- 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.
Lots of different kinds of rope are used for nautical knots and lashings. Most can be divided into ropes with synthetic (manmade) fibres and ropes with natural fibres.
- Ropes made from natural fibres, such as hemp, sisal or manilla, were traditionally cheaper and more readily available, so were widely used in the past.
- In modern times, natural rope fibres have mostly been replaced by man-made materials.
- Natural fibre ropes are often tough and scratchy, but can be more easily damaged and will mould over time.
Man made fibres
- There are now lots of different types of rope made from manmade fibres.
- They all have different qualities, such as being able to float, being stretchy, and being UV and rot resistant.
- The right combination of rope fibres can give ropes many potential uses, and more information on this can be found via Classic Marine.
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.
This type of fender is one of the simplest. To increase the challenge, try tying a fender from larger marine rope, or tying a six or eight-strand fender instead. There are lots of different types to try, depending on how much of a challenge the group would like.
- Tying the knots with a thicker rope to demonstrate should help show everyone the structure and shape of the finished knot
- Make sure everyone has everything they need to complete the tasks in this activity. Pair up or have helpers lend a hand with the fiddly bits.
All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.
Once you’ve learnt to tie a rope fender, why not work to freshen up a sailing boat with new fenders? Or, approach a local sailing club to see if they need some.
Fenders can come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. Encouraging everyone to do some research and find their own designs will allow them to take ownership of their projects.
The badge requirement for stage five of the Nautical Skills Staged Activity Badge can also be met by tying any piece of decorative ropework or knot. Run an activity based around this option, if the group prefers.