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For boaters intent on traveling long and winding waterways, high quality fenders are critical protection your narrowboat needs that can keep your the paint and exterior appearance of your canal boat in peak condition even when mooring, going into locks, and when challenging maneuvers in your narrowboat put you a bit closer than is comfortable for your paint job.

In this article, we’ll discuss the best fenders for narrowboats and what to consider before making this investment.  We’ll also highlight some top quality options to protect your narrowboat – and the people and things within it!

What are fenders and what do they do?

Boating fenders are like small bumpers that boaters use to absorb the impact and energy of impact when mooring against solid structures or when traveling narrow waterways where there is a high likelihood of rubbing against structure or foliage that can scrape and paint and quickly deteriorate any artwork alongside your boat.

Narrowboat fenders were traditionally made of rope.  These fenders were as much decorative as functional, showcasing rope work as an art form. 

This traditional craft is still alive along many cuts, where tradesmen make and sell rope fenders featuring both historic and new designs.

There are pros and cons for rope fenders on a narrowboat.  Rope fenders can be even more durable and robust in their protective qualities than some plastic fenders. 

High quality rope fenders can be useful especially in areas where your boat may scrape against metals or impact against heavier objects. 

On the other hand, traditional rope fenders tend to disintegrate over time because of water’s natural wear on the rope fibers.  

Today, many functional fenders are also made from rubber or plastic-based products. 

These come in handy for overnight mooring, absorbing shock to allow you to rest more comfortably and quietly within.

How many fenders do I need for narrowboats?

There are different kinds of fenders for narrowboats and keeping an assortment of fenders is a good idea to protect your boat against damage in the many areas where narrowboats are most likely to experience bumps, bruises, and scrapes. 

Bow, stern, and side fenders are all a good investment to protect the exterior of your boat and to minimize impact in case of even slight collision to avoid the contents and people within your boat getting knocked around.

Narrowboats should be outfitted with at least two fenders but four fenders is best.

Traditional working canal boats and narrowboats usually carried bow and stern fenders made from rope coils, but modern boats also utilize side fenders. 

These are important gear for protecting your paintwork when you moor your boat or go through narrow locks.  

Tips for keeping your fenders and preventing damage on the water

Keeping your fenders in functional form and preventing unsightly wear can be done by following a few simple tips.  Take a few minutes to follow these suggestions for the integrity of your fenders and your boat:

  • Consider making or fashioning a hook for more strategic placement of fenders
  • Be sure to take in your fenders prior to entering a lock to prevent losing them

Be aware of underwater structures such as sills – fenders generally cannot protect hulls from scraping and grinding against them. 

To protect your hull, it’s a good idea to invest in wheelbarrow wheels and tires that can help keep your boat off sills and structures when they are placed to float horizontally.

 Best Fenders for Narrowboats

Extreme Max 3006.7234 BoatTector Flat Fender with Fender Line – 26″, Black

Extreme Max BoatTector Contour Fenders are a flat fender designed to hold up under extreme weather conditions and consistent usage for long-lasting protection of your narrowboat. 

Unlike traditional round fenders, BoatTector flat fenders won’t roll around and can’t be knocked easily out of the way like air-filled spherical or tube-like fenders. 

Extreme Max’s dual grommet design means you can use these fenders horizontally or hand them vertically, allowing you to create the coverage area that your boat needs most.

BoatTector flat fenders are  a good option for narrowboating in any kind of weather. 

Each is made from closed cell foam that won’t collapse or deflate under pressure, providing consistent and efficient protection from impacts. 

A marine-grade laminate cover, double thermal-bonded seams, and grommets made from corrosion-proof polycarbonate materials enhance the durability of these fenders. 

Extreme Max engineered BoatTector fenders with UV and tear resistance, too, for narrowboat owners who want more than the sunny, Sunday afternoon cruise.

BoatTector Flat Fenders come with a 3/8”x5’ fender line made from solid braid.  This length and diameter is perfect for attaching the BoatTector. 

These fenders are also backed by a 2-year replacement warranty.

Pros:

  • Marine-grade tri-laminate cover, UV resistance and tear resistance make BoatTector fenders really durable
  • Dual grommet design allows you to use BoatTectors horizontally or vertically
  • 2-year replacement warranty

Cons:

  • If you are mooring in rough and tumble conditions often, check fenders around the grommet area to ensure the material and grommet are in place and don’t show wear.  The eyelet area is usually the first place really extreme protection will begin to show wear.

Seachoice 79161 Center Hole Fender – Roto-Molded Marine Grade Vinyl – for Boats 30-50 Feet Long, Black

Seachoice has created a traditional-looking fender with added features to best protect boats ranging from 30-feet to 50-feet in length. 

This fender is made from a Marine-grade vinyl that has been manufactured with a roto-molding process. 

Roto-molding imbues the Seachoice fender with superior strength and cushioning, increasing the thickness of the fender’s internal lugs. 

This process technique also leaves the fender with an attractive, high-gloss finish. 

Rubbing on the exterior of this fender enhances the fender’s strength and abrasion resistance and prevents rolling to ensure consistent, protective contact between your boat and any impact.

This looks like a traditional fender, but it’s design allows the Seachoice fender to be more versatile and offer better protection that you’d expect. 

The Seachoice fender features a unique center-hole design. 

This design allows you more options for attaching and using the Seachoice fender, and offers you the capability of running line through the length of the fender to create a more flush attachment and placement against your boat. 

This center hole means you can hang the Seachoice fender horizontally or vertically, allowing you to create a customized narrowboat protection solution.  

Pros:

  • Roto-molding manufacturing process increases internal lug thickness for enhanced strength and cushioning
  • Ribbed design along the exterior prevents rolling and enhanced abrasion resistance
  • Center hole design allows you to use this fender horizontally or vertically

Cons:

  • This is a larger fender and meant for longer narrowboats, ranging between 30 and 50 feet in length.

Impact Boat Fenders

Impact boat fenders are made from a recycled foam material and designed to absorb the shock and force of impacts to prevent damage to your narrowboat. 

Made from a dense, closed-cell foam, this shock-absorbing material will take the brunt of any impact. 

Unlike a traditional air-filled fender, these foam fenders absorb shocks and impacts without causing you boat to bounce off, minimizing not only the initial impact but the preventing the secondary jostling that can occur with air-filled fenders.

For maximum protection, Impact Boat Fenders are based on a flat design, strategically engineered to cover more surface area on your boat. 

These flat fenders won’t roll out of the way and stay in place to provide consistent protection. 

Recently redesigned, Impact Boat Fenders feature a fastening system that eliminates the need for rope work and knotting to provide a more consistent and reliable attachment and placement every time you use these fenders.  

Simple loop the propylene webbing through the fender’s grommets and fasten the included clip.  For larger boats, owners also have two additional options: pairing cam straps and webbing or using a Danik hook with line.

Impact Boat Fenders offer boat owners the added convenience of easy storage. 

Because these fenders are flat, they can be easily stacked and quickly stowed away in underseat storage – taking up less  space than bulker, traditional fenders.

Pros:

  • Easy stacking and space-saving storage
  • Redesigned for easier attachment and more consistent placement
  • Recycled foam is flat to provide more protection across your boat and absorbs shock rather than bouncing your boat around

Cons:

  • These fenders come in two sizes, medium and large.  The medium is recommended for boats 14-feet  up to 25-feet, while the large is recommended for boats between 25-5—feet in length.  Smaller narrowboats could probably still benefit from the medium size Impact Boat Fender, though you may need to get creative with attachment and placement.

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