Boat fenders may seem like a no-brainer, a simple “bumper” to keep your boat from damage at the dock. Fenders, however, require a little additional thought to make sure they’re up to the job. Here’s what to look for when buying your next boat fenders.
Fenders should be sized to the boat they’re protecting. As a rule of thumb, plan on 1” of diameter for every 4’ – 5’ of boat length when using common, cylindrical fenders, 2” of diameter if choosing round ball-type fenders. Conditions, however, should always dictate the final decision. A rough, open body of water will require you give your hull more protection to prevent damage.
Cylindrical fenders typically feature molded-in eyelets at each end. Tie off to one eyelet and the fender hangs vertically, tie off to both to hang horizontally. Round fenders are often used for large boats and commercial vessels. Choose the shape that works best not only for the dock in question…but also convenient storage in your boat.
Docking at pilings is a challenge, as their round shape tends to roll or push fenders out of the way. A fender “board” is one solution. Make one from a pressure-treated length of lumber, hung outside two fenders and against the piling. Or, look at innovative new fender styles in specific shapes that match your hull contours or attack directly to dock or pilings.
While you might be able to get away with having just one or two fenders on board, it’s better to determine how many you truly need for maximum protection. Most recommend using at least three fenders when docking so be sure to have that number at minimum.
Choices in fenders have come a long way. If your boat has a painted or wrapped hull, chances are you’ll be able to find a fender that matches or complements the color or design.