
This is an opportunity to build on your experience and training with our new industry-specific ...
Across the corporate organization of Groupe Beneteau, plans have been made to charter its course ...
Brunswick Corporation (NYSE:BC) continues to execute on its Next Wave strategy, announcing on ...
Newport Exhibition Group, owners and producers of the Newport International Boat Show, have ...
Increase your industry knowledge and accumulate CEUs! These courses are for members and certified ...
BoatTEST.com announced on August 17th, 2021 that it would begin sharing all of its boat test videos ...
Mark your Calendars! The 2022 Moncton Boat Show will be returning to Moncton Friday, March 25 – ...
The 2022 Sea-Doo Switch is a re-imagined pontoon that makes hitting the water more accessible than ...
Recently, we heard from Leigh Robertson of Gold River Marina in Nova Scotia, who informed us that ...
Prompted by recent extreme weather events, we had written about the damage trail left by a tornado ...

2022 AMI Conference & Expo, Feb 1-3, 2022| Daytona Beach

 

Association of Marina IndustriesSave the date for the 2022 AMI Conference & Expo in Daytona Beach, FL on February 1-3, 2022. Plan ahead and book your room at the host hotel to receive your discounted rates!

The Association of Marina Industries Conference & Expo is THE leading marina and boatyard conference. It is geared specifically toward marina and boatyard owners; operators and managers; as well as dock masters, harbormasters, boat builders and repairers, and industry consultants. 

 

 

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
Leon Slikkers, a marine industry pioneer, whose career building boats dates back to the 1940s, ...
MarineMax recently announced expanding their agreement with Cruisers Yachts as the ...
The 2021 Boating Ontario Golf Tournament was again, a huge success. This year it was held at ...
Summer is in full swing with Canadians enjoying time outside and on the water. So, while enjoying ...
The Maritime Museum of BC is excited to announce that it has opened its new location at 744 Douglas ...
Boating Ontario is very proud to have Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety jump on board and ...
The first on-water event showcasing the Company’s innovative powertrain technology with equal parts ...
Boating season is in full swing, and with more than 500,000 lakes to explore in Quebec, boaters ...
In recognition of Women’s Equality Day, Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC), the world’s leading ...
Here is a good public relations and social media opportunity for marine businesses across Canada. ...

Vision marine unveils its E-Motion™ fully electric powertrain matched with the iconic Bruce 22 at Lake of the Ozarks Shootout

Vision MarineThe first on-water event showcasing the Company’s innovative powertrain technology with equal parts performance and art, sees the astonishing Bruce 22 and the efficacious E-Motion™ Outboard are set to break a previous speed record.

Vision Marine Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: VMAR) (“Vision Marine” or the “Company”), a global leader in the electric recreational boating industry serving both OEMs and consumers, is pleased to announce its return to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, the largest unsanctioned boat race in the US, taking place August 28-29, 2021.

 

Read More


 

New Simrad® App launches, loaded with navigation features and support for Simrad® displays

Simrad AppThe latest Simrad® app debuted this week for the marine electronics leader celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The updated app includes a premium offering complete with new mapping features, advanced functionality and mirroring and control of Simrad® multi-functional displays from your smartphone or tablet. It is available on both the Apple Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.

The app is free to download and offers a rich experience that includes free up-to-date nautical charts from C-MAP®, personal waypoints, routes and tracks, latest marine weather, personalization and much more. 

Read More


 

Raritan sanitation hose has impressive bend radius

Rariton Sanitation HoseBetween the odor and working in confined spaces, replacing an onboard sanitation line is never a pleasant job. With Sani/Flex Odor Shield Marine Hose from Raritan Engineering, the task can be completed quicker and with fewer expletives. Incredibly strong, it has class-leading flexibility.

The 1.5" version of Sani/Flex Odor Shield has a bend radius of 3.15". The 1" model has an impressive 1.97" rating. Combined with its suppleness, it's super-easy to snake the hose around the tightest corners.

 

 

Read More


 

 

 

IMTRA expands sales and support teams and celebrates retirement of industry veteran

Dick DavidsonIMTRA, the leading manufacturer and importer of quality solutions and products for the marine, energy and transportation markets, announced August 19th, that the sales team has been bolstered, anticipating the upcoming retirement of long-time sales and service representative, Dick Davidson.

With an impressive career that spanned decades, Davidson spent over 30 years serving California, the American Southwest and customers throughout Asia. He will be replaced by Will Vrooman, a 20-year marine industry veteran. Vrooman comes to IMTRA after serving as national sales manager for Maxwell Marine, where he handled all aspects of new business development and client service. 

Read More