If you have spent any decent amount of time around the canals of the UK, you will probably have noticed these weird rope twisty things that hang off the side of narrowboats! These are called fenders and, if you ever wondered about them, please read on. This is that fender article you have always wanted 🙂
Throughout this article you can simply click on the fender images to view the product over at Ebay for yourself.
Why Do Narrowboats Have Fenders?
When talking about narrowboat side fenders, there is a bit of debate. Some people think that the fender is to protect your boat from crashes into objects and other boats. Whilst others think that it is to stop your boat rubbing against the bank or jetty that it is moored to. This would mean you wouldn’t hear constant rubbing and would sleep easier at night. I personally think they are used for the latter and only really use fenders when I am moored up. But everyone has their own opinion and I am not going to outright say one is right or wrong! Each to their own, I say!
What I will say, though, is that the use of fenders on the front and rear of your narrowboat is clear. The rear fender is to protect your precious rudder (for example, from those pesky lock gates). The front fender is to protect other floating objects (i.e. boats) and lock gates when you accidentally hit them. This happens quite often with lock gates, I can tell you. So much so that there are waterway acts and the like which talk about boats not coming into contact with lock gates or in fact any of the canal company’s property!
What Types of Narrowboat Fenders are There?
These are the round button like fenders you often use on the front and rear of your narrowboat.
These are long pipe looking fenders that are used on the side of a narrowboat.
What Are Narrowboat Fenders Made From?
Traditionally fenders are made from rope that has been wrapped and coiled around itself. If you have never watched anyone make a traditional rope fender, you should seek one out, as it’s pretty fascinating stuff.
The problem with rope fenders is that they will break down and wear out over time when exposed to all the different elements out on the cut. So some people started using rubber fenders instead, which will make them pretty much indestructible. Some people even end up using used tyres as narrowboat fenders.
GRP Cruiser boats or river cruisers can often be seen to have plastic fenders, as they are lighter boats and need less substantial strength to bump against. Imagine a heavy steel narrowboat bashing against one of those plastic fenders. It won’t end well!
What Narrowboat Fenders Would I Use?
In my personal opinion, I like to keep my narrowboat fenders simple and traditional. I stick to pretty standard rope fenders. They don’t wear down that fast in the grand scheme of things, and I find all other fenders plain ugly. I care a lot about how my boat looks and I don’t want to ruin it by hanging weird rubber fenders of it!! And tyres are a plain eyesore on the cut and often way too big for what is actually needed!!
Narrowboat Fender 101: Anything Else To Consider?
Tip 1: Never Use Side Fenders in Locks
This is especially true when you are taking your narrowboat through a narrow canal lock. It is a tight squeeze to get into these as it is so adding fenders won’t help and you could get ‘hung up’ when your boat gets wedged in. So always make sure to bring in those side fenders before going into such a lock! That little bit of extra effort is worth not getting hung up in a lock, trust me!
Tip 2: Use Fender Hooks
If you don’t have pre-drilled anchor points for your fenders or you don’t like where they are placed, there is an easy solution. These are fender hooks that can be simply anchored on the roof of your narrowboat instead. I like the nonpermanent nature of this mounting, as it makes the fenders easy to move or take off completely.