Everything you should know about Boat Fenders

Any investment is worth protecting, and your boat is no exception. Even if you’re extremely careful about docking your boat, harsh condition and other boats could damage your hull. The importance of boat fenders is often overlooked. Good fenders are just as vital for your boat as good anchors, and choosing one that’s best suited for your boat is imperative for safeguarding your prized possession. So let’s dive right in!

What are Fenders?

Fenders or ‘boat bumpers’ are padded or inflatable cushions that protect your boat from bumping against docks and other boats moored nearby. The type of fender depends on vessel length and weight. Most fenders are inflatable and are made from marine-grade vinyl or PVC.

Types of Fenders

Fenders come in many shapes and sizes, and the following are some of the most commonly used ones:

  1. Cylindrical fenders: these are the most common type of boat fenders with an ‘eye’ on one end or both. Center rope cylindrical fenders are threaded with a rope running through a hole in the fender’s centerline.
  2. Round fenders: round fenders are made of soft vinyl that is common on large powerboats with flared bows. They can often be seen on Center Console Boats, commercial vessels like fishing boats, and can be utilized in raft-ups as mooring buoys.
  3. Flat fenders: these are generally used on smaller boats, generally non-inflatable, and provide protection when secured to a boat’s gunwales.
  4. A ‘type 4 PFD’: these square-shaped fenders double as seat cushions and are a great alternative when there are no other options.

Choosing Appropriate Boat Fenders

There are several factors to contemplate while choosing the right fender and number for your boat:

  • Boat’s length: a fender should be present for every 4 to 5 feet of the boat’s length. For every 10 feet of waterline, there should be one fender and a minimum of three fenders for each side of the center console boat.
  • Boat’s weight: the heavier the boat, the more fenders it will require.
  • Mooring conditions: harsh weather requires a larger number of fenders.

Size Matters

Having an appropriately sized fender is more important than having a battalion of too-small ones. As a standard, inflatable fenders should be an inch thick in diameter for every five feet of the boat. Boats in the 40-feet plus range need at least four fenders while smaller ones can do with a couple. Anything larger will require six or more fenders.

Docking and Rafting with Fenders

The fenders should be secured once you’ve finished docking or rafting since that will avoid the fenders getting caught on pilings or other boats. After docking, the fenders should be hung near the widest beam point and secured to lifelines only is a cleat is available. With enough hangers, your boat should be safeguarded against hard pilings and bulkheads. Boat fenders can protect your boat from damage.

  • Avoid the build-up of algae and barnacles on the bottom of the fenders by keeping them out of the water if the boat is docked at someplace for a while.
  • Hang fenders horizontally when docking next to piling to keep them from rolling aside.
  • Check the tidal range when at a dock because you don’t want to come back to your boat with fenders below the dock and damage to the hull because the tide went out.

How to tie a Boat fender?

You can attach the fenders to the side of the boat with a lanyard held in place by a half-hitch or figure 8 super knots with an eye at one or both ends. There are options for quick fenders as well where you simply install the fender with an easily adjustable hanger that slides into your rod holder.

If a boat requires three fenders, place one in the middle of the boat and one at the aft and one at the fore. More fenders are required if two boats are being rafted together since they keep moving, unlike a stationary dock. Tying a fender at the correct height is crucial for its safekeeping; otherwise, it may not offer the protection it was meant to. Also, keep different fenders on hand so that you’re prepared for any kind of mooring condition.

Final thoughts

Boats are a source of joy and bring thrilling adventures in life, but without proper equipment, they can turn your hair grey. So boat fenders are a worthy investment that will provide safety for your boat and your mind. Sail happy, sail smart, sail astute!