This month I am going to put the spotlight on one individual product that we think is a game-changer by making an activity around berthing so much easier.
We all know that berthing your boat can at times be challenging. That’s why we have fenders. However, dealing with fenders is a challenge in itself. The innovative Automatic Fender System solves these problems.
Fenders are one of those things we take for granted in boating.
Let’s be honest, fenders are bulky to store, a nuisance to deploy, and not all crew like going onto the bow, especially in choppy waters, to deploy them. Then after leaving the berth, you have to bring them back on board, and ﬁnd somewhere to store them – usually taking up valuable and scarce storage space.
The situation is worse if you are single handed, short-handed or have crew that are uncomfortable moving about on the bow, or handling bulky fenders.
All too often, you get a typical scenario like this. You are approaching a marina, the rain has started and there is a slight chop on. The skipper is busy, perhaps shouting orders and the partner/crew running from one end of the boat to another deploying fenders, trying to fend off, as well as keeping a lookout. All this is happening at a busy time. Even when you are out on the water you need to ﬁnd a way to safely stow the bulky fenders so that they don’t cause any damage by bouncing around.
Sometimes the hassle associated with all this even leads to a couple giving up boating. This can be an especial problem if the crew is perhaps less agile than they used to be – they no longer ﬁnd it joyful bouncing along on the bow deploying fenders much more slowly than the skipper demands.
Of course, we can just take this hassle for granted. However, there must be a better way. There is…
We think that the Automatic Fender System is the solution. It is neatly attached to the horizontal railings on the boat. The three clamps hold it ﬁrmly in place. They are so neat that they are hardly visible once installed. They use special foam fenders which are available in several colours to suit your boat.
Once ﬁtted, the Automatic Fender System will automatically deploy to the correct height as you approach the marina; either by using the built in GPS or by pressing a button on a supplied smartphone app. When you leave the marina, the Automatic Fender System automatically lifts the fender and stores it neatly and securely under the rail.
The smartphone app that controls the system is super simple and can be used on a mobile phone or tablet. Press one button to deploy the fenders and another to raise them. It is easy to set the drop height for your home marina, which is remembered next time you go to that marina.
The unit comes with three clamps that are simply clamped at convenient places along the horizontal rail. Installation is simple and should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes.
There is no signal wiring required, as the units are controlled by Bluetooth from your mobile or tablet. There is no power wiring required as the power is provided by the included solar cell and the lithium battery in the waterproof housing. In other words, no wiring at all required – this is an easy DIY job – no need for a marine engineer.
The app itself is simple to install on your phone or tablet.
Once installed, you need to configure the system – this is also a simple task. The app allows you to set both the drop height for when you are berthed against a ﬁnger and also a separate rub rail height – for example, you are berthed against wall or rafted against another boat. Different heights can be easily set for different fenders and for different marinas.
We contacted an innovative US company that were developing an item that we believed had the capability to make berthing so much easier and less stressful. The ﬁrst version of the system was good – we will call it the ‘Mark 1’.
However, we wanted to do some test marketing with it; so we demonstrated it at a couple of boat shows. We collated these comments, carried out our own testing, and fed our own thoughts and analysis back to the production company.
They have now produced ‘Mark 2’; which in our own humble opinion is much better and is absolutely spot on. It is neater, more powerful, has a better app, and does away with the need for a bulky fender basket. We are now proud to be the (non-US) distributor.
Although many people might regard an Automatic Fender System as unusual, because they have always done it the usual, old-fashioned way, we believe that over time the system will become an automatic addition to many boats. They will become as important as an anchor winch or a dinghy.
Whilst to fully equip a boat with automatic fenders is not cheap, they will be used every single time you berth – unlike, say, an anchor winch or dinghy which you may typically use once in a blue moon. This leads to the cost per use of the Automatic Fender System being very reasonable.
Once ﬁtted, you will be delighted and wonder how you ever managed without them.
The Automatic Fender System is available exclusively via Go Earth – click here to read more and to see a video of the system in action. You can also place an order for your Automatic Fenders on our online shop.