What you need to know about boat cleats
When it comes to sailing and boating, there are few items more essential than boat cleats. Boat cleats provide a secure point for mooring lines and dock lines so boats can be tied up securely without drifting away or being damaged in choppy waters. But what do you need to know about boat cleats? Let’s take a look.
What is a Boat Cleat?
Boat cleats are an essential piece of hardware for any boat or vessel. Usually made from metal or plastic and shaped like an X, boat cleats provide a secure spot for lines (ropes) to be attached. Using cleats combined with lines and ties, a vessel can be safely moored to boat docks, buoys, other ships, or even land itself.
Purpose & Use of Boat Cleats
Boat cleats are essential in keeping boats safe and secure when they’re moored or tied up at docks or buoys. Multiple lines allow you to keep your vessel steady in waters with strong currents or windy conditions by providing extra security against drifting away from its mooring point.
Additionally, it prevents damage from happening due to contact between boats or between boats and docks due to bumping around caused by waves hitting them from different directions.
The primary purpose of boat cleats is to provide a secure anchor point for mooring lines so that your vessel does not drift away from its intended location while it’s docked or moored up against another boat.
Also, boat cleats can be used to secure fenders and other items around your vessel. They also provide added security when anchoring out by helping you adjust the tension on your anchor line when using a snubber.
Different Types of Marine Cleats
Cleats designs are varied. Typically they are used to secure mooring lines, anchor lines, fenders, and other items. Examples include the standard-style cleats (also known as U-bolt style), folding cleats (also called pop-up cleats), which have hinged arms that fold flat when not in use; flush mount cleats which recess flush to the deck; a snap-down style that spring up from the deck when released; twist-off style which require you to unscrew them before use; and swivel eyelet style which has an eyelet at one end to attach a line.
Boat cleats come in various sizes and shapes—from small plastic clips to heavy-duty corrosion-resistant 316 stainless steel fittings. Each type of cleat is designed for use in specific ways and has unique advantages.
Perhaps the most common type is the deck cleat, also known as the flat or horn cleat. These are typically mounted along the gunwale, on the deck near the bow or stern. These cleats are used for tying up lines and fenders when docking or anchoring your boat.
There are also “hull-mounted” cleats, which attach to either side of the hull and are used for connecting mooring lines, anchor lines, and other items that need extra security during docking or anchoring operations.
Some additional types include:
The horn cleat is one of the most common boat cleats. It has two symmetrical horns extending outward from a flat base, typically made out of metal or plastic. This cleat is excellent for anchoring or tying up your boat, as its horns provide additional leverage when pulling tight on the rope. Additionally, it is easy to install and requires minimal maintenance.
The advantage of horn cleats is that they are relatively inexpensive and are designed to keep lines snugly secured when tying off a line. However, some people may find them too small for heavier lines or larger boats.
To use horn cleats, you loop your line around one horn and back around the other before tightening in place with a half hitch or similar knot.
This type of cleat is explicitly designed for mooring applications as it provides increased stability when anchoring boats. Mooring or dock cleats are typically made out of cast iron or stainless steel and offer superior strength and durability compared to other types of cleats due to their heavy construction materials.
This cleat is typically used on larger vessels as it can withstand greater force than other cleats. Dock cleats are made from different materials and come in various sizes and shapes, but they all feature two sides with a curved design that allows the rope to be tied in place quickly and easily.
Pros include its strength and durability, while cons include its bulkiness which may make them difficult to manage on smaller boats.
Folding cleats are ideal for smaller vessels since they fold away when not used. These sturdy pieces are made from either stainless steel or aluminium and come in various sizes for various applications.
Pros include their convenience and ability to stay out of the way until needed; however, they may need to be stronger for larger vessels or bigger ropes due to their folding design.
These are similar to horn cleats but have two arms instead of one, making them more stable than horn cleats. They also provide a better grip for larger lines because the arms fit around the rope securely when pulled tight, allowing for greater control when pulling in or releasing a line.
However, claw cleats can be more expensive than horn cleats due to their larger size and sturdier construction.
These are another popular option among boaters because they offer maximum holding power without taking up too much space on deck. As the name suggests, chock cleats feature two “chocks” which protrude from either side of their base unit; these chocks help ensure that your line won’t slip off no matter how hard you pull it when securing your vessel to a dock or anchor point.
Chock cleats aren’t as easy to conceal as pop-up units, but some models come with folding arms, making them easier to store away when not in use. They’re also pricier than other types, but chock cleats should be your go-to choice if you’re looking for a heavy duty and reliable way to secure your boat.
Open Base Cleats
These feature two arms with an open centre between them, allowing you to loop a line through both arms at once. Open base cleats are great for securing large mooring lines as they can easily accommodate multiple turns of rope or line.
Closed Base Cleats
These do not feature an opening in the centre of the arms. This makes them better suited for smaller mooring lines, as there is no room for extra turns of rope or line.
Mushroom Head Cleats
Mushroom head cleats have an extensive top, making them ideal for tying off large vessels or multiple lines at once. The wider top also provides more control when releasing tension from the mooring line, which is helpful if you need to adjust your vessel’s position in a tight space quickly.
These are also known as flush mount: Pull-up cleats offer more holding power than flat cleats and extra convenience thanks to their pop-up design. To use these cleats, you press down on the top part of the unit to open up its jaws; once it has opened up enough space for your line, you loop it around just like with a flat cleat before pushing down on the top part again to close it off securely.
The major pro with pop-up cleats is that they can be easily retracted and concealed when not in use; this makes them perfect for smaller boats where space is at a premium. However, they also tend to be more expensive than horn cleats, so they may not be suitable if you’re on a tight budget.
Why Choosing the Right Cleat Matters
When choosing boat cleats, there are several things to consider: size, material, design, placement, and cost. Size is important because it affects how intense the cleat will be—the larger the cleat, the stronger it can hold against strong winds and waves without breaking free from its mountings.
Material is also essential; marine-grade stainless steel offers superior strength, while plastic can work well in some cases but may need to be more secure in extreme conditions. Design matters, too; some designs provide better grip than others, so make sure you choose one with good gripping power if possible.
Finally, placement is critical; make sure you install them where crew members can easily reach them when needed but also far enough away from potential hazards like obstacles on deck or railings where they could get damaged during use.
Materials Used for Boat Cleats
The four most popular materials for making boat cleats are stainless steel, aluminium, nylon, and plastic.
Stainless steel is a popular choice due to its durability and corrosion resistance. It won’t rust or corrode easily in saltwater environments and can withstand harsh weather conditions. 316 Stainless steel is also strong enough to hold up against heavy loads and provides excellent holding on dock lines or other mooring ropes.
The main downside of stainless steel construction is that it requires regular maintenance and cleaning to keep it looking good, and it can be pretty expensive compared to other materials and may not be the best option if you are on a tight budget.
Marine grade aluminium is another excellent material for boat cleats because it is lightweight yet strong and corrosion-resistant. They are strong enough to withstand heavy loads while providing excellent grip on dock lines or mooring ropes.
However, aluminium is less strong than stainless steel, so it may not be suitable for large boats requiring heavier rope or line loads.
Nylon cleats are an excellent choice if you need a lightweight yet strong material for your boat cleats. Nylon has excellent corrosion resistance, which makes it ideal for use in saltwater environments, and it also offers good flexibility and durability when exposed to extreme temperatures or weather conditions.
Nylon won’t rust like metal materials but may become brittle if exposed to ultraviolet light.
Plastic is another affordable option that offers good corrosion resistance and impact resistance against waves or debris in the water. Plastic cleats are lightweight, cost-effective, and durable enough to withstand harsh conditions in the water without breaking down easily over time.
The downside of plastic is that it may be weaker than some of the other materials mentioned above, so you should consider this when deciding which material is suitable for you.
Choosing the right boat cleat is essential—it must be strong enough to handle heavy loads without breaking or becoming loose over time yet small enough not to interfere with any other equipment aboard your vessel.
It should also be constructed from a durable material that can resist saltwater corrosion without needing too much maintenance over its lifetime.
There are several different types available depending on the size of your vessel and what kind of conditions you’ll be sailing in – stainless steel being the most durable and plastic being more affordable – so it’s essential to do some research before opting for one type over another. Additionally, regular inspections and maintenance should be done to ensure maximum safety.
Now that you know a bit more about boat cleats, it’s time to put them to good use! This small but mighty hardware can make all the difference when mooring your vessel. Your boat cleats will provide years of safe and reliable service with proper installation and care. Do you have any tips for using or caring for boat cleats? Share them with us in the comments below!