Hanging Fenders

In an ideal world, one wouldn’t require fenders to protect the sides of a boat. If there were no wind, or moving water, or inertia of a vessel, it would be easy to pull up to the side of a dock, stop in place, tie up and be on your way…..no fenders required to protect against the occasional unintended “bump” into the dock or slip. Then again, we shouldn’t be able to sail either. If there were no tidal changes, currents, or storms one would not need fenders to protect a boat side-tied at a dock or centered in a slip. We all know, however, the world is not ideal and there is value in fenders to protect our precious vessels at times when there is likely damage to be done by chance and the forces of nature.

So. How best to attach them to your vessel? I was taught to use the round turn and two half hitches and to hang them from either a lifeline or a stanchion that supports the lifeline system. I very much dislike this approach and have not ever used it on Skiron. Why would one want forces that might weaken the strength of the very system that is supposed to help you stay on the vessel? I am not comfortable with the fact that compression of the fender against the side of the dock and a leverage force induced on the line could literally pull a stanchion away from the deck. Those repairs would be quite expensive. I will say, however, that a cursory walk through the harbor reveals that most sailors do indeed attach their fenders to either the stanchions or the lifelines. I do believe that if you’re going to use the stanchions they should be attached to the base where there would be less of a lever action across the stanchion.

Skiron has a rail at the edge of the deck with holes to permit water drainage. For a couple of years now, I have passed the lines of my fenders through these holes and secured them with a turn and two half inches. The problem is that these knots become very tight and difficult to break in this setting. It’s a bit of a struggle when single handling and, although I use the auto pilot, it’s time consuming and arduous to remove six fenders attached to the rail when starting on a journey and, then, to prepare them for docking on approach to the Sausalito channel. It’s simply too much work and I would rather be paying more attention to what’s going on outside the boat than on the boat when in the vicinity of other sailing and motoring vessels underway. I will say that the auto pilot is of tremendous help when it comes to single handling and putting out fenders, hoisting sails, navigation plotting, etc. Still, one must aim to simplify all tasks underway.

The usual way of I secure and hang my fenders tying the turn and two half hitches on the rail.

I tried to add Velcro straps that I placed through the slotted holes in the rail and through a bowline in the fender line. it worked. No slippage. Easy to undo. But, in the end, these contraptions were even more taxing than the usual approach. They were a little too cumbersome to hang.

Recently, I conducted a poll on Facebook to find out what others are doing in this regard. Most of the answers were simplistic, assuming that I didn’t have a clue as to how to hang fenders, and focused on which tie to use to secure fenders. One response, however, was a jewel in the rough! The respondent indicated the approach that I’m now employing and I find it to be superb in many ways. Easy to implement. Simple to take down. No slip of the knot. Perfect. For now, anyways.

Take a loop of your fender line, pass it through the hole in the rail, take the bitter end and pull it above the rail and pass it through the loop. Adjust the fender height by raising or lowering and then holding the line secure on the rail and pull the rest of it tight by pulling on the bitter end. Then, you lock the knot by pulling in the direction of the fender. It’s easy to make height adjustments by relaxing the knot, pulling the line as necessary, and then resetting the knot.

This next link shows an easy release for the knot employed. I must test it on Skiron.


One thought on “Hanging Fenders

  1. I really appreciate your attention to important details of sailcraft & boatmanship as with your pieces on wind & navigation but do you have any real data on the frequency of stanchions being bent or dislodged as a result of disagreements between fenders, docks & hulls, especially if the fenders were attached to the station base?

    Hope you’re enjoying your 4-season sailing while we’re experiencing our 9 months of wintah & 3 months of pretty tough sleddin’.

    Fair winds & following (not too close) seas,




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