Hand-crocheting a bow fender—updated

(This post has been updated. If you’re a keen crocheter read the first part and you’ll be in stitches at me trying to do a magic circle without the circle! I explain in Part 2.)

Part 1

The bow is the front bit of a boat (the stern’s the other end) so it’s the bit that tends to bump against the pontoon or whatever kind of dock you’re mooring to (parking).

Front of small yacht with mooring ropes, anchor chain, electricity cable and a big white & blue fender strung between 2 cleats on the pontoon.

Along the sides (gunwales) sailors hang fenders, which used to be made of hemp rope—because it’s strong, flexible and resists mildew—but nowadays are usually long chunky plastic floats.

3 different fenders at different heights above the water hanging off the guardrails.

Although many moorings have bow fenders fitted, it’s wise to have your own and the traditional bow protector is shaped like a curved sausage with elongated ends. Hence the name “bow pudding”. The bow is also where the anchor is, usually, stowed in a locker surrounded by the curved front rail known as the “pulpit” (the one at the stern’s the “pushpit”) and it goes over the bow with some kind of wheel or channel so the chain can run smoothly. So the bow fender can’t be there too, otherwise it would get in the way. The solution is to hang it below, with long ropes leading back to cleats on deck.

I’d had the idea to hand crochet a circular bow protector (more like a pie than a sausage) and I’d looked online to see if anyone had already done that and left tips—but all I could find was the sausage variety and the construction of that seems very fiddly. So I selected a length of rope, left about a metre then cross-looped the working end around my left arm twice, put my right hand under the outer loop, grabbed the inner one and pulled it through to form my first chain stitch.

8 bundles of rope on the floor of the cockpit with the one I started with in the foreground.
Cross-looping the working end of the rope around my arm twice.
My first chain stitch.

Then I chained 5 by just hold the first stitch in my left hand, putting my right hand through it, grabbing some of the working end of the rope and pulling it back through to form another loop. Then I joined the 6th stitch to the 1st by the same procedure except this time putting my hand through both before grabbing the working end—to form a slip stitch.

6 chain stitches in rope.

This should have pulled it all into a neat circle but instead it just joined them up. I think there’s something I forgot to do. Or maybe the rope wasn’t flexible enough. No matter.

The chain of 6 stitches linked.

I laid this developing crochet project across my knees and carried on round these 6 stitches putting a single crochet in each: instead of just pulling the working end through a stitch, I first pulled it through to form a new loop then went through that too and grabbed the working end again and pulled it through both loops.

Chain of 6 with single crochet stitches in each.

I carried on doing this but, to be honest, it can be difficult even with wool to work out which stitch is which and with this rope it was worse so I ended up going round and round but instead of creating a flat circle I found I was making a kind of rope bag.

Rope bag developing.
Rope bag complete.

Well, with handles in the right place, it would be just the thing to carry melons! But I needed a bow protector so I took it there to see how it would fit—and whether it would work!

Flattened rope bag with long spirals of rope on either side laid on the pontoon.

I think I’d subconsciously created a sporran! If you’re observant you may have noticed that this cream rope with blue flecks isn’t the one I started with: that was tan with red & black flecks. The reason is that this one’s longer and I needed that length to attach the protector to the bow.

Bow protector in place attached to pulpit, hanging over fender strung between pontoon cleats.

Does it fit and does it work? The answer to both is YES! I went out on my first solo sail yesterday and tried the technique of keeping the throttle forward to keep her bow on the pontoon so I could tie up the stern before the bow then switching off the engine. I wouldn’t say it went perfectly smoothly but instead of a bash there was a squelch. In fairness, that could’ve been the fender but I’m sure the bow protector helped.

Next step in this R&D is to do it again, using a similar rope, and see if I can work out how to get the initial magic circle right. My idea is to develop a large flat circle with enough rope left over from the start and the working end to run from the bottom to the pulpit then back to tie onto 2 top loops. That also would keep the bow clear of more coiled rope.

Part 2

Refreshing my memory about making a magic circle with this wee YouTube video (by Bella Coco) I realised I’d forgotten the circle—the basis of the magic! So I started again. Just watch the video as she explains it better than me. Hot tip: keep the start of the rope inside the circle when you work your stitches as it’s this that you pull to make the circular shape. Since I’ve explained the next steps I’ll just post the new pics—the only differences are that I did a round of single crochet from the beginning then 2 single crochet in each stitch, and I kept pressing the work down.

At the end I decided to use bowlines to secure it and I realised I didn’t need to put in extra loops at the top as there were already so many! So I just took one in the middle and two at the top. I don’t know the length of rope I used but here it is in 14.5 loops with my size 9 flip flops to give you an idea.

Rope in loops on floor of cockpit with author’s feet in flip-flops.
Leaving a good length of rope at the start. As much as you need for a bowline and to and from the deck.

Photos (c) the Author and may be used with a link to this post.