Are you sure you chose the right fender?


Give or treat yourself to a subscription to the print + digital Journal of Sailing and for only 69 euros a year you get the magazine at home plus read it on your PC, smartphone and tablet. With a sea of advantages.


Just decide on the correct diameter, number and try to spend as little as possible. This we usually do when it comes to choosing fenders for our boat. But in fact the topic deserves to be treated with less superficiality. First of all, all we need to do is to do a minimum of research, and a market as varied as ever will open up before our eyes: not only made up of cylindrical and spherical fenders, but also rectangular, flat, inflatable, and angular ones.


In this article we compare the two most popular “families” of fenders, the traditional cylindrical fender and the more modern flat fender, complete with pros and cons. How many fenders do I need? Let’s start with some general considerations and advice: since, as anticipated, the range of offerings is wide and varied, the model you choose will depend a great deal on your boating habits and your ability to keep these valuable but cumbersome protections on board. For a 12-meter boat, seven fenders will be sufficient. Three per wall, plus one to keep ready in case of emergency. If you frequent very crowded ports, or not quite perfectly ridged, you may need some extra protection. You may need additional traditional fenders or angled ones so as to parry any bow and stern bumps.



Cylindrical or spherical boat fenders (especially on large boats because of their larger footprint) are the most common and therefore have lower costs. Polyform, Plastimo, Majoni, Dan Fender are some of the manufacturers that distribute through shipchandlers or on their online stores. Cylindrical or spherical, the main feature of these fenders is that they can roll along the side.
A strong point in case of an eventful mooring or docking, which will allow it to be positioned without inconvenience along a jetty or alongside another vessel. This ability to roll and swing along the broadside has its weak point when it comes to protecting a boat at berth for several weeks. In fact, by dint of rolling, the fender is likely to move upward. Also, if the top is not well adjusted, you will witness an annoying squeak.


Usually the cylindrical fenders are made of PVC and at both ends have two eyelets to pass the lines through (the inflation valve is placed at the top), the fender can be made in one piece, or have the heads molded separately (this solution is slightly more expensive). Which ones to choose? Those made in one piece will wear less over time and be less sensitive to strain than hollow ones. With classical use, the stresses to which the fenders will be subjected are unlikely to converge on the upper and lower rings via the lines; more often they are due to the compression of the fender body between the hull and the pontoon: it will therefore be the central part that will be most stressed. And fenders made in two strokes have a central body that is more resistant to deformation.



Developed for over a decade for offshore racing boats (related to racers’ need for custom-made protectors in sponsor colors, quick to stow and capable of protecting logos on the sides), flat and rectangular fenders have made their way onto cruising boats fairly recently. They consist of a foam block enclosed in a casing with solid straps on the four corners.

A flat fender has the advantage of staying put along the hull, reducing the risks of the protection not being in place when needed. In addition, it is not subject to temperature changes, so there is no risk of deformation under excessive heat. Its closed-cell foam (designed to prevent any seawater infiltration) will retain all its capabilities over time. Should the casing be damaged prematurely, any sailmaker will be able to fix a torn seam or strap. Definitely long-lasting, these fenders can have a dual use: not only protection, but also… cushion in the cockpit! Finally, their format allows for significant space gain in peaks as well as in ports. In fact, for the same height, flat fenders are usually less thick. An important feature when going on a cruise.


It would seem perfect but, leaving aside the higher price compared to traditional cylinders, the flat fender also has its shortcomings. First, because it cannot rotate along the hull, the face that touches the gelcoat must be covered with a soft fabric to avoid ruining it; plus, because it is not attached to the hull and is lightweight, it tends to rotate with the wind. The more its size increases, the more pronounced this phenomenon becomes.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Check out the latest issue

Are you already a subscriber?

Ultimi annunci
Our social

Sign up for our Newsletter

We give you a gift

Sailing, its stories, all boats, accessories. Sign up now for our free newsletter and receive the best news selected by the Sailing Newspaper editorial staff each week. Plus we give you one month of GdV digitally on PC, Tablet, Smartphone. Enter your email below, agree to the Privacy Policy and click the “sign me up” button. You will receive a code to activate your month of GdV for free!

Once you click on the button below check your mailbox



You may also be interested in.

Now you have the incentive if you buy an electric motor

  Incentives are coming for the purchase of a marine electric motor. After years of vain waiting, bureaucratic delays and the feeling of being practically “invisible” in the eyes of the government in that much-ballyhooed race for “ecological transition,” a

Here are the right self-inflating jackets to sail safely

Self-inflating jackets are personal protective equipment that ensure the safety of the entire crew. Just as we wear helmets when we ride motorcycles, when we are sailing life jackets and can mean the difference between life and death. By wearing

VIDEO New Generation Parasailor. We tried the supersail

The cruising world is increasingly witnessing the demise of spinnakers. There is little that can be done, no one uses them (almost) anymore. And perhaps rightly so, because, outside the regatta, it is an “uncomfortable” sail. The solution is often


Sign in