How many do I need? Where should I hang them? Should all the fenders be on my boat? On my dock? Both? Should I remove and stow them when cruising?
These questions flood the minds of many boaters each time they think about docking their boats, causing anxiety and stress about the docking process, which leads to many more questions about what the docking experience will be this time and hoping it will turn out well.
Knowing how and where to hang your fenders eliminates one of the docking challenges.
How many do you need? And where?
For most boats up to 30 feet or so, you will want to hang 3 fenders. One right at the transom corner, the other two evenly spaced along the flat side. Over 30’, you can add a fourth and over 40’ a fifth. For those captains that want to add more, you certainly can, OR get the correct Docking Lesson for your drive system.
Fenders properly spaced and hung on your boat allows you to come into a slip, that doesn’t have fenders or bumpers, prepared and protected. The fenders should be positioned at the correct height before docking, for the height and type of dock. See the article referenced at the end of this article “Stop Fender Height Fretting” to help you determine the correct height to hang your fenders.
All on the boat? Or dock? Or both?
The short answer is either all on the boat or all on the dock, but not both. Why? When fenders are hung on both the boat and the dock, they fight as you idle into your slip. The boat fenders catch on the dock fenders then stop the boat’s smooth forward direction into the slip. Your boat jerks to a stop, then is thrown away from the dock by the tangled fenders. You know what happens then.
The solution is either all on your boat or all on the dock. The exception would be all on the boat or just one alone on the transom corner, it won’t get caught on any of the dock fenders.
See the cream hulled boat (top left) with 4 green arrows pointing to 4 fenders tied to the dock. This is ideal for coming and going without having to worry about any fenders on the boat.
See the black hulled boat (to the right) with 2 red arrows pointing to 1 fender on the boat and one on the dock. This could result in disaster if the boat fender catches on the dock fender on the way into the slip getting tangled and bouncing you away.
Stow when cruising?
When you are just cruising in and out of your marina and not docking anywhere else, it’s easiest to semi-permanently tie all your fenders to the side of your dock, then you don’t need to raise and lower them each outing. Again, see the boat at the top of this article with the 4 green arrows to the fenders on the dock.
If you opt to hang your fenders on your boat, you should always remove them for cruising to prevent them from swinging and crashing against the hull as you run on plane. Your boat looks much more photogenic with no fenders cluttering up the side.
Also, flapping fenders throw spray up on the deck and windshield and into the cockpit as well as scratch the gelcoat. Tidy is dry. See “Fenders In or Out” article listed below for tips on what to do with your fenders while cruising.
Learning about fenders, how to use them properly, where to hang them, stow them and care for them, is a great investment of your time. Not only will you become a master of your fenders, but you will also be able to simplify your docking and cruising, allowing you to enjoy boating more.
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