How to Build a Fender Board

Build a fender board to keep your boat scuff-free in tougher docking scenarios.

How to Build a Fender Board
How to Build a Fender BoardBoating Magazine

To protect your boat against pilings, you can hang a fender sideways, but once the boat moves more than the length of the fender, you have no protection. If you’re a spring-line wizard and the boat doesn’t budge fore and aft, you still have the problem of oysters and barnacles shredding the fenders as the tide drops. The solution? Build fender boards.

[1] Purchase a length of 2-by-6-inch lumber. Four feet is a good all-around length, though you can make the fender boards any length to suit a particular scenario. For instance, a 3-footer is fine to provide protection against a single piling, while lengths up to eight feet might be better when tied side-to "Navy-style" bulkheading with its multiple exposed piles. Choose softwoods like white pine or Douglas fir.

[2] Bore half-inch-diameter holes a foot from the end of each board, 1½ inches from the top edge. Round the edges of each drilled hole with a rasp or rattail file to minimize chafe.

[3] Select two lengths of three-eighths-inch-diameter line, and tie or splice each length through the holes you bored. The final length of these lines should be enough to reach from the cleat or rail (to which they'll be tied) to the water. Remember to leave enough length for cleating off.

[4] To deploy the new fender boards, first hang at least two fenders over the side, bracketing the piling. These must be no farther apart than the length of the fender board. Now secure the fender board, and hang it outboard of the fenders against the pilings.

[5] A projection, such as a bolt, sticking out of the dock can fetch up on the board as tide levels change. You must watch for this. Of course, with no fender board, you'd never be able to use that space without getting a ding. I keep a beater hammer in my tool kit just for this scenario.

Fender Board Tips
-Use the fender board when rafting boats of varying freeboard height by having the other boat's crew place its fenders in line with your fender board. Unlike fenders alone, fenders and a fender board can be hung lower and thus stay in place instead of popping out of position as the boats rock.

-Taylor Made Products model No. 96001 fender board guards let you make a low-profile, light-duty fender board out of a 2-by-4-inch board. $23 each; boatersland.com

-Do not tie loops in the boat end of either fenders or fender boards. A free bitter end that you can belay with a cleat hitch makes it easier to adjust the height to accommodate variations in docks, boats and water levels.