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Boat you see, fenders you find. Essential accessories at the dock, fenders are, however, among those most subject to free interpretation, sometimes even quite suggestive. Yet, basic rules are there.

Let’s start from the beginning. Fenders, especially since the hulls are drawn with a decorative, or almost, bottazzo (the band along the ship’s sides), rather than protective as it was originally. It is fundamental to protect from inadvertent impact on docks or adjacent mooring hulls (or in oadstead, sometimes).

There are different sizes and types of fenders. The measure is, of course, related to the size and goes hand in hand with the size of the boat. Instead, the type is more related to the intended use on board. Speaking about materials, there are two main categories: PVC inflatable fenders, the classic ones and the most common, and closed-cell foam flat ones.

PVC fenders can have cylindrical or spherical, “ball” shape. They have a valve for inflation and two eyelets for their fixing (which can be vertical or horizontal when used, for example, on the transom), while the spherical fenders have only one eyelet.

PVC models are cheaper and have the advantage of being able to move them easily and quickly along the ship’s sides, simply by rolling them. They have, however, the disadvantage of waving a lot and leaving the hull uncovered in case of violent forward-backward movements of the boat. To overcome this weak point, some secure them all together with a rope through the low eyelet, creating a sort of “battery” in series. 

Foam fenders, on the contrary, move less and you can use them on deck during navigation as comfortable seats or mattresses; however, their lightness is a disadvantage since unwanted displacements caused by the wind are not rare. Thanks to their large area, these fenders are perfect for the transom.

On the quantity and type of the fenders, everyone does as he sees fit. However, generally speaking, you should consider that on small boats (up to 7-8 metres) six cylindrical fenders are sufficient, of course three on each side: one at the maximum beam and the other two towards bow and stern, not too advanced nor arrears. Over 7-8 meters and up to 12 metres, eight fenders are advisable. To these it is necessary to add at least one to keep on deck, at hand and with its rope, for emergency interventions during a manoeuvre.

On the other hand, spherical fenders are usually suitable for the quarter or, in other cases, for the starboard bow, but it depends a lot on individual situations and on each boat’s features. Some need to protect more the stern (because of the backwash) rather than the quarter because during the manoeuvre they have no one near; while there are those who, on the contrary, have a very tight place and need to protect the quarter, and in this case the spherical fenders are the most suitable.

Moreover, there is a wide range of models specifically designed to protect the bow and the stern. In general, there is no need to abound with the number of fenders on board, but it is opportune to remember that, like all things, a fender can break (in other words, it can deflate). Consequently, having a few more than the so-called “basic equipment” does not hurt for sure.

Once decided number and type, it is advisable to cover them with the appropriate “socks” or fender cover.

There are different types and prices, but they are worth buying: as well as giving a touch of elegance, above all they protect the ship’s sides from possible stains caused by repeated rubbing of PVC on fiberglass.

Fenders are strictly fixed with a clove hitch knot – better if “hooked” to allow a fast unravel – and usually tied to the lifelines near the stanchions, with the characteristic advice of “not too high and not too low” that means everything and nothing. The ship-owner must evaluate the boat’s situation: if it has to protect itself from a neighbour who has a hull lower than 30 cm, he will obviously keep the fenders particularly low. Otherwise, will have to keep them particularly high.

Once completed the manoeuvre to exit the port (and not before) fenders must be stored, or better they should be stored – the conditional is mandatory because not everyone has so spacious lockers to contain all the fenders, especially if there are also spherical ones particularly bulky. You can find the dedicated “racks” on very large boats, ordinary mortals have to settle for DIY solutions: there are those who fix them all together as a “bunch of flowers” to the stern pulpit, who in the bow and who instead simply hoists them on the bridge. In the latter case, however, chances of turning fenders into dangerous obstacles or seeing them bounce overboard after 30 seconds of navigation are quite high.

To avoid these risks, the new Osculati Rapid lock system allows fastening firmly the fenders with a quick hook on the deck of the boat. There will be no risk of the knot loosening or loosening. Moreover, when not in use the recessed base remains flush, preserving the line of the boat.

Stefano Sergi
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