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Old 05-08-2013, 09:51 AM   #1
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Cleat Backer Plates

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Just out of curiosity, I wondered how secure the bow cleats on were my 2005 34’ Mainship trawler since I get a lot of wind and wave action here. I googled “ripped out cleats” and got thousands of hits so this isn’t an unheard of event. I thought I’d find reinforcement under the cleats, but as photo 252 shows, there isn’t any. Sure, there’s something inside the gunwale – maybe that composite material that can be drilled and tapped, or even a sleeve inside the gunwale that the 5/16” bolts screw into, but preferring to be safe over sorry, I reinforced the cleats with ¼” marine grade aluminum plates that are 2” wide X 8” long. The OEM bolts didn’t extend past the under surface, so I found matching Phillips head (SS) bolts at West Marine and replaced (screwed) the longer bolts through the deck and used flat washer/locking washer, and locking nut. See photo 285. I would have preferred a 1 ¾” bolt, but the 1 ½” bolt from WM had was too short, so I ended up with a 2” bolt. If I were to do this again, I’d cut the bolt to 1 ¾”. There are 4 bolts on each cleat, but the 2 on the outside can’t be reached and the 2 on the inside are the ones that would get the stronger dock line pull. If I were to do this again, I would opt for a 3” wide plate – there’s room for a wider plate. Plates were $5.00; washers and nuts were $7.00. This might prevent ripped out cleats.
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Old 05-08-2013, 10:35 AM   #2
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Nice find and fix. I'm continually amazed at how some boat makers 'cheap out' when doing small things like that. Your cost now was $12. Their cost to do it right when the boat was built might have been $5-$7.

I'm not pointing fingers at Mainship, but cheaping out on stuff may be why they're no longer making boats. It doesn't take long for the word to spread on stuff like that and that's all it takes for people to walk away from buying that brand. I'm sure there are others in the business who do the same thing.

Quality endures.
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Old 05-08-2013, 10:59 AM   #3
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Agree... a few bucks in production could make the difference between a failure and a non failure... in googling "cleats ripped out" there are many other brands that have had cleats ripped out - just depends on the incident - even these would rip out under severe conditions... but, I feel like i've prevented the lesser of the rip out incidents.

Thanks for your reply,

Earl
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Old 05-08-2013, 12:02 PM   #4
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I like to incorporate a piece of plywood between the deck and metal plate...keeps the metal from point loading on the irregular glass.
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Old 05-08-2013, 01:31 PM   #5
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Good point Jeff... i can lower the plates and add a plywood plate..

thanks,
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Old 05-08-2013, 02:31 PM   #6
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Earl--- That was a VERY smart thing to do. Cleats can get a lot of strain put on them and good solid backing plates are critical to the cleat's--- and the deck's-- ability to handle it.

Shortly after buying our boat in 1998 we added three deck cleats to augment the factory installed cleats, one in the bow and one each in the aft corners of the deck. The 12" bronze cleats American Marine used when they built our boat in 1973 were still available new at the time (they are no longer available today.)

The backing plates I had made for each cleat are stainless steel, 1/4" thick, and fill the space between the fiberglass stiffeners under the subdeck. So perhaps a foot and a half square or so. The backing plates are held in place by the four cleat bolts, of course, but they are also bedded to the underside of the deck with 3M 5200.

We use the added bow cleat (the one parallel to the centerline of the boat in the photo) which has the largest backing plate of the two up front to set and break out our anchor, and it gets a LOT of strain put on it at times. Having that big, strong backing plate distributing the strain over a pretty good size area is reassuring.
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Old 05-08-2013, 02:55 PM   #7
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Thanks Marin... what I have now is better than OEM, and it wouldn't be difficult to swap out the 2" wide plates and install larger ones. Your arrangement sounds solid. From all the ripped out cleat stories I read when I googled this, it can easily happen, and it'll happen at the worst time. My guess is the cost of repair would be excessive...

Thanks,
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:46 PM   #8
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The cost of repair would approach 50 times the $10 cost you installed for is my guess.

Thanks for the idea, I'll check my cleats Friday.
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:11 PM   #9
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Roger Craig... from the google hits i read - no one make or model had this happen... happened across the spectum of boats.... just a matter of how severe the strain was... mine now should have many times the holding strength than OEM...

Earl
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:53 PM   #10
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I recall reading that one of the new Dashew 64's had a number of its welded cleats let go due to substandard materials or workmanship, can't remember which. So it can happen to anyone.
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:56 PM   #11
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I had an original 34(1978) and the cleats and stanchions were installed the same way except the outboard screws were thru the curve as shown in your pic.
To fix that I made plywood backing plates, and gooped them with glass reinforced bondo that took up the curved space to keep the backing plate parallel to the deck.
It worked out super....the mounts were rock solid,so much better than Mainship had them. Bottom line apparently Mainship never learned how to install cleats.
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:11 PM   #12
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I'm with Marin, I backed mine up with SS plates as I'm always worried using SS bolts with aluminum and the corrosive reaction that can result.
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:21 PM   #13
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You'd think that something so obvious would be done in production and what little extra cost there was, the buyer would gladly pay. I think that most boat owners spend a great deal of time improving what they started with - I know I'm pleased to have made this improvement and it's only the beginning.

Thanks,

Earl
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:20 PM   #14
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Yes - I think this is a fairly common shortcoming with production boats.
Besides boat security, It can be a serious safety issue as well. I know a guy who was hit by a cleat which came loose while he was being towed. It wasn't pretty.
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:33 PM   #15
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OUCH... could be a very serious injury... preventable in most cases....
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Old 05-08-2013, 10:17 PM   #16
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"Loosely" related to the topic of cleats my uncle purchased a brand new 20' Sea Ray runabout with factory equipment package. They had owned aluminum fishing skiffs their entire life. On their first trip to the lake they anchored in relatively shallow water and got it stuck tight. When the anchor refused to budge they decided to cleat it off and use the engine to pull it loose.

The factory choice of anchor line was nylon. When the anchor came loose it launched out of the water and struck my aunt in the face.

4 years and 16 surgeries later they wish the cleat had failed and/or they had done things differently. Moral is never under estimate the forces exerted on lines or cleats, especially as you increase the size of boat your used to.
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Old 05-08-2013, 10:33 PM   #17
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There are probably numerous indicents similiar to this... in the Captain's course, we saw video of ship's mooring lines that had parted... parting lines are known to have killed/injured sailors... the rule was to never be in line of a taunt halyard... never know what can happen on a boat..
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