THE ULTIMATE BOAT FENDER BUYERS GUIDE
When I purchased my first boat, I wanted to make certain I did everything possible to protect the hull from damage. Being a new boat owner-operator at the time, I knew I would make a few mistakes while learning and wanted to make sure I never damaged the hull of the boat, especially when docking. As a result, I knew I needed to buy boat fenders for protection.
As a result, I started doing some research and let me tell you, the information about boat fenders was overwhelming! I was nieve and assumed all boat fenders were the same. Boy was I wrong.
Thankfully, you can skip over the learning curve and get the right fender for your boat from the beginning. In this buyers guide, I will do my best to explain what you need to know to make an informed boat fender purchase.
A boat fender is the marine equivalent of a car bumper. Although it doesn’t come attached to the boat like the fenders on your truck, boat fenders do the all-important task of keeping your hull safe from dinks and knocks.
WHAT SIZE BOAT FENDERS DO I NEED?
Fender sizing is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to choosing the right boat fenders. Although many sailors will strongly recommend having the biggest and sturdiest fenders you can afford, there are a few more things you should factor into your final decision.
1. MOORING CONDITIONS
Docking in chop is hectic enough without having the right boat fenders. Big waves and strong winds obviously require boat fenders that are big enough to provide adequate protection. You can get away with using smaller fenders in gentler mooring conditions. In any case, the more fenders you have the better prepared you will be.
2. BOAT WEIGHT
Heavier boats need more stopping power, so they warrant the use of bigger boat fenders. The weight of your boat is therefore directly tied to the size of the fenders you should get. Heavier boats need bigger fenders and vice versa.
3. BOAT LENGTH
The most common metric applied when selecting appropriate boat fenders is the length of the boat. Here’s a quick rundown of how boat length and fender size relate:
- – Boats under 10 feet require cylindrical fenders that are at least 3 inches in diameter.
- – Boats of up to 15 feet require cylindrical fenders of 3 to 4 inches in diameter or round fenders of at least 9 inches in diameter.
- – Boats of up to 20 feet in length should be equipped with either 20-inch round fenders or 5.5-inch cylindrical fenders.
- – Boats measuring between 20 and 25 feet should have either 6.5-inch cylindrical fenders or 15-inch round fenders.
- – Boats of 40 to 50 feet should have no less than 21-inch round fenders or 10.5 to 12-inch cylindrical fenders.
- – Boats of 50 to 60 feet require cylindrical fenders of at least 12 inches in diameter or round fenders measuring 27 inches in diameter.
- – Boats longer than 60 feet require 15 to 24-inch cylindrical fenders or 27-inch round fenders.
WHAT TYPE OF BOAT FENDERS ARE AVAILABLE?
1. CYLINDRICAL DOUBLE-EYE FENDERS
These are highly recommended for smaller, lighter vessels (20 – 25′ max). Double-eye fenders have holes on either end, making them capable of being hung horizontally using two fender lines or vertically with one fender line.
2. CYLINDRICAL CENTER HOLE FENDERS
Designed for larger and heavier vessels, center hole fenders are typically strung horizontally to cover bigger portions of the hull. However, they are still ideal for mooring against flat surfaces like docks, because they can be hung vertically by running a fender line through the middle and tying off the ends with figure 8 knots.
3. HYBRID FENDERS
Hybrids are a cross between cylindrical and round fenders. They tend to have a larger diameter, making them better suited for rough moorings and heavier vessels.
4. ROUND FENDERS
Round fenders have a single hole through which the line is strung. These are ideal for use on a wide range of vessels.
5. SPECIALTY FENDERS
WHAT BRAND OF BOAT FENDER SHOULD I USE ON MY BOAT?
You’re not short of options when it comes to boat fender brands. However, should you lack the technical knowledge to identify good boat fenders by merit alone, there are a couple of brands that you can always trust.
1. TAYLOR MADE BOAT FENDERS
Taylor Made Boat fenders are arguably the best in the business. The company makes both round cylindrical and oval cylindrical fenders for vessels as small as 10 feet dinghies to massive 50-foot cruisers.
Taylor Made boat fenders can be bought from one of their physical locations or ordered online through Amazon or eBay. If you don’t have a lot of time to go through different options, this is a leading boat equipment company with years in the game, so you can trust that they have high-quality products. [Amazon Link]
2. POLYFORM FENDERS
USA-based Polyform Boat Fenders is a globally recognized company that excels in manufacturing high-quality boat fenders for differently sized vessels. They specialize in creating fenders for even the smallest of watercraft, so if you’re looking for boat fenders for small boats, this is an excellent place to start. [Amazon Link]
Like Taylor Made Boat fenders, Polyform boat fenders can be purchased online from the company’s main website as well as from Amazon and eBay.
HOW DO I TIE A FENDER TO MY BOAT?
Here’s what you need to pay attention to when tying a fender to your boat.
The best way to secure a fender to your boat is by using a half hitch knot. The reason why this is the most ideal knot is because it is relatively easy to master. Besides, you can always use one of these rope tie-down tools from Amazon to make your job a little bit easier.
It is recommended that you use one fender for every 10 feet of waterline. The minimum number of fenders to use on a boat is three, with one on maximum beam, one on fore, and a third on the aft. This set up varies depending on the mooring conditions as well as the situation. Of course, the number of fenders needed will go up as the length of the boat increases.
One more thing to note is that fenders should be tied as low as is possible as this minimizes arc swing and keeps the fenders in position.
TIPS FOR HANGING FENDERS WHEN:
• DOCKING – Use at least three fenders, one on the aft, one on maximum beam, and one on fore. Three are sufficient in most cases, though if you feel the need to use more than three, there’s no harm. Ensure that the fenders are hung vertically for smooth-surface or floating piers and horizontally when tying against docks with exposed pilings. You’re better off using a specialty fender for decks with cleats and other fittings.
• RAFTING – Rafting with other boats requires the fenders to be deployed on the anchored boat. Three standard fenders should be lined a few centimeters from each other along the maximum beam, while two round fender buoys should be hung at aft and fore to hinder the boats from crashing into each other.
STORING FENDERS APPROPRIATELY
Polyform fenders should be stored safely away from direct sunlight. You can use foldable or non-foldable fender racks for this.
Why go for the foldable type? Because once the fenders are deployed, you can fold them out of the way to create more space on the deck. Unfortunately, the foldable storage racks tend to be flimsy, which is why non-foldable racks are available. These are much sturdier and more expensive, but they take up a lot of space whether the fenders are deployed or not.
WHERE CAN I PURCHASE BOAT FENDERS?
There are a number of places where you can buy boat fenders from, but a few options stand out. These are West Marine, a US-based boating supply company with over 300 retail outlets in North America, Canada, and Puerto Rico alone, and Overton’s, watersports, marine electronics, and boating accessories superstore in the US.
Remember, you can never have too many boat fenders. Bigger fenders are generally better at keeping your hull intact, but it’s good to have a mix of big and small as well as round and cylindrical fenders to cover multiple purposes and situations.