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While you shouldn’t be that guy cruis­ing down the lake or In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way with your fend­ers flap­ping for all to see, you should in­vest in the fend­ers that are best suited to pro­tect your boat. Here’s what to look for in three dif­fer­ent kinds of fend­ers and whether they are right for you. —Pete McDon­ald

BALL FEND­ERS Ball fend­ers are ideal for larger boats be­cause, when prop­erly in­flated, they are harder to crush on im­pact. They are also bet­ter for boats with a lot of bow flare be­cause they are wide enough to keep the lower hull sides from hit­ting the dock. The caveat? If left in­flated, they take up more space, which makes them bet­ter for boats with large stowage ca­pac­i­ties. What size should you get? For round fend­ers, West Marine rec­om­mends 2 inches of di­am­e­ter for ev­ery 4 to 5 feet of boat length. So, a boat in the 30- to 35-foot range should use 21-inch-di­am­e­ter ball fend­ers; a boat with a length over­all of

50 feet or longer should use the larger 27-inch size.


These new-style fend­ers were de­signed specif­i­cally for tow-sports boats, but they can work for any small-boat ap­pli­ca­tion. These fend­ers are made from closed-cell foam, con­toured to of­fer pro­tec­tion both above and be­low the rub rail. They fea­ture a built-in ad­justable strap that locks in place when set to the right length for hang­ing off boat cleats or the dock. The con­toured shape lets them pro­vide pro­tec­tion above and on the rub rail. Be­low the rail, they an­gle in­ward to pro­vide fen­der pro­tec­tion down to

the wa­ter­line. Be­cause they are slen­der and don’t re­quire ad­di­tional lines, the Sen­try fend­ers are eas­ier to stow aboard smaller boats.


Tra­di­tional cylin­der fend­ers are the most pop­u­lar style avail­able for boats of all shapes and sizes. What size should you get? West Marine rec­om­mends fend­ers with 1 inch of di­am­e­ter per 4 to 5 feet of boat length. So, a 20- to 25-foot boat should use

at least 6-inch fend­ers; a 25- to 35-foot boat should use 8-inch fend­ers. Of course, the big­ger the di­am­e­ter, the more pro­tec­tion there will be be­tween the hull and the dock, so get the big­gest fend­ers you can stow. Cylin­der fend­ers with a hole in the cen­ter will roll around a line in­serted through them as the water level changes like a wheel on an axle, mak­ing them ex­cel­lent for hor­i­zon­tal use in tidal water.

Make sure any deck hard­ware used to se­cure a fen­der is through-bolted into a back­ing plate to help dis­trib­ute any pulling load.

Cylin­der fend­ers can be hung two ways. Hor­i­zon­tal hang­ing is best when pulling up side-to at a dock or pier. Hor­i­zon­tal hang­ings work best for sec­tions of the boat that will po­ten­tially rub up against ex­posed pil­ings.

CYLIN­DERS The most used fen­der, good for both ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal hang­ing

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