Gunwale Guard Basics

Gunwale Guard Basics

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Rub A Dub Dub!

As boaters, we all know that feeling. That feeling of approaching the dock, stomach clenched, knowing chances are there’s likely to be some sort of an impact.

We have no idea if it will be light or heavy, yet our stomach is clenched nonetheless in anticipation of what’s about to happen. And what the outcome will be. Depending on the protection you have in place, it can make all the difference between either a hard or a soft landing. And the results thereafter.

The following is a quick break down of the protection available for different applications, all in hopes of making your next impact just another shot across the bow.

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Rub Rails

Rub rail is the term commonly used for solid type rail guards, and they serve a dual function on any boat. Primarily, the rub rail offers a fendering surface on the outermost edge of the gunwale, saving structural surfaces and finishes from impact damage. Secondly, rub rails provide aesthetic accent to contour lines on the boat.
Most rub rails are positioned along the deck to hull joint of the boat, as this is a crucial seam on the vessel, and a point of vulnerability. Since gunwale guards experience high wear, it is occasionally replaced as needed or during refinishing projects.
Many manufacturers offer direct OEM replacements for popular boat models. Replacement is a 2 person procedure, and can be easily accomplished with a little guidance.
Several types of rub rails are available pre-fabricated, such as the following: rigid vinyl, semi-rigid vinyl, flexible vinyl, aluminum and stainless steel. Most rails have final finish pieces like inserts, overlays and end caps. Or you can design your own attractive custom rail with half round and flat stock capped onto wood molding.
Quality rub rails will incorporate key features. Attributes like high grade vinyl, UV inhibitors, plasticizers, fungicides, impact modifiers and additives to increase weather resistance.

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Fabric Gunwale Guards
Most folks refer to the softer cushioning type of edging as gunwale guards. Canvas type gunwale guards are a great finish for traditional boats and dinghies. In appearance it resembles fire hose, but has a foam backing that adds excellent cushion. Gunwale guards also make excellent protection for dock edges, platforms, pilings or anywhere it’s needed.
Modern fabric gunwale guards are backed by a spongy rubber foam that doesn’t hold water and stands up to the marine environment. Fabric is tenaciously bonded to the foam backing cushion, typically a polyester fabric resistant to chemicals and staining and also cleans easily.
The guard is either half round for flat surfaces or 3/4 round for laying over rails and thinner gunwale edges. Expected lifespan for quality gunwale guards is 8 seasons or better under average usage.

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Flex Trim and Vinyl Trim
Flexible vinyl or plastic trimming is a simple trim solution for hard edges. It neatly caps over edges on plexiglass, fiberglass, metal or glass.
This is a commonly used edging around access hatches, anchor lockers and such. It offers the benefits of quick installation and easy finish.

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Keelguard is a sacrificial strip adhered to the keel line of boats. It protects the keel of beached boats from sand and stone abrasion, the type of minor damage which will compromise gelcoat and lead to more complicated damage.
The concept is similar to sacrificial strips used on dinghies and rowboats which are dragged up a beach or dock. Many boaters adhere or fasten thin strips of wood or starboard for the boat to ride upon while dragging over ground.


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