How to Use Fenders: Between a Dock and a Hard Place
A cruiser offers a guide to the enlightened art of fendering, along with useful tips to prevent wear-and-tear to your sailboat’s topsides. Hands-On Sailor "Seamanship" from our September 2012 issue.
I carry two large-diameter cylindrical fenders. These are more easily stored than round fenders and have several specific applications. Many cylindrical models include longitudinal ribbing to prevent rolling. I prefer the center-hole style to the tabbed-end versions because there’s no weak point to tear through. Both work well against flat surfaces.
|When rafting up, a single row of fenders (top, left) isn’t as effective as deploying fenders from each sailboat and placing a fenderboard between the respective sets (above). The increased distance between the boats helps prevent contact between the hulls or spreaders; a large-diameter fender deployed by the dockside boat cushions the weight of the second boat. To make a fenderboard, choose a 6-foot length of a 2-by-8 or 2-by-6 plank (top, right). Drill 3/8-inch holes the width of the board at either end, then feed 5/16-inch line through the holes and secure with a figure-eight stopper knot.|
Using cylindrical fenders behind a properly constructed and deployed fenderboard is the only safe way to fend off from exposed piles on jetties. A fender laid horizontally doesn’t have much tolerance for fore-and-aft movement and inevitably slides out from between the pile and topsides. (See Figure 1)
When rafting up to another vessel, deploy from the host vessel a fenderboard backed by two cylindrical fenders. Directly across from these, hang two cylindrical fenders from the visiting vessel. This technique doubles the space between the hulls, protecting not only the topsides but also the spreader ends. (See Figure 2)
Most marine chandleries sell hard-rubber fender attachments that slip over the ends of a standard 2-by-4 board. This, while useful for a quick deployment, doesn’t stand the vessel as far off a piling as a 10-inch backing fender does. Also, a fenderboard made from a 2-by-6- or from a 2-by-8, if of sufficient length, sits more securely on the fenders and is wide enough to double as a boarding plank.
I carry one large and two small teardrop fenders. The large teardrop is essential when you’re using a spring line to maneuver out of tight docking spaces. (See Figure 4.) The power of the boat is diverted by the directional pull of the spring line, thus creating a stationary turn. The hull can easily pivot around a large teardrop fender without damage. (For more on spring lines, see Earl MacKenzie’s “Dock with Ease,” in CW’s July 2012 issue.)