If you are a boat owner, you’re probably painfully aware of all the hard handling your vessel is subjected to both during and out of the boating season. From rough mooring conditions to collisions with other vessels—your boat is at constant risk of damage.
So what can be done to ensure your boat is as protected as can be? Let’s find out.
What Equipment is Needed to Protect Your Boat?
When it comes to boating, safety is paramount. We all know that your boat should be home to protective gear such as an anchor and anchor windlasses, fire extinguisher, distress beacon, and flare.
And when it comes to protecting the interior of your boat you are spoiled with choices from products like UV protectors to protect your boat’s seats and leaning posts from sun damage and special waxes to do the same for its floor.
But what about the exterior of your boat? One of the best ways to protect the exterior of your boat is by using fenders or bumpers as they are sometimes mistakenly called. For some reason, fenders are often overlooked and definitely underappreciated.
Whether your boat is a beat-up dinghy or a brand-new Catamaran it will benefit from having fenders.
Boat Fenders: What do They do?
Boat fenders serve a very important purpose. They essentially have a cushion-like effect on your boat. Boat fenders act as a buffer between a boat and anything it might hit such as other boats, seawalls, pilings & docks.
It’s specifically designed to absorb the shock of an impact and does a great job at doing so. Fenders can be used on any vessel in any body of water be it a lake, a river or an ocean.
Fenders are a huge source of protection for your boat and who wouldn’t want to protect their investment?
The Different Types of Boat Fenders
Contrary to popular opinion a boat fender is technically not the same as a bumper, although both products serve the same purpose. The difference is that a fender is attached to the boat whereas a bumper is secured to the dock.
There are many different types of boat fenders available on the market. Knowing the different types is an essential factor in picking the right type for your boat. We’ll be looking at the four most popular types of boat fenders below.
Cylindrical Double Eye Fenders
Cylindrical double eye fenders are some of the most popular types of boat fenders because they’re perfect for the smaller vessels that the majority of boat owners own. These fenders are most often hung in a vertical manner but, provided you have two fender lines available, can also be hung horizontally. Some models feature a ribbed design for reinforcement.
Cylindrical Center Hole Fenders
Cylindrical center hole fenders are better suited for larger vessels. These fenders provide more cushioning than cylindrical double eye fenders. They’re almost always hung horizontally but can be hung vertically using a fender line through its middle, with figure-eight knots securing both ends.
A round fender is a soft fender that is most often found on larger vessels that have flared bows. Round fenders are also often used for rafting two boats together. These are the fenders that you’ll often see adorning the sides of commercial fishing boats.
Hybrid Cylindrical Round Fenders
As you may have guessed by the name a hybrid cylindrical round fender combines the characteristics of cylindrical fenders and round fenders. These fenders are best suited towards larger, heavier vessels.
Specialty fenders are designed to be used in specific mooring conditions. They can be designed for boats with low freeboards to protect the rub rails and gunwales. A transom fender is a great example of a specialty fender as it is specifically designed for a boat’s swim platform.
How to Choose the Right Size Boat Fenders
Choosing the right sized fenders for your boat is surprisingly simple. Keep your boat’s weight, length, and typical mooring conditions in mind & you’ll be able to make an educated decision. The rule of thumb is that for every 4’ to 5’ of a boat’s length a fender of a 1” diameter should be in place.
How Many Boat Fenders Will I Need?
When it comes to boat fenders, the more your boat has the better off it will be. It’s not only recommended to have multiple fenders aboard but to have more than one type so that you’re prepared for different situations and mooring conditions.
The general recommendation is that boats measuring up to 10 meters long should have two fenders on each side of the boat while boats longer than 10 meters should have four fenders per side.
Our Best Rated Boat Fenders
By now you should have a better idea of the type, size and number of fenders you’ll be needing. Now it’s time to find out which product will best suit your boat and her unique needs.
Let’s take a look at the 7 best boat fenders available.
1. Polyform G Series Boat Fenders
Polyform G Series Boat Fenders are an extremely popular choice of utility boat fender and for good reason. Polyform has been in the industry for over 40 years so it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about fenders. The G Series range of boat fenders feature reinforced rope holds, inflation valves, and a ribbed design to promote extra strength. With six available sizes to choose from these fenders can be used on boats ranging from 10ft to 40ft long. Take your pick from 21 different colors ranging from Catalina blue to Berry to make sure your boat’s aesthetic appeal doesn’t decrease as its safety level increases. Its glossy finish and lifetime warranty are the perfect finishing touches.
2. Extreme Max 3006.7228 BoatTector 24” Contour Fender
The Extreme Max BoatTector Contour Fenders are built with durability in mind. These fenders are constructed with closed-cell foam to prevent deflation and consist of a tri-laminate cover, double thermal-bonded seams & polycarbonate grommets. A square wraparound design ensures that both hull and gunwale are protected. With resistance to tearing and UV damage, you can sail easy knowing your boat is protected in the long run. You have a choice between white, black or blue fenders and all come with two grommets & a fender line for each fender you purchase. These fenders come with a two-year replacement warranty.
3. Mission Boat Gear Sentry Boat Dock Fender Bumper
Sentry Boat Dock Fender Bumpers have caught the attention of many a boater. A patented cross-linked closed-cell foam construction all but guarantees the durability of these fenders. In addition to being durable, this material is UV resistant and doesn’t absorb water. What many love about Sentry fenders is that they make use of an integrated dryline strap system so there’s no need for ropes. Sentry fenders hang at an angle lower than traditional fenders to perfectly align with your hull’s contour. These fenders are available in yellow, blue, white and ‘almost black’ & come with an extra-long strap that can be trimmed down if need be. Mission products come with a one-year warranty that is nontransferable.
4. Extreme Max 3006.7384 BoatTector Fender
Another BoatTector fender you should check out is the Extreme Max 3006.7384. These fenders are constructed with high-quality UV and chemical resistant materials. A reinforced ribbed design is found on the thick PVC walls. The reinforced molded eyelets help to increase the strength and longevity of the fenders. With 10 colors to pick from you’ll be able to find a fender that matches your boat’s style without a problem. The fenders are 6.5” x 22” and boast a consistent wall thickness. This value pack includes four fenders and comes with four 3/8” x 5’ solid MFP braid fender lines as well as a needle valve for easy inflation and deflation. A two-year warranty is the cherry on top of the Extreme Max 3006.7384 BoatTector Fender.
5. Polyform A-Series Buoy
The A-Series Buoy is another Polyform product that has earned its spot in our list of the best boat fenders available. The A-Series Buoy is a round fender that was the first product Polyform launched. Its commercial-grade strength ensures that this product will last a long while and its reinforced rope holds are proven to be extra durable. A firm favorite amongst fishermen, this heavy-duty product is available in seven different sizes to accommodate vessels from 10ft to 70ft and beyond. On top of the different size options, you also have 21 color options to choose from. Polyform A-Series Buoys arrive deflated so you’ll need to make sure you have a pump on hand to inflate it. The A-Series Buoys are covered by a lifetime warranty, provided the product doesn’t change ownership.
6. Taylor Made Products 1026 Big B Inflatable Vinyl Boat Fender
Taylor Made Products’ 1026 Big B Inflatable Vinyl Boat Fender is a cylindrical center hole fender. This fender is constructed with high-quality vinyl and boasts a molded ribbed design. Big B fenders are suitable for vertical and horizontal hanging & have a ¾ inch center rope tube to allow for end-to-end line passage. An even wall thickness and built-in inhibitors to prevent fading & discoloration elevate this product. Available in four different sizes for boats 20ft up to 60ft long and with nine different colors to choose from, you’re bound to find an option that suits your boat perfectly. The Taylor Made team stands behind this product and its lifetime guarantee is proof of that.
7. GOPLUS 4-Pack Ribbed Marine Boat Fender
Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Boat Fenders
Before taking your pick from the seven brilliant options above there are a few aspects to consider to help you make the best decision possible.
What are Boat Fenders Made of?
Generally speaking, boat fenders are made with durable materials such as rubber, plastic, elastomer or foam. You need to ensure that the materials used to construct your boat fender are high quality, durable and can withstand the effects of both sea & sun. Here’s an interesting fact for you: back in the day boat fenders were fashioned out of woven rope and this is still practiced today by older boat owners with a passion for boat history.
How to Hang Boat Fenders - Vertical vs Horizontal
Fenders should be hung in such a way that the bottom of the fender is just skimming the surface of the water. This is to limit marine growth on the fender and also to prevent the dock from pushing the fender out of position. Some fenders are specifically designed to be hung either vertically or horizontally while others can be used for both.
The deciding factor as to whether you should hang your fender vertically or horizontally is as follows:
- Vertical hanging: Ideal for when your boat is mooring against flat structures such as docks
- Horizontal hanging: Ideal for fending against pilings and other protruding structures
How to Attach Boat Fenders on a Pontoon
Because a pontoon has equal beam width spanning from bow to stern, attaching boat fenders onto one can be difficult. You can use fender clips anywhere on your pontoon rail but this isn’t possible for all pontoon boats. As an alternative to fender clips here’s a DIY approach you can try:
- In freshwater environments, it’s recommended to use spring links to clip the fenders into place
- In saltwater environments, you can use the same spring link method you’ll just need to use stainless steel bolts and components.
How to Adjust the Pressure of a Boat Fender
Knowing how to adjust the pressure of your fenders is crucial. This is because when a fender has either too much or too little pressure it won’t protect your boat effectively. Always check what your user guide recommends as the ideal pressure level for your fender, but a safe bet is to use a pressure of 1-2 psi.
You can adjust the pressure using a boat fender pump or a standard hand or foot pump. You can also make use of an air compressor or service station air pump if you have access to one. Some models, such as Polyform fenders, require specific pumps so keep that in mind when making your purchase.
While this process varies slightly across the different models, here’s a quick overview to give you a general idea of how to adjust your boat fenders’ pressure.
If a plastic screw or cap is present, remove it. Place the air pump on the metal valve and make sure the openings of the valve & the nozzle are aligned.
Begin blowing air into the fender. When a fender is properly inflated it will retain its shape, won’t bulge at the sides and will feel firm.
Once you’ve increased the pressure remove the inflation device and if you removed a cap or screw, gently screw it back in place. Using too much force will result in damage to the valve.
If a plastic screw or cap is present, remove it. Insert a long, thin, blunt object such as a hex key, pen or piece of stiff wire, into the valve. This will disengage the backflow prevention flap.
Apply slight pressure to the body of the fender to squeeze the desired amount of air out of it.
Once you’ve decreased the pressure remove the inflation device and if you removed a cap or screw, gently screw it back in place. Using too much force will result in damage to the valve.
How to Clean Boat Fenders
Boat fenders can be cleaned with a simple solution of soap and water. Stay away from cleaning agents that contain harsh ingredients, such as acetone, that will cause damage to your fenders. If you want to avoid cleaning your fenders entirely then washable boat fender covers were practically made with you in mind.
Tips on How to Tie Boat Fenders
Leading Manufacturers of Boat Fenders
In every industry, there are shortlists of trusted manufacturers who dominate the market and the boat fender industry is no different. We’re going to introduce you to the leading players in the world of boat fenders.
The Taylor Made Group is the leading supplier of boat fenders worldwide. The company offers both round cylindrical fenders as well as oval cylindrical fenders. Taylor Made also manufactures a wide range of specialty fenders—even a novelty pink or white mermaid fender!
Polyform has been manufacturing fenders for over four decades now so it’s no surprise that they’re highly regarded within the marine industry. Polyform provides a range of fenders from compact fenders for trailered boats to fenders for unprotected mooring.
Megafend is another company that is dominating the world of boat and yachting accessories. They provide transom fenders, inflatable fenders, and solid core fenders. The company’s products are becoming known for their innovative features and high level of quality.
Boat Fender Covers
Boat fender covers are exactly what they sound like: covers to keep your fenders clean. Without you realizing it your boat will accumulate quite a bit of dirt and cleaning can be a nuisance, especially when you’ve left it a bit long. Fender covers are easy to put on and remove & you can wash them in your washing machine. An added bonus to using fender covers is that the squeaky noises often produced by rubber fenders are eliminated.
Boat Fender Pumps
Boat fender pumps are a fantastic accessory to keep aboard because they can be used to pump additional air into your fenders quickly and easily. While not a must-have, a boat fender pump is useful as you never know when you might need one. They are cheap to purchase and easy to stow away.
At the end of the day, your boat is an investment and like all investments, you need to take proper care of it to ensure you get the most out of it. So why not spend a little extra by investing in boat fenders?
With boat fenders available online in all shapes, sizes, and colors you can easily find a fending solution that is perfectly suited for your boat and even your preferred style.
Don’t leave your boat to fend for itself—let a fender do that.