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Our post yesterday about the boats getting tangled up together garnered a number of comments, both here, and on our Facebook page. One thing that I had intended on including in the post, but neglected to, is our planned first line of defense to a dragging boat: our balls!

Fender balls: not just for exercise!

Every day that we’re at anchor, we keep a large, white fender ball conveniently tied to the mast. We’ve done this on all three of the boats that we’ve lived on. Some people may assume that we keep the ball there so that it’s convenient for our workouts, and that’s true, we do use it for that. The fact is though, we keep it there so that it’s easy to deploy if we have an unplanned visitor in the form of a dragging boat. And when we went to our bow on Sunday morning to observe the drama going on around us, the first thing I did was untie that ball from mast so that it would be even quicker to put into action.

Bluewater Sailing magazine. February 2013.

A roving fender is a great tool to have at the ready when docking, if you have the crew to man it. When you’re at anchor with another vessel moving towards you, there’s not much else that your crew can do but try to push the other boat away. Since it’s dangerous to get body parts in between large vessels, especially when the wind is up, people need to be especially careful how they fend off. A big fender ball, or ever better, a couple of balls, in the hands of some motivated crew members, can go a long way towards minimizing damage.

8 Comments

  1. I’ve been told it is unwise to use a ball as a fender as the ball will exert whatever pressure is applied to it over a small area equal to the flat spot created when compressed. This is not a large area and all the force is placed on that one spot. Note in your related products section they are called “buoys” which is essentially what they are. Hull sides are not meant to withstand direct lateral force over a small surface area which is why fenders are longitudinal and distribute their force over a greater area. Your intent is spot on concerning being prepared any type of potential impact to your hull. Love your blog, keep it coming!

    • Hi Don. Thank you for the positive comments! I can’t dispute anything that you’ve said but I have to wonder, fiberglass is pretty tough – like really tough – what is the real risk? I’ve seen plenty of boats using balls and I’ve never heard of one being damaged becuase of it. Have you?

  2. Hold on to your balls. The standard bumper is no match for the corner of a swim platform or something not flat. I was fending off an out of control 35 foot cabin cruiser that was trying to dock along side of our 48 foot cat. The 2 foot tall fender was ineffective to stop the cruiser’s swim platform. A ball would have been much more effective by building a much higher internal pressure than the bumper. The bumper basically squished to zero in the middle.

  3. another use of that ball is to tie the anchor chain to it in case you have to abandon it temporarily….a valid but cumbersome option if the boat is coming directly down on to you and you can’t go forward to pick up the anchor…hopefully you can reset a second anchor in a different spot and then deal with retrieving the primary from a dinghy. Less risky than being tethered to the other boat(s).

  4. Great post, thanks. I’m putting a ball on the list of things to acquire for this season!

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