Mooring a boat or vessel isn’t the same as parking a car; unlike a street or parking area, the sea doesn’t stay flat or still. Boats moored on marinas and docks bob up, down, and sideways even on calm waters. Movement is inevitable, let alone collisions with nearby vessels, unless a soft, blunt object is placed between the boats or next to the jetty.
That’s where marine fenders come in. Typically, made of rubber or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), these objects prevent boat hulls from grinding against each other or the rough sides of a concrete or wooden jetty. They spare boat owners from the headache of repairing hull damage and, to an extent, dock managers from dealing with irate boat owners.
Do old tyres work?
Some docks and harbours use old tyres as makeshift, low-cost marine fenders. However, the money saved from doing so may not be worth the safety risks. The tyres were retired for a reason, and it’s only one of the significant risks this common practice entails.
Truck tyres are usually good between three and six years, while aircraft tyres are switched out every 120 to 400 landings. Their rubber has suffered extensive wear and tear throughout their lifetime, even if they appear intact.
The least they might do is leave black residues on moored boats and vessels. However, the shape of the tyres is also a risk; being a hollow cylinder of worn-and-torn rubber, they can be flattened with enough external force, which also puts the boats at risk of collision.
At best, makeshift fenders should be a stopgap until the dock or harbour management can acquire dedicated boat fenders for sale. These fenders are designed for such a purpose from the ground up and made with materials fresh out of the factory. Depending on their quality and the environment in which they’re used, the fenders can remain solid for 20 years.
What are the fenders made of?
The ideal material for marine fenders should possess at least three characteristics. It must be:
Sturdy enough to cushion the boats while bobbing
Smooth enough to avoid damaging adjacent hulls
Light enough to float on the water while chained to the jetty
For our collection of marine fenders, two such materials fit the bill. First is ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), a type of synthetic rubber which is a blend of three compounds. EPDM rubber is one of the most water-resistant types in the rubber family. Coupled with high resistance to the elements like UV radiation and weathering, it’s a popular choice for marine fenders.
The second is PVC, which you commonly see as external cladding for houses and pipes. In this case, however, the material undergoes additional treatment to be more suitable for marine use. For PVC marine fendering products, we have Gunwale trims for the edges of boats and pontoon fenders for installation on jetties and pontoons.
How to choose the right fender?
Marine fenders work best if the docks and the boat owners have them. Having fenders on both sides increases the gap between boats or the boat and the jetty, reducing the chance of collision. They’re also useful for ship-to-ship transfers wherein two vessels need to berth onto each other, mainly for resupplying or emergencies.
Choosing the best marine fender boils down to two factors: the size of the vessel and the local conditions when berthed at the docks. Here’s a closer look at each of them.
Naturally, the larger the boat, the more fenders it requires to ensure hull integrity. One rule of thumb dictates there should be a fender for every 10 feet of hull above the waterline. But the downside is a boat filled with rows of rubber or PVC fenders isn’t exactly a sight to behold for some (tugboats are fair game, as their job demands it).
Size is also proportional to the amount of force required to bring the vessel to a stop. When it docks on the jetty, it’s up to the right set of fenders to help it berth without incident. A fender with a large enough protrusion can be beneficial in this regard.
The docks are exposed to all sorts of weather, notably storms. Moored vessels will bob more erratically under the force of a passing typhoon, increasing the risk of damage. Though some forms of damage are unavoidable under such conditions, the right fenders in place can reduce the amount of damage boat owners have to deal with in the aftermath.
Without a doubt, marine fenders serve an invaluable purpose for dock managers and boat owners everywhere. Soft but sturdy, rubber or PVC, they spare people the trouble of dealing with vessel damage. Both parties should consider looking into getting a set for their benefit.