Monday, June 17, 2013

Build a Fender Board and Laugh at Pilings

This entry was prompted by senior editor Jody Argo Schroath’s recent trip to Mount Vernon, where she encountered heavy wakes and a foul wind. Once she had returned to her home base at Port Annapolis, Jody set to work on the obvious solution to that situation: a fender board. A fender board—essentially a board stretched over two fenders—is just the thing to protect your boat’s hull when regular fenders just won’t do the job. This is particularly true when a boat is resting against pilings, but is also being pushed back and forth because of winds and/or tides. No matter how you set them, fenders won’t stay on the pilings. But a fender board will. So why don’t all boats carry fender boards? Because fender boards—traditionally constructed of two-by-fours or other serious lumber—are cumbersome, heavy, ugly and hard to stow. Enter the PVC pipe. Yes, a 4- to 5-foot length of 40-weight PVC pipe will do the job like a champ. It’s far lighter than wood, less likely to hang up on nails or snags, and stays cleaner because only a bit of it ever touches the nasty old piling itself. Best of all, the whole thing is ridiculously easy to construct. All you need is a drill with a bit big enough to the holes for the line to pass through (3/8-inch should be plenty big). Jody got the hardware store to cut one 10-foot length in two, so she didn’t even to get out a saw.

Here’s how to do it: Take a length of 40-weight PVC (four or five feet is good) and drill holes top and bottom about 10 inches in from each side. Feed a length of line through the pipe, tying a knot on each side of the hole so it won’t slide through. Pass the bottom section of line through the bottom of a fender and tie another knot so that the pipe rests about half-way down the fender. Take the top part of the line and feed that through the top of the fender and tie a knot there. That’s it. You’re done. Simply hang the board over the side with the fenders against the hull and the board against the piling.

Jody used small fenders so the whole thing is less cumbersome to deploy and to store. These will do fine in light winds, she says, but when it does start to blow, she hangs larger fenders inside the smaller ones. These provide better protection and are kept in place by the small ones. Wizard! Stowing can be made even easier by putting clips on the fenders ends rather than knots so the whole thing can be easily disassembled.
Well that’s our take on easy, convenient, endlessly useful fender boards. Now it’s your turn. Let us know if you’ve found other solutions. Write us at


Allen Murphy said...

I first saw one on a new friend’s boat in Tadoussac, QC, Canada. He had a 10 feet long black PVC pipe hanging from his lifeline so I asked him what it was. When he said “that’s my fender board,” my confusion disappeared and it all made immediate sense. As you describe in your post, it is light, sturdy, easy to fit to size and works great. And cheap to replace. I got one for my boat as soon as I was within range of a hardware store. I only wish I’d had it a couple weeks earlier as my two wood fender boards were just too short for the large, rusted steel bulwarks on a pier in Grand Vallee, QC. The too-short fender boards ended up scratching the paint off a couple spots on my topsides that night. The longer PVC pipe would have had the length to ride the 6 foot tides without a problem.

Here are some photos:

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