Examining the Need and Benefits of Mooring Cleats

November 16, 2022

To secure something that sits atop a constantly undulating waterscape is a daunting task. The fluid nature of water necessarily means that whatever you're trying to secure will be subject to the rising and falling of the water, which can be placid one day and extremely rough on another. Just like the lines that are used in this process of securing must be exceedingly strong, durable and weatherproof, so must the cleats, to which those lines are attached, be, as well.

What Is a Nautical Cleat?

Simply put, a cleat is a nautical device for securing a rope. This simple definition belies not only the complexity, but also the power, of this little device.  Cleats are one part of a larger system, in which a vessel is secured to another thing. Cleats are used in the nautical realm for mooring, docking, towing a dinghy or securing a halyard, among other uses. While sailing is the fun part, properly docking the boat is no less important.

What Is a Mooring Cleat?

A mooring cleat is a device that is employed to moor a vessel on water to something, which has the effect of securing that vessel. To moor a vessel means to make fast that vessel with lines or anchors. It is the act of lassoing, tethering or otherwise securing a vessel to a fixed object, such as a mooring buoy or a dock.

The cleat, then, is that thing that is screwed to a boat or a dock, which a rope or line is then wrapped around and pulled tautly. Mooring cleats must be sturdy and extremely well connected to the vessel or structure to which they are attached.

A mooring cleat, on a dock, is located on the edges of that dock, adjacent to where the vessel will sit when it is moored. Because docks can often be teeming with activity, these cleats are necessarily out of the way of foot traffic. However, there still exists a trip hazard, especially when somebody is reaching with their body right at the edge of the dock, trying to catch a line as it is being thrown in. For that reason, flip-up cleats exists, which fold down and out of the way while they are not in use.

How Does a Nautical Cleat Work?

Nautical cleats respond to the lag as well as the force that is applied to them by remaining absolutely still. They cannot crack and fall apart and they must hold to the surface to which they've been attached. To accomplish this, cleats are made of stern material and attached with multiple screws.

How Are Cleats Tested?

Cleats are often made from heavy metal, such as steel, aluminum, zinc or bronze. These materials are resistant to the weather and to water. They may be wet, dry or freezing and they'll still perform their essential task. They are often tested against the levels of pressure and torque that will be applied to them over time by the different angles at play, regarding the fixing lines.

It would be easy to see how an object responds to something consistently pulling at it from one angle. Cleats, however, must respond to being pulled straight ahead, to the left or to the right at various angles. Angles of pull can carry from zero degrees to 45 degrees to 90 degrees.

When cleats are tested against different kinds of pull pressure, the pulls are dependent on lots of variables, from wind to current and everything in between. For a cleat to maintain its integrity, load distribution must be evaluated. To this point, the seating of the fasteners relative to the exact center of the holes in the cleat has a direct effect on load distribution and consequently the amount of stress placed on any given part of the cleat.

Cleats are one of the most important parts of the nautical world because they aim to keep things precisely where they belong. They are tested against the various angles by which the force of wind and water will work on them. Cleats are made from the toughest and most durable materials because they must hold for huge amounts of time while without any supervision.

Nautical cleats don't just keep vessels from floating away. Working in conjunction with a taut line, cleats, when properly fashioned and employed, keep vessels from slamming into each other, even in tight spaces. They may be one of the most trusted elements in the nautical world.


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