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Old 06-29-2012, 12:04 PM   #1
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Rubrails and floating docks

Maybe sort of a strange question, but can anyone comment on why most of our trawlers are equipped with rubrails, but they rarely do any good, especially when we're tied up at floating docks? Seems like the rail and the level of the dock is almost the same, and unless you can keep fenders properly placed in there it's almost inevitable that sooner or later there's going to be trouble.

My early 70s Marine Trader was beat up last summer during hurricane Irene, and about half the swim platform was torn away when a dock cleat failed and the boat spent many hours banging against the opposite finger pier. The more I looked at how the damage was sustained, it was apparent that it was the rubrail that had gotten above/below the dock, tearing it loose along with the platform it was attached to. Actually, this was the second time the rubrail had been damaged, though the first time it didn't affect the swim platform.

After putting the platform back together I decided to leave the rubrail off, and I removed the one on the other side as well. After all, I look at lots of other boats in the marina without these rails, and they don't seem to be any worse for wear. I carry four fenders, and a fender-board that I use sometimes when we're tied up at fixed docks, like the first photo at Alligator River.

Question: Have any of you had similar experiences?

The first photo, taken several years ago, shows the minimal rubrails that were standard on the early MT's, and my boat last spring with the rails removed. Yes, the bottom was painted before she splashed.
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Old 06-29-2012, 02:30 PM   #2
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When a boat is designed and built, it's not known where it will be used and what sort and height of docks it may be tied to. And of course, over the life of the boat, these conditions may change.

In my experience in the coastal southeast USA, most docks are floating and 12" to 24" above the water. In areas with less tidal variations, such as the Chesapeake Bay, fixed docks are more common and rubrails may be more effective. On my recent cruise, I encountered floating and fixed docks. No doubt, other parts of the USA and the world have different conditions.

Unless you're on a small lake, you'll really need either fenders or a way to tie the boat where it cannot contact the docks or pilings.

In many cases, the rubrail is not much more than a means to cover the hull to deck joint anyway.
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Old 06-29-2012, 04:26 PM   #3
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ARoss,
It is a much cleaner look on your vessel without them. That's not much to work with. What kind of fender board do you use? Our Present has a generous rub rail, but as you mentioned it really is not placed to do much good.
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Old 06-29-2012, 05:24 PM   #4
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When I first startd boating many, many years ago floating docks did not exist, the in the late 70's a few appeared, now marinas without them a exceptionally rare. I do not remember exactly when, but as popular as Beaufort, N.C. is they did not install floaters untill some time after 2000. Boats have not changed, we still rely on gravity to hold our fenders in place. During a sever storm extra lines and fenders need to be deployed. I have even attached fenders to the dock in hopes they would not ride up, so far so good. J.T.
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Old 06-29-2012, 07:09 PM   #5
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My fender boards are 2x6 treated wood, about 6' long, that I can deploy outside of my fenders when I need to stand off of a piling if I expect the boat to be moving much. Usually it's sufficient just to hang the fenders sideways when I'm against a dock with vertical pilings.
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Old 06-29-2012, 11:12 PM   #6
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rub rails

Mine are wide enough to get a good foothold and climb on board.
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Old 06-30-2012, 06:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ARoss View Post
Maybe sort of a strange question, but can anyone comment on why most of our trawlers are equipped with rubrails, but they rarely do any good, especially when we're tied up at floating docks? Seems like the rail and the level of the dock is almost the same, and unless you can keep fenders properly placed in there it's almost inevitable that sooner or later there's going to be trouble.

My early 70s Marine Trader was beat up last summer during hurricane Irene, and about half the swim platform was torn away when a dock cleat failed and the boat spent many hours banging against the opposite finger pier. The more I looked at how the damage was sustained, it was apparent that it was the rubrail that had gotten above/below the dock, tearing it loose along with the platform it was attached to. Actually, this was the second time the rubrail had been damaged, though the first time it didn't affect the swim platform.

After putting the platform back together I decided to leave the rubrail off, and I removed the one on the other side as well. After all, I look at lots of other boats in the marina without these rails, and they don't seem to be any worse for wear. I carry four fenders, and a fender-board that I use sometimes when we're tied up at fixed docks, like the first photo at Alligator River.

Question: Have any of you had similar experiences?

The first photo, taken several years ago, shows the minimal rubrails that were standard on the early MT's, and my boat last spring with the rails removed. Yes, the bottom was painted before she splashed.

I hope a lesson learned about dock cleats....

Rub rails on my Albin seem fine...none are really designed or supposed to be in contact with anything for very long...just momentary.
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Old 06-30-2012, 12:24 PM   #8
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I've never really understood the point of the rub rails attached to the side of a boat unless it is to protect the boat from rubbing against a piling. Most "Yachts" would never tie up against a piling without a fenderboard.

Unlike the east coast, here in the Pacific Northwest on Puget Sound floating docks have always been a must with the 15 to 20 foot tidal change. It would be unlikely that anyone would tie up to a piling here.
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Old 06-30-2012, 12:47 PM   #9
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I've never really understood the point of the rub rails attached to the side of a boat unless it is to protect the boat from rubbing against a piling. Most "Yachts" would never tie up against a piling without a fenderboard.

Unlike the east coast, here in the Pacific Northwest on Puget Sound floating docks have always been a must with the 15 to 20 foot tidal change. It would be unlikely that anyone would tie up to a piling here.
As I posted...tying up to one isn't the game plan...but getting into the slip you may be forced to pivot on one, etc...and if the rubrail is correctly done...the boat is no worse for the wear but if you couldn't lie to the piling...major scuffs/damage may have occurred when things didn't go as well as planned.
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Old 09-07-2012, 02:26 PM   #10
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In the Puget Sound and Lake Union there are still some fix pier/docks, and if you go through a lock and/or have to wait tie up to a wall is when rub rails are used/needed. Our old slip at the South end of Lake Union, Yale Street, was fixed ranging from 3 to 6 ft above the water as the lake was raise/lowed 3 ft during the year. Also the dock was support by pilings on each side and the end, so many time in docking we rubbed up against the pilings. We had to go through the Ballard locks to get into the Puget Sound and the bigger boats where first and put on the wall, with boats tied off. Lastly, our rub rail is about 3” wide and I use it as a step to get from the Pilot house to the low floating docks.

So in the Puget Sound area rub rails are still needed/used. Besides the rub rail add a classic line to the Eagle.
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Old 09-07-2012, 02:50 PM   #11
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Strength

Frp has a lot of strength in a tensil kinda fashion. But on a flat surface that has some area there will be alot of flex. Take a hit around that area without that added support you can start to lose interior hull bonds etc.

On the oldfishboat it keeps the vessel very stiff as well as adding protection from hits on docks etc.

So the rub rail protects even if its not what takes the hit.

Just my experience with.
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:37 PM   #12
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We have a 1990 Marine Trader that we purchased 5 months ago. It has NO rub rails. We are liveaboards and in a marina without floating docks. The wood is getting chewed up going in and out the slip for cruising and pumpouts (sitting in the slip in no problem, fenders are fine). We are getting ready to refinish the wood this winter (we are in Florida) and you can be assured we will be putting run rail on our boat.
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:40 PM   #13
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I've never really understood the point of the rub rails attached to the side of a boat unless it is to protect the boat from rubbing against a piling. Most "Yachts" would never tie up against a piling without a fenderboard.

Unlike the east coast, here in the Pacific Northwest on Puget Sound floating docks have always been a must with the 15 to 20 foot tidal change. It would be unlikely that anyone would tie up to a piling here.
By nature, boats move from place to place so just because a particular feature isn't needed in one location doesn't mean it isn't needed somewhere else.
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Old 09-07-2012, 06:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Budds Outlet
I've never really understood the point of the rub rails attached to the side of a boat unless it is to protect the boat from rubbing against a piling. Most "Yachts" would never tie up against a piling without a fenderboard.

Unlike the east coast, here in the Pacific Northwest on Puget Sound floating docks have always been a must with the 15 to 20 foot tidal change. It would be unlikely that anyone would tie up to a piling here.
We rarely see fender boards here and we don't use fenders until we are already docked.. Rub rails come into play when docking and/or pivoting on dock poles with wind or current, whether in fixed dock poles or floating docks. Since we are in and out of the marina all the time, rub rails are a necessity.
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Old 09-07-2012, 08:53 PM   #15
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Always have fenders deployed while docking/berthed, but found a streak of creosote on the rubrail which probably arose when a worker moved the boat in the yard. Thus, I don't question the utility of a rubrail.

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Old 09-08-2012, 02:49 AM   #16
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We've never rubbed the rub rails on our boat against anything since we always have fenders deployed when we come in. But I can see how they could be beneficial in a number of circumstances. So.it makes sense that almost all manufacturers of cruisers in our size range include them in their designs. While one owner may not need them the next owner might.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:10 AM   #17
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Provided ample flair... no rubrail really needed down there!
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:52 AM   #18
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All for looks
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:32 AM   #19
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All for looks
Seriously?
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:43 AM   #20
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I go back into the 1950's and 60's in boating. Back then, floating docks on New England coast were basically non existent. Rubrails are needed when rubrails are needed... and... not needed when not needed. Just that simple! As an analogy... bumpers on a car are usually not needed... but you’re glad they are there when they are needed. So far as looks go for rubrails on any boat - each to their own!
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