A fender is essentially a bumper for your boat which will absorb the blow between your boat and another physical object. This could be between your boat and another boat, a jetty, wall, dock or much more.
If your boat collides into another boat, then the fender would absorb the kinetic energy of the hit and protect both boats during the collision. In turn, preventing any damage.
Therefore, the use of fenders is very beneficial for all your neighbours too!
Many docks are known to have bolts coming out their sides which in combination with waves rubbing up the side of your pontoon can cause major damage. This makes the use of pontoon fenders extremely useful when docking your boat.
Pontoon boat fenders are very inexpensive accessories which should not be overlooked. It’s common for boaters to not pay much attention to their fenders, they think any old fender will do. This is false. There are several different types of pontoon fenders and it’s important that you choose the most appropriate for your situation. This will provide maximum efficiency and protection for your boat.
In this guide, I’ll be explaining the 9 types of pontoon fenders on the market.
It’s always best to avoid collisions in the first place. I’d recommend you view this guide on avoiding boat collisions.
Required Pontoon Fender Accessories
Before you can install your pontoon boat fenders, there’s a few accessories which you’ll need.
Firstly, you’ll need a pontoon boat rail. I’d recommend this Pontoon Boat Rail Fender Hander/Adjuster by Taylor Made Products. This rail is designed to clamp securely to square tubing, fitting both 1.25” and 1” square tube rails. Therefore, not appropriate for boats with rounded rails.
Some people prefer to use their knowledge of knots, however having a rail hanger and adjuster is a lot more effective. This is because they can be repositioned and adjusted almost instantly. Whereas knots would require more time and energy.
Another accessory which you’ll need is a fender rack. Fender racks make the deployment of your pontoon fenders a lot easier. The rack will hold two fenders (any style) in place on the side of your boat. These are very useful especially on large boats.
Covers and Cleaners
This may not be required and may seem unnecessary to some, but I’d highly recommend covers and cleaners. As the rest of your boat, your boats fenders will turn dirty if not cared for. Fender covers are very cheap so why not?
Make sure you get a cover that will fit your finders. They also come in many different colors and designs, so they can be a good way of customizing your boat.
Most stain remover cleaners will do the job, however I’d recommend Star Brite Mildew Stain Remover. This will keep your fenders clean and in good health. This cleaner can also be used on your boat.
Pontoon Fender Principles
Before I go into the 9 types of pontoon fenders, I want to touch on some basic rules of thumb when it comes to the size of your fender, the quantity and the spacing.
- 1 inch of diameter on cylindrical fenders for every 5 feet of boat length
- Minimum of 3 fenders (Widest beam, fore and aft)
- 1 fender for every 10 feet of waterline
Types of Pontoon Fenders
This type of pontoon fender is also often referred to as the ‘cylindrical double-hole’. This fender is typically used for smaller boats. The fender gets its name due to eyelets being present on both ends.
Having the two eyelets means that the fender can hang horizontally if necessary. These fenders also tend to be molded with ribbed reinforcement. This provides increased stability, ensuring that the fender holds its position.
Cylindrical center hole
As you may have guessed these are cylindrical fenders with a hole through the middle. This allows you to feed a rope throughout the fender. This allows you to stack multiple fenders on one rope like beads, if you want the extra length.
Hybrid cylindrical round
This is essentially a cylindrical double-eye fender however it’s edges are a lot softer. These smooth edges are like that of a ball fender. This slight in-between is why the fender is known as a ‘hybrid’ as it has mixed characteristics.
These fenders are often also referred to as ‘round cylinders’. They’re made from plastic vinyl and have a hollow interior.
This type of fender isn’t marketed for the everyday recreational boater. This is because these fenders only allow for one-line attachment. Instead, these fenders are more catered for commercial fishing boats and powerboats.
These fenders work like a car bumper does. Transom fenders provide great protection for your boat’s transom. This type of fender is especially popular for those who use crowded marinas. Transom fenders are also popular with river and canal users.
One common complaint with this type of fender is that they can be very big, thus making them hard to store when they’re not being used.
Flat fenders, as the name suggests are flat and kind of look like little mattresses that hang of the side of your boat. This flat design makes it so that they stay in place and don’t roll around. Because of their shape, they’re easy to store.
They can also serve for other purposes. As I mentioned earlier, they’re sort of like mattresses, so they can serve as additional seating. They’re some-what comfortable.
There is a slight variation of this fender known as tab or contour fenders. These types of fenders feature a crease in their center which provides increased flexibility. The crease allows for the fender to mold more to the shape of your boat.
Fenders Made Specifically for Pontoons
Pontoon boats have the same beam width from bow to stern. They also have flat aluminum sidewalls which the frame protects. Because of this, protecting a pontoon boat is made slightly more difficult that many other boats. This is especially the case when the railings on your boat are square.
Many of the fenders made specifically for pontoons are designed to be installed permanently. This is good as it means that once installed you can forget about it. No need to throw a fender on every time you take your boat out. You also won’t have to drill into your railing, as the fender should fit to your boat already.
The problem with permanent fenders is that you need to ensure that they fit under your pontoon boat cover. If you’ve got a custom boat cover which just about fits tightly to your boat, then your fenders might not fit underneath it. It may also be a good idea to uninstall your fenders when winterizing your boat.
An important thing to take note of about pontoon fenders is the fact that many of them are made from pure plastic. Plastic doesn’t provide very much shock absorption. So, this is something which you’ll want to remember when choosing a fender to purchase.
You may already be aware that pontoon boats will already have protective aluminum corners. Though, these aren’t the strongest and hitting anything at a significant enough speed will knock them straight off. This makes it a good idea to invest into some high-quality pontoon corner fenders.
I’d recommend this pontoon corner bumper by Taylor Made.
As the name suggests, these fenders are designed to ‘save your fence’. In other words, they secure to your railing to protect your pontoon’s fencing. I’d recommend this Pontoon Boat Fence Fender Saver by Taylor Made Products. This product also comes with an attachment strap, to save you from having to purchase one separately.
These pontoon side fenders can be purchased for relatively cheap. When purchasing products like this, I find purchasing them online can save me a lot of time. The fenders which I’ve linked by Taylor Made Products is extremely high quality, I absolutely adore this brand when it comes to their boating accessories.
Corner dock wheels can be very beneficial for your pontoon boat. They roll your boat away from the dock if you come in a tad strong. This prevents you from making impact with the dock and damaging your boat.
My favorite is the KUFA Dock Wheel with Corner Bracket. This is an inflatable corner mount dock wheel boat fender. The wheel is made from soft vinyl and it comes with a heavy galvanized bracket which features pre-drilled holes.