Fenders Ride Up!

fender-up-on-dockDon Ruggieri called from New York the other day with a fender question. He and other boaters frequent a restaurant on the Hudson River, while leaving their boats tied parallel on a dock that lies parallel to the river. The wakes from passing inconsiderate boaters, hit them broadside tossing the boats and forcing the fenders to ride up onto the dock’s surface like the picture to the left.

Without fender protection, the dock edge scratches the boats, as they are tossed up, down and sideways against the dock.

Here are some tips to prevent fenders riding up…..

“We have tried everything” Don said, “but nothing works. I’ve bought your Twin Sterndrive Introductory and Advanced e-Lessons and love your approach and detail to boating—in particular, docking. No one seems to be able to come up with an answer to our fender problem at this location. I would appreciate any advice that you may have on how to stop fenders riding up onto the dock from a passing boater’s wake.”

When you are underway in your boat, you can minimize the effect of wakes on your boat and crew. See “Conquering Wakes” e-Lesson. But, when your boat is docked and you are not aboard, wakes can be very damaging. Don explained that he hangs 5 fenders on his 30’ boat—more than should be necessary, and more than he uses everywhere else. My first suggestion was …

Dock Bumper Solutions

to tie half of his fenders on the side of the dock, so that they would be motionless from the wake action. He said several of them had thought of that, but the dock cleats aren’t in the right places and the boards on the dock surface are too tight to jam a fender line down through.

bumper-three-quarter-catHe has considered buying vinyl bumpers for the edge of the dock or 270 degree bumpers, that he would screw in place each time he goes for a meal.

He doesn’t have this problem at his home slip, because he is able to tie four ways.

Belly Line Solution

My second suggestion is what I do when creating a “chine-block” for our cruiser, when tied to a rocky island shoreline.

I tie a second long fender line on the bottom of the fender. This line runs under the boat to be tied on the opposite side. We’ll call this the “belly line”. This belly line pulls against the bottom of the fender. When tied tightly to the other side of the boat, the fender can’t ride up and flip onto the rock—or the dock in your case.

To do this, I stand on the bow holding the fender line (green line in the diagram) in one hand and the belly line (red line in the diagram) in the other (fender in the middle) and lower the fender on the dock side of the bow, keeping hold of the fender line in one hand. Simultaneously, I drop the belly line down under the other side of the bow holding the end of the belly line in my other hand. Walking aft to the windshield, I alternately raise and lower each hand to work the line aft under the bottom of the boat. When I reach the windshield, I pass both lines to my First Mate who walks both lines aft to the stern cleat. She ties the fender line to the stern cleat at the appropriate height for the boat and the dock. Then, she ties the belly line securely and tightly to the stern cleat on the other side.The belly line holds the fender permanently in position. We repeat until all fenders are tied on the dock side and all belly lines are tied tightly on the other side.belly-line-bow2

Securing fenders top and bottom this way, has protected my boat against rough rock many times—even in severe storms.

For you, this procedure is a bit of work, but costs nothing and would allow you to relax and enjoy your meal without worrying about boat damage. It can be re-created anywhere, anytime. The more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes.

The belly line should be double your boat’s beam and double your boat’s depth (20’ – 30’ or more). It has to be long enough to reach from the bottom of the fender, across the bottom of the boat and up the far side, then across the beam of the boat with a bit of extra slack to your First Mate so she can hold on to both ends at the same time, while tying the fender line on the boat’s cleat on the dock side.

On a larger boat, with wide side decks, you can walk the fender line down the dock side of the boat, while your First Mate walks the belly line down the other side. Then, you both tie to the cleats. In this case, you wouldn’t need as long a belly line.

Depending on the roughness of the water and fore deck access, they can be set up before coming into the dock or after you’ve actually landed. Just be sure to shift into neutral first.

The belly line will work on any parallel dock, like a service dock, low floating dock, gas dock, transient dock. If your permanent dock is parallel and you are expecting high winds, the belly line will hold your fenders so they won’t jump on the dock leaving your unprotected boat to bash hard against the dock. You won’t have to deal with scratches and gouges, like other boaters who didn’t prepare.


At this point, you are probably thinking “What about departing? I sure don’t want long belly lines getting tangled in my props!”

Again, depending on the size of the waves at the dock, you can remove the belly lines and haul them aboard from the bottom of the fender while still at the dock, then back away and raise your fenders; OR back out from the dock, then shift into neutral. Simultaneously with your First Mate, untie the belly line, then pull up the fenders and belly lines from the fender side of the boat.

Once they are all in the cockpit, idle out a ways, then store them. Never remove them when underway in forward.

Don, I hope this tip helps you and your boating friends when you get together at the restaurant on the Hudson River. Thanks for your question.

We’ve had other questions about running with fenders. See Fenders—In or Out? Up or Down article.

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