You will need
- Whipping twine/strong tape
- Samples of different rope types
Before you begin
- All nautical skills are best practised out on the water with someone who has the relevant knowledge and experience. While you’re waiting to get out there, try this taster activity to get a flavour of what you’ll be getting up to.
- There are lots of different types of ropes used in water activities, all with different qualities. Get hold of as many different types of rope as you can to look at and discuss their uses.
- It’s important to think carefully about the type of rope you use for your fenders, based on how large they’ll be, what kind of watercraft they might go on what they’ll actually be used for. More information on rope types can be found below.
Fashion a fender
We’ve created some ‘step by step photo instructions’ to help you follow along more easily.
- Give out fender rope, tape and scissors. Explain that a fender is a knotted length of rope often seen hanging from the sides of watercraft. Traditionally, they do the same jobs as bumpers on cars, protecting the hull from impacts with other boats and obstacles, but they’re often decorative as well. Have everyone choose how long they’d like their finished fender to be, then cut a length of rope about 10 times this length.
- Now, they should cut two more lengths of rope about five times the length of their finished fender. If there are different coloured ropes available, these could be the same colour, so that they can be told apart at a glance from the first length of rope.
- Fold the longest length of rope in half and create a loop (or ‘bight’) in one end.
- Secure the two halves of the rope together just below the bight, and then again further down, using strong tape. Be aware that the length between the two pieces of tape will be the final length of the fender, so space these with care. This fixes the loop (or ‘eye’) at the top of the fender, and the core.
- Attach the two shorter lengths of rope either side of the fender core and secure these in place with strong tape, then secure the ends below the eye.
- To secure the four loose ends, tie a crown knot. Do this by turning the fender so the eye points down, then separate out the four strands so that they run in different directions.
- Take one strand and lay it over the strand clockwise from it, to form a loop. Take the next strand and do the same thing. Repeat this with the third strand and finally, lay the fourth strand over the core of the fender and down through the first loop. Pull each strand tight to secure the ends in the crown.
- Continue tying this crown knot with the four loose ends up from the core towards the eye, now with the final strand going underneath the core of the fender and down through the first loop. Pull each strand tight to fix each crown knot to the first one tied.
- Continue tying the crown knots until they reach the eye. Pulling the strands tight with each knot will make the fender stronger.
- The pattern formed by the knots, shown below, should make it clear if any mistakes have been made. The loose ends can be secured by tying them round the core, tucking them under a previous crown knot, or if the rope is nylon, the ends can be cut and melted to secure them.
This activity was all about developing knot and lashing skills. Encourage anyone who wants to, to demonstrate a knot or lashing they used to make their fender. Knowing how to tie a variety of knots is key to many water-based activities. Ask everyone what they think are the most important knots to know at sea. Some suggestions might be:
- Figure eight: These are often used as stoppers at the end of lines, to prevent ropes slipping through hands or unreeving.
- Clove hitch: This is the common knot used to tie boats to bollards and cleats at a harbour.
- Bowline: Also used for mooring to bollards, as well as rings and cleats.
- Reef: As the name suggests, this is used for reefing and furling sails, and tethering reefing ropes around the boom.
- Zeppelin bend: This is a great knot for securely joining two ropes – and can be untied easily afterwards.
- Fires and stoves
Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.