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Monday, March 11, 2013

Fender Bender

Boat Fenders
Over-sized Boat Fenders on Caro
Yes, that's my beloved Caro.  Yes, the picture is enlarged.  Yes, the fenders are original size!

There is much debate about fenders out there in the boating community.  What size?  What type?  Where?  How??

Before going further, let's examine this fine post from West Marine.

Fenders protect your boat from slamming into the land-based apparatus that you'll use to embark and disembark.  Notice the diction: 'slamming.'  It is inevitable that you will slam into a dock eventually.  Even if you don't 'slam' into it per se, you're still colliding with a dock every time you, well...dock! 

The handy chart from West Marine would have me use 6.5"-8" cylindrical fenders for my 25' boat.  I'm sorry, but have you seen what a 6.5" fender looks like?  I'm not trusting that thing with my boat's sensitive gelcoat!

So, I showed up on the dock one day with these monster fenders, fit for a yacht.  I smiled through all of the jokes and sarcasm from my friends.  And when we were rafted up and an inconsiderate boater went by, throwing up a huge wake and rocking our entire armada, who do you think was smiling then?  Yup - me, because my boat was the only one without damage!

Granted, all boats have space constraints.  But from where I'm sitting, (insurance policy in hand), I firmly believe in buying the biggest fenders you can safely store away, especially if you're a new boater.  Fenders serve a variety of purposes other than docking: rafting up, fending off a boat that's dragging anchor, swimming toy, etc.  I can't tell you the peace of mind that I have knowing that these things can deflate by a whole lot without coming close to failing my cause. 

Lest you think you'll be halving your wallet by going big, let me tell you - I bought my fenders years ago online (eBay), and got four fenders with lines and a pump for the cost of 1.5 fenders at West Marine (sorry, West Marine).  With mundane boating accessories, the internet is your friend - search a bit and you'll find some great deals.

Lastly, where to hang them?  Fenders are most effective when the bottoms are just off the water line on most boats.  I say 'on most boats,' because larger boats approaching larger and higher docks will have different needs, and some floating finger piers can be higher or lower depending on your situation.  But generally, just off the water will do, as that's usually where the boat is widest and where the dock will meet your hull.  Dragging in the water is not recommended - it can cause discoloration and marine growth.  Too high, and they'll stick out like a poodle-skirt and perhaps float over the docks they're meant to fend off!

And don't forget - fenders are for fending.  If you're not fending, by all means remove them from their respective cleats and stow them safely inside.  The last thing anyone else wants to see are your boat's bloomers flapping in the wind!
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