What Is It Aboot Canadians And Their Bumpers?



The other day, Alex Watson made a comment regarding how it seems that every time we see a boat from Canada, it has its bumpers out.  Today’s header came in last night and there it was again!

Satin Doll, and a HUGE red bumper? Blister? Tick?

Satin Doll, and a HUGE red bumper? Blister? Tick?

Canadians in Texas.. So maybe the bumper got swollen, or heated up. Like a tick.. Warm air and BBQ and that normal bumper tis ready to spload! So what is it? Is it a fashion statement of sorts. Most are actually very cool, made of rope, so I suppose its cool, since its part of the look. It is interesting though how certain looks can be regional.

This cool shot from Texx shot in Florida on the St johns River cruise. I recall retouching out the bumpers for a header

This cool shot from Texx shot in Florida on the St johns River cruise. I recall retouching out the bumpers for a header

Do the bumpers leave a mark when left on the boat underway?

KITTYHAWK, owned by The Wright Brothers. Maybe they needed bumpers..

KITTYHAWK, owned by The Wright Brothers. Maybe they needed bumpers..

1953-shepherd-Nauti-Ewe. photo Julie Bullen

1953-shepherd-Nauti-Ewe. photo Julie Bullen

Sheila and her 1941 mac - craft. and bumpers

Sheila and her 1941 mac – craft. and bumpers

Let us know why you think this is so?


51 replies
  1. Troy
    Troy says:

    This is interesting to me because for years when we see someone riding with there fenders out certain members of my family comment that they are Frenchman.

    I always found this comment to be a little offensive since I thought it was an ethnic slur, now that you point out that it is the norm in “French Canada” I will not be so quick to judge the comment.

    I LOVE those rope fenders! Can you buy them or do you have to make them?

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Our Canadian friends do not have external vertical pilings or uprights on their docks. There is no where for the rub rails of the boat to rub up against. The horizontal deck of the dock rubs against the hull and the “fenders” are required to avoid damage. You never go boating in Canada without an adequeate supply of fenders on board.

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      Point well made.
      I think the question for most of us us why are they not stowed while cruising?
      I actually like the system they seem to use with the tie off on the bottom of the fenders to the stern cleat.

  3. Cliff
    Cliff says:

    On the Great Lakes (and probably everywhere else) it is considered poor seamanship to be underway with your fenders out. Somewhere in the back of my mind I recall more injuries happen on a boat with people retrieving fenders, personally the only boats that can get away with it are the Canadians. It’s boat swag!

  4. Captain Nemo
    Captain Nemo says:

    I don’t like to hang over the side to pull in the fenders after a few Molson’s either.

  5. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    In Karen’s defense, the header shot was taken in a confined harbor at Seabrook, where whe was idling from trailer to assigned slip, so they were out in case of contact.

    The type of bumper we have on there is a preference acquired with that boat, actually. We bought it from Dick Werner in 2007, and he had it stocked with that style of bumper. In fact uses them on all his classics and we have continued the practice with our various boats as well. We never figured that bumper style was a fashion statement, but perhaps it is?

    I like the fenders linked in the style seen at Muskoka but have never adopted it ourselves. Greg’s point is well made – we have a floating dock at our house and the potential for damage is high – adequate fenders are must.

  6. Bob B.
    Bob B. says:

    “Dragging fenders” is not a proper nautical practice, unless you’re a tugboat.

    If you can pick it up, stow it. If you can’t stow it, secure it. If you can’t secure it, paint it. (from USN, or maybe just some drunken sailor)

  7. Norm Edwards
    Norm Edwards says:

    Canadian eh? here is a young fellow here on Saltspring Island that calls himself the Rope Doctor – Donald Allen. He makes the fenders and lots of other great items from rope. “Traditional & Modern Rope Work” email: theropedoctor@yahoo.com for more info. One of Donald’s rope doormats below…

  8. Sean
    Sean says:

    On my Greavette (and many other local boats, wood and plastic alike) the factory fender system was designed to stay in place all the time. There is a line running from the bottom of each fender through a pulley near the stern then passing a through-hull. The line then runs inboard up to the cockpit where the Captain can make the line taught…thereby raising the external fenders so they do not drag.

    Now, personally I don’t like the look (and spiders like to live there) so I removed the system during refit. I now have to dedicate space to stow my fenders. But, the factory set up is an efficient system and is in no manner improper seamanship!

    Note*** not my Greavette in this picture but, a VERY experienced sailor!

    • Sean
      Sean says:

      Canada is an officially bi-lingual country. Over 22% of Canadians are French speaking as a first language while 59% call English their mother tongue. The French Canadian component is very important to Canada as it is engrained in our history (maintaining loyal numbers as a deterrent to invasion from the USA) and serves today as a delightful and colourful part of our distinct and diverse society.

      While Quebec may be seen as the “home” of the French Canadians in Canada this is far from the truth as the maritime provinces right through to Manitoba support this culture in great numbers. However, as a Toronto boy, I still can’t support the Montreal Canadiens!

      This pic is a Century with the same fender system

  9. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    “Fender Queens”, we put vertical 2×6’s on my friends cottage with rubber vertical bumper pads so you don’t need them but not every location has them obviously.

  10. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Apparently, Canadians prefer long clean lines of their dock without the vertical obstructions.

    • Cobourg Kid
      Cobourg Kid says:

      David Letterman’s Top five reasons why Canadians like to use bumpers on their watercraft

      1. Most of the inland lake lakes in eastern Canada are underlain by the Canadian Shield or sedimentary rock. Ever try driving wooden piles in rock… particularly granite?

      2. Those few large lakes in Ontario that have soft bottoms are located either on the Trent-Severn. Upper Rideau and Ottawa River Canal systems. Ever tried to go through a lock without a bumper?

      3. Massive freighters ply the St. Clair River and the St. Lawrence producing massive wakes . Do you really want your pride and joy smashing up against a concrete pier wall or even a pile dock without a cushion?

      4. Do you prefer style or substance or style? As you can tell from the Kenora Dinner Jackets that are quite common in Eastern Canada’s Cottage Country, Canadian cottagers often pick practicality over fashion.

      5. Canuck boaters, and in particular cottagers, like New England boaters (Yankees), tend to be thrifty. Bumpers are cheap (especially when you find them floating in the lake!) On the other hand repairs are expensive. Why invite gouged or cracked planks and possible broken ribs if you can avoid the cost and misery in the first place?

      • Alex
        Alex says:

        CK, all that makes sense. But it would be easy to just hang them when docking, or flip them inside when underway. I suppose what evolved — those rope contraptions — came from a time when practicality and convenience mattered more than looks. When ALL boats, even Ditchburns, were fundamentally users.

        You did read my comment earlier today about it not being me slighting you Canuks and your fender fetish, right? See, I’m Canuk by birth too. I left when Canada went metric. It was that, or buy all new tools, thermometers, cars, etc… Ha.

        • Cobourg Kid
          Cobourg Kid says:

          Truth is that without practicality (and proper fenders) most of the antique and classic boats we enjoy today would not have survived to be restored.

          In an era when folks used Ditchburn launches for daily transportation (some as water taxis) the failure to install fenders would have ensured that those beautiful mahogany hulls were quickly converted to kindling wood.

          As for the metric system. Although the Federal Government switched out our official measurement system from imperial to metric in 1972, remnants of the imperial system still survive up here.

          For example if you go to the lumber store you still ask for a 2 X 4, or a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood. If you want to purchase some grapes you can buy them in kilograms or pounds (the grocery store has scales that show both weights). If you want to buy a farm you usually ask how many acres you are getting for your money and most importantly, if you ask for a pint in a restaurant they know what you are talking about.

          I grew up in the last years of Canada’s imperial era and it’s my first language of measurement. I still select all the imperial measurement options while driving the family truck. Thankfully we live in a bilingual nation and there is universal acceptance for those who speak another language, including measurement.

          Problem is that sometimes the person you are conversing with has absolutely no idea what you are talking about … like my son who finds my references to Fahrenheit, utterly unintelligible. He doesn’t mind, however, when we go to the states and he needs a translation.

  11. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Another Canadian example of no vertical posts makes for clean lines. Ice movement would probably rip them off on docks not protected from westerly wind driven ice flow.

  12. Alex
    Alex says:

    Floyd. At last. I think you’ve found the real reason.

    It looks godawful on the boats. But the uninstructed views of the fawna on the docks make it all worth it.

    Btw, I’ve been misquoted by our fearless leader. I never before commented on the Canadian dangling fenders. Though I must say it does bother me every time I see those things strung along the sides of gorgeous Canadian hulls.

    Who knows. Maybe Mayer was up to his tricks, posting as me.

    Or maybe Matt was reading my mind. That’s scary for both of us.

    • Alex (actually Rick)
      Alex (actually Rick) says:

      If I post as Alex do you think anyone would notice me taking his collection out for a spin? Or maybe I can post as Texx and ride into the sunset on his Harley? Or maybe a reality show Boat Swap. The show Wife Swap has been around for a while. Ok now I’m just bored and ranting, I need this darn wind to lay down so I can get out on the H2O.

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      Actually if we take a look at the log I think it was Chad that brought the subject to light.

  13. Gary
    Gary says:

    I have never been a fan of the cylinder fenders. As a kid it was a pain in the neck to get all those cylinders out on the sides to protect from the lock walls and other boats tied up along side. We must have had 20 or 30 of those D___ things and they didn’t float very well.
    If I ever go that way again it will be with the mermaid ones.
    Those red blisters or crab pot buoys or barbecued fenders have enough diameter to compensate for flare and tumblehome. You don’t need as many but stowage is sacrificed: The Canadians have a good idea with the bottom line.

  14. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Our ACBS-PNW group has an award given out at our yearly dinner – the Bay(rhymes with “nothing could be finer”) for the skipper observed underway with fender(s) deployed. Though one individual held it for several years, many (including yours truly) have won the award. Any Canadian member of ACBS-PNW is automatically exempt from consideration… 🙂

  15. Ron Stevenson
    Ron Stevenson says:

    To support Dick’s comment,

    Bayliner is a brand of boat common out here in the PNW referred to as “beginner” boat because of its price point and fancy interiors that appeal to the decision maker in the family, the wife. (My apologies to those offended).
    It is often commented that forgetting to take in the fenders is in the Bayliner’s Owners manual,it is so common on that brand of boat. The beginner image was so bad that Bayliner actually makes the same boats now under the Meridian name.

    Woven rope fenders are made by a guy out here who advertises in Classic boating. If you think about it, they should be used at the boat show, there were no plastic fenders when most of our boats were made! And be stowed when underway according to Chapman’s boating Bible.

    And i do like Canadians!

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Do you ever see those rope fenders on runabouts in old photos? I rarely see fenders at all, and most seem to be the canvas fire hose style.

  16. Ken Miller
    Ken Miller says:

    Could we hear more about Sheila? Or is there already a WB story you could post a link to? I nominate her for Woody Person of the Year.

  17. brian t
    brian t says:

    Perhaps this is why our Northern Friends drive with their fenders out – I think they may just be to jacked up on the maple to know what the heck they’re doing.

    Look at how young they start.

  18. Doug Powles
    Doug Powles says:

    Flag Courtesy:
    I have been led to believe that while in foreign waters, as a courtesy, the host country’s flag shall be displayed.

    In the case of runabouts, the courtesy flag shall take place of the boat’s burgee.
    (Source USPS, CPS)

  19. Brian Flaherty
    Brian Flaherty says:

    I am firm believer in the theory that the best fender for a woody is the nearest “plastic” boat… Although I own an all fiberglass Chris-Craft, when we floated the 4-100+ foot tall locks of the snake river, in Southeastern Washington, I volunteered to use our boat as the “fender” for my father’s 1953 Chris-Craft Racing runabout as we didn’t want to risk any potential damage to the family baby.

    When out with friends we use our towables as fenders as they are big enough to work around pilings, curvature, even joints between dock sections…

  20. Phillip JONES
    Phillip JONES says:

    As stated this style of fender use was developed in the Muskoka area almost exclusively. The rope is not attached to the stern cleat, but rather run though a roller fitting in the side of the boat, the line then runs the length of the boat though holes in the frames. The line exits at the drivers station and he can lower or raise the fenders and secure the line to a cleat inboard. So designed by people who used there boats in this region to visit friend, get groceries or fish, like we use our cars. Pretty neat setup. And yes Matt I coped a pair to reproduce while on my travels there.

    • Kentucky Wonder
      Kentucky Wonder says:

      Our 1949 Greavette has nearly the identical setup you show, except for the rear pulley does not feed the line inside the boat. Our pulley wheel is parallel to the planking, and feeds the line back on the outside of the boat, just under the rub rail/covering board. the line enters the boat at the driver’s position, and has the piece in your first photo to secure the line in place.

      We haven’t purchased a set of rope fenders yet, mostly because we are not sure what sizes would be best, but also because we like the cleaner-looking sides.

    • NorthCountry
      NorthCountry says:

      Thankfully, those inboard cleats were among the random assortment of boxed items found under the seats when I received the FS Crate Runabout. I plan on running lines inboard and having the owner decide whether or not to use this fender setup. Glad to know that those are one more thing we can all count on you for, Phil

  21. Sean
    Sean says:

    I can’t speak to the origin or development of this fender retraction system however, here’s a close up of a CENTURY with the same system.

    So, I wouldn’t bet it’s just a Canadian thing. neither is it just a Greavette or Muskoka thing as I have seen many other marques with this design. This includes the fiberglass Cutter, Mark Twain model. Unfortunately you can’t see the system in the pictures I have of our old Cutter.

    • frank Miklos
      frank Miklos says:

      Every boat we have worked on that had these have been Canadian of from new… really dislike these a big hole is put in the planking and they are just down right ugly…. Sorry guys.. boats should never be run with bumpers hanging out the side.. just ruins the look… We have a 58 Century Coronado at the shop with the hardware for these on it … they will be removed … you can see the rear pully in this photo of the Coronado.. the hole is about 1″ x 3″ oval..

  22. Phillip JONES
    Phillip JONES says:

    Also on a lot of Shepherds early on. This was simply an add on for many Canadian boats.

  23. David Hailwood
    David Hailwood says:

    It’s really simple . Too many icebergs floating around Canadian lakes to take any chances .

  24. jim g
    jim g says:

    I removed the rope fender system on a 1939 19′ single piece covering board barrel back. Along with the shepherd windshield brackets, smaller quarter glass brackets on second cockpit {think hacker} and the 3 wood greavette vents. The boat was sold new to canada. If anyone wants the rope pulley parts contact me.

  25. John
    John says:

    Having spent the last 60+ summers in Muskoka bumpers are a common sight. They are not only on the wooden boats , but on the fiberglass ones as well. I think this is function that boathouse slips, commercial docks, and marinas do not have adequate protection. Also Muskoka is all about boating; to the extent that cottagers get their groceries, ligour, and gas using their boats. So it is just easier to have the bumpers firmly secured, and not have to worry about them once you get to the dock on a windy day. For the bigger boats if bumpers weren’t already on you have dock first; then secure them once there. Again for the sake of ease.
    Regarding the rope bumpers, they can be be purchased in all shapes and sizes, but they are not cheap. I think they are great.

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