July 25, 2013

Cleats and the bottom line

BOATBUILDERS ARE notoriously mean with the size of cleats they supply. Perhaps they have daintier fingers than common sailors or use thinner lines but I think it far more likely that it’s the bottom line that makes their decision for them.

They fear the wrath of the firm’s ferocious financial manager much more than the complaints of a wimpy bunch of sailors, so they inevitably install smaller, cheaper cleats that simply won’t accept a decent couple of turns of a jib sheet or main halyard with a locking turn on top.

Now we shouldn’t have to put up with this. There are enough frustrations on small sailboats without our having to wrestle with piddling, undersized cleats on a bucking, heeling deck.

Throw the little monsters out. Give them to your dinghy-racing friends. Replace them with sailor-sized cleats and bolt them firmly in place.

The length of a proper cleat is 16 times the diameter of the line used with it. That means nothing less than a 6-inch cleat for 3/8-inch line, or an 8-inch cleat for a half-inch anchor line.

And incidentally, if you fasten a cleat so that it’s angled about 15 degrees across the line of pull, the line won’t jam on itself.
Today’s Thought
Size is a matter of opinion.
— George Meredith, Richard Feverel
Confucius say fat in human like sugar in coffee — always settle on bottom.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Anonymous said...

Hi John , thanks for that tip. I'm installing a new bow cleat, do you have suggestions for the size of the backing plate? I'm thinking it should be very near the chain locker bulkhead and tied in someway.

John Vigor said...

My favorite backing plates have been made from 1/8th thickness aluminum plate. It's easy to cut and drill, and won't react with stainless steel fasteners if you dip the bolts in an anti-seize compound or lanoline and keep it dry.

I would make it at least the length of the cleat itself and twice the width of the cleat footprint.

I guess the best place would be just aft of the chain locker bulkhead, but that bulkhead isn't going to add much to the holding power of the cleat.

I once had a Santana 22 on which I installed a proper post of 2" x 2" white oak, protruding about 5 inches above the foredeck and running down behind the anchor locker bulkhead and bolted to it at intervals. That added a lot of strength. Overkill, actually, but very shippy.

The strain on your cleat would be all in shear and thus very strong. You would literally have to pull the foredeck forward, off the topsides, before anything failed. Therefore no real need to tie it into the bulkhead.

John V.