Posted on May 23, 2024

How to Choose the Right Boat Bumpers for Docking

How to Choose the Right Boat Bumpers for Docking

Written by HydroHoist Marketing

Choosing the Right Boat Bumpers for Your Dock or Marina

Docking in crowded marinas poses significant risks of bumps and scrapes. Even experienced boaters can encounter unexpected wind gusts, currents, or miscalculations. Below, we delve into the intricacies of boat bumpers, helping you choose the best protection for your vessel.  

Why Boat Bumpers Are Essential for Safe Docking 

Boat bumpers are some of the most important boat dock accessories you can invest in, as they provide vessels crucial protection against scratches, dents, and structural damage that can occur during docking. A study by Cardiff University’s Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC) found “collision, close quarters, and contact” to be the most common type of maritime accident (SIRC, 2018)

Regardless of skill, even the slightest misalignment with the dock or a sudden change in current can lead to impact damage. Even after expertly navigating the docking dance, waves can slam your vessel into the dock. Properly installed bumpers absorb these impacts, preventing costly repairs and enhancing overall boating safety. 

Types of Boat Bumpers and Their Applications 

The appropriate boat bumper largely depends on the docking environment and the size of the vessel. There are two main categories of boat bumpers:

  • Dock bumpers: These are typically long, flat panels mounted directly onto the dock. They come in various sizes, protecting the sides of boats from scraping against the dock during mooring.  
  • Boat fenders: These marine bumpers hang overboard from the boat. They also come in different sizes and configurations, offering targeted protection for specific areas of the vessel. 

Within these categories, there are further variations suited for specific applications, including:

  • Corner bumpers: These L-shaped bumpers often feature rounded corners to protect vessels from sharp angles that can cause hull damage. In addition to impact damage protection, boat corner bumpers offer peace of mind when pulling into your slip. 
  • Bow guides: These are designed to align and center the boat in the slip while protecting the keel and gunwale. 
  • Inflatable bumpers: Portability is a key feature of these versatile solutions, allowing you to deploy them whenever needed (either to the dock or another vessel) to eliminate potential impacts. 

The best type of bumper for your application depends on the specific needs of your dock or marina. For example, strategically placed boat dock bumpers might suffice for a private dock. Meanwhile, a busy marina might require a combination of dock bumpers and boat fenders.

Materials and Durability 

The ideal boat bumper material is durable, resistant to the elements, and non-marking. Here’s a breakdown of common materials used for boat bumpers and their pros and cons:

  • Rubber: A traditional choice for boat protection, rubber bumpers are durable and resilient. However, they can leave marks on boat finishes. 
  • Foam: Lightweight and versatile, foam bumpers provide excellent cushioning for lighter vessels. However, they can degrade faster if not UV-protected. 
  • Plastic: Plastic materials such as PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) are popular boat bumper materials. EVA is known for its exceptional shock absorption and non-marking properties, while PVC is a cost-effective, albeit durable, option. 

HydroHoist’s bow guide and corner bumpers are constructed from high-impact, non-marring polyethylene resin, specially designed to absorb the impact between the boat and the dock. They offer the ultimate boat protection while helping transition your boat in and out of the slip. Contact us today to learn more about our dock bumpers and find the most suitable boat protection for your needs. 

Installation Tips for Boat Bumpers 

Boat bumpers are only as effective as where you place them. Here are some essential tips for ensuring maximum protection:

  • Placement: Installing dock bumpers at every possible contact point is always best. For boat fenders, place them where the hull curves away from the dock (about two-thirds to the back of the vessel) and adjust the placement according to the dock level.   
  • Number: Two to four fenders per side should suffice for most boats, spaced evenly along the widest part of the hull. Discover Boating recommends using a “roving fender” — an extra bumper you can deploy wherever needed at the last minute (Discover Boating, n.d.)
  • Attachment: Follow the manufacturer's instructions for spacing and secure mounting using appropriate hardware. Whenever possible, use corrosion-resistant screws or bolts to attach dock bumpers. Boat fenders should only be hung when rafting up to a boat or approaching a slip for docking. Use a clove hitch to tie a fender line to a boat and a bowline if you need to tie a line to a fender.   

Finally, always hang out your bumpers first before tying up your boat, whether to dock or raft up, to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Selecting the Right Bumpers for Your Needs 

Choosing the right boat bumpers involves considering several factors related to the dock and the boats you want to protect. Here are some guidelines to help you make an informed decision:

  • Boat traffic and size: Busy marinas with larger vessels will require more heavy-duty bumpers than a private dock housing smaller boats. For dock bumpers, consider versatile solutions like the HydroFender, which bends in the middle and separates into two pieces for increased flexibility. 
  • Boat types and dock configuration: Choose among cylindrical, flat, or specialty bumpers depending on the types of boats you need to protect and the dock configuration. For instance, cylindrical fenders are generally recommended for motor yachts and sailboats, while round ones are sufficient for smaller boats. There are even bumpers for different types of boat lifts for the utmost protection. 

Remember, more protection is always better than not having enough. Combine strategically placed dock bumpers with boat-specific marine fenders for a layered defense, and add bumper inspections to your dock maintenance routine to ensure continuous protection. 

Contact us today for more information on protecting your waterfront investments. 



Error loading Partial View script (file: ~/Views/MacroPartials/LatestContentMarketingMacro.cshtml)