The Complete Guide to Boat Dock Bumpers (For Beginner Boaters)

The Complete Guide to Boat Dock Bumpers (For Beginner Boaters)

Everyone hits the dock at one point in their boating lives. I mean, for some of us, coming in full speed is just a way of life.

If you're a beginner boater, I'm here to tell you that we all hit the dock, but you can do it with grace if you have the right materials.

When I first set sail, I felt incredible. I had the wind in my hair, salt on my skin and the world at the helm. That is, until I had to actually dock the damn thing. Then it was all stress and no confidence.

The struggle to dock a boat for the first time, with everyone else at the marina watching and plenty of boats nearby to hit, is something that every beginner boater faces.

Even armed with great boat insurance, it's a daunting task! Having a solid array of boat fenders and dock bumpers will give any beginner boater the confidence they need to get out there more often and dock in a range of conditions.

Cruise into your slip with these boat dock edge bumpers.

The Complete Guide to Boat Dock Bumpers (For Beginner Boaters)

Where to Install Boat Dock Bumpers

Bumpers for a Dock's Side

Having bumpers along the side of the dock is important for reducing scraping while the boat is tied up and also for reducing impact when coming into the slip, especially if you have a sailboat, which has a larger impact point in the center.

Side bumpers come in many forms, all of which have advantages and disadvantages. Here's the scoop on boat dock bumpers and my recommendation as an avid boater:

Plastic Edging Bumpers

This boat dock edge bumper type is a great, simple base for protecting your hull from scratches and dock rash. Plus, it instantly gives your dock an upgraded look.

This light plastic edging Easy Flex Plastic P-Profile Dock Edging Rub Rail for Boat Docks, 16-Feet, White (5000W-16C) will not get in the way of your boat's fenders like bulkier boat dock bumpers will, so it's a great option to start with.

Plastic edging can be placed all along the dock, but it is best on the side of the dock finger. Due to the impact of a boat coming into the slip, it's best to have something a little more heavy-duty and padded to protect the bow.  

Tip: Be sure to measure the length of your dock properly so you order enough edging to cover the length of your boat plus a little give and take in the front and back of the dock finger. These will also be a bit tricky to install on your own, so bring a friend to help you avoid frustration.

Recycled Rubber Tires

If you take a walk around a marina, you're bound to see recycled whole-rubber tires used as dock bumpers. Not only does it keep tires from landfills, but they're an inexpensive and durable option for protecting your boat. 

Schuyler Companies makes a variety of recycled tire products that you could utilize on the boat dock, namely rubber tile-based bumper and fender products.

Tip: Take caution if you've got a shiny hull you plan on protecting. While tires are good ways to reuse, recycle and create inexpensive bumpers, they certainly scuff fiberglass boats. If you have a commercial boat or metal boat and don't cringe at a scuff now and then, go for this cheap option!

Bumpers for the Front or Back of Docks

Thick Padded Bumpers

If you're a beginner boater and/or come in a little too hot, you're gonna want something to absorb the impact at the bow. Having an impact-absorbing boat dock edge bumper at the slip's front (or back, depending on layout) saves your boat from severe damage.

I cannot count the number of times my boat's bow kissed the dock coming in, either from misjudgment or a friend cleating off in the wrong direction! My boat's got the fiberglass scars to prove it.

Hull Hugr's padded marina bumpers (check price on Amazon) are the best boat dock bumpers for people who hate the hassle of adjusting fenders.

With UV and tear-resistant vinyl/polyester tri-laminate, these sturdy boat dock bumpers will protect your boat for years. This particular model is 8" wide by 6" deep in lengths of 36", 48", or 60" for wide coverage of your precious hull.

The high-density, closed-cell foam makes Hull Hugr's marina bumpers a great option to protect your boat's bow. But they're awesome just about anywhere and can replace the need for fenders when placed along the dock's side. I highly recommend this product for your boat dock bumper needs.

Bumpers for a Dock's Corner

Post Bumpers

Ever find yourself backing out of the dock slip and pivoting close toward the piling? For beginner boaters with long sailboats and a strong current in their marina's slip, this is a familiar situation.

When I first practiced motoring in and out of the slip against currents, I always ended up too close to the dock post (I was moving too slow and cutting the wheel too hard).

As I learned, I had many hands on deck (and dock) to help push off with a boat hook pole or fend off the boat from obstacles. Other days, I couldn't gather up a crowd. I would have felt much more confident practicing on my own with a post bumper in place.

Beginner boaters take comfort in dock post bumpers when navigating slips, especially amidst strong currents pushing you straight towards the posts. If you're willing and able, the most reliable option is to install a dock bumper by mounting it to the post with screws.

This product from Taylor Made Post Bumper (check price on Amazon) is a great option for beginner boaters. Why? Because when you feel confident enough to navigate your slip without a post bumper, you can repurpose it as dock edging.

The flexible nature of this product makes it easy to reuse for years to come. If you wanna avoid the hassle of fixing a bumper to a post, opt for this quick-on/quick-off removable post bumper (check price on Amazon).

The straps are surprisingly sturdy and allow you to adjust the boat dock edge bumper's location during big tidal shifts. The downside, however, is that it's not as multi-use as the other flexible bumper from Taylor Made Products.

Corner Bumpers

Beginner boaters might think it's difficult to hit the corner of the dock, but you'd be surprised! Actually, hitting the dock's corners is, as you can guess, one of the easiest ways to damage your boat. There were a number of times I've had a close call hitting the corner of the dock when trying to come into the slip. 

When winds and currents are powerful, docking becomes more dangerous and dock bumpers more necessary, especially on your dock's corners. If you don't have passengers to assist in fending you off, you'll need something there for resistance and to help straighten you out when your boat's midpoint gets a little too close to the dock.

Many corner bumpers are available that you can add to your boat's dock bumper setup.

  • Corner fender - Looking similar to boat fenders, this version fits neatly onto dock corners for vertical protection of the corner bumpers. The downside is you might find some algae growth on the bottom, depending on the dock's measurements. It's worth cleaning every so often, though, instead of denting your boat.
  • Lay-flat bumper -This type of corner bumper is a great option for those who want something low-profile that will lay flat against the edge of the dock and not interfere with any cleats or lines.
  • Edge-wrapper - Similar in shape to the lay-flat bumper, this style wraps all the way around the corner and on top of the dock to provide full protection from the corner.
  • Dock wheel - Dock wheels offer substantial protection from the corner of the dock and significant cushioning to reduce impact. Since they spin and move with the boat, they also offer the added bonus of guiding your boat into the slip, much like having someone on the dock push your boat out for you. If you end up sailing into the slip at a bad angle, the dock wheel will help straighten you out and guide the boat into the slip. This is especially useful when trying to dock in the dark after a night boating session.

 Boat Fenders

Check Price on Amazon - Better Boat's boat fenders protect your boat by providing a cushion between your boat and the dock, pilings and other boats. They're made of marine-grade vinyl and have a ribbed design that improves strength and prevents rolling. The two-pack set is available in black, blue and white. 

Invest in Boat Dock Bumpers to Feel Safe and Confident

Ultimately, the more boat dock bumpers you have set up, the safer your boat will be and the more confident you will feel coming into the slip in less-than-ideal conditions.

Boat dock edge bumpers are great at any stage in your boating life for peace of mind, protection and docking confidence. Though they may seem expensive, dock bumpers are a worthy investment as they will protect your boat from costly damage.

With this guideline in mind, pick at least two boat dock bumpers to set up so you can make docking easier and safer. These aren't just for beginner boaters - experienced boaters alike can benefit from dock bumpers, especially solo boaters and sailors who want to get out in more challenging conditions and dock with ease.

At the very least, even if you never take your boat out of the slip, boat dock bumpers will protect your hull during storms when the boat is rocking in the dock. Boat dock edge bumpers are a worthy investment that every boater should have.