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Old 08-18-2019, 12:49 PM   #1
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Cleat failure, your experience

This thread is a direct result of the bridle and snubbing post. Some commented on cleat failure; I've never had this happen to me or any of my friends.

If this has happened to you, what were the circumstances, was your cleat undersized, and did the cleat have a backing plate (I know many older boats, including mine didn't)?
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:08 PM   #2
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Never had a cleat failure. Don't know anyone who has.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:11 PM   #3
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I've seen it happen (scary!), but it's never happened to me. Saw a cleat pull out for lack of a backer plate. Also saw the horn snap off a cheap pot metal cleat. If it ain't stainless steel, I'm not interested.

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Old 08-18-2019, 01:15 PM   #4
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I have had a few cleats pull out when towing and they were the only real points of attaching a towline/bridle. Seen a few break or bend too.


Heck, one boat I towed after it flipped in an inlet (righted it and got it mostly pumped out)...the deck was so rotten...both bow and both midship cleats pulled....actually think thats where I saw one break...then when I popped the hatch and used a 2x6 across inside...it pulled the hatch apart.....then when I tied a line in through the hatch and out the anchor hawse....it started pulling the whole foredeck off.


Yeah...that boat had not seen a good life when I finally tried to rescue it.... shoulda just let Davey Jones inherit it. ... that was a long day!
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:24 PM   #5
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Absolutely stainless steel instead of pot metal for cleats. And a substantial backing plate under the deck. I butter the plate with thickened epoxy before installation so that the backing plate is in complete contact with the deck bottom. Otherwise there can a bump in the bottom of the deck that can leave a gap between the backing plate and the bottom of the deck. That could put a lot of stress on that spot. I checked my stern cleats and found one of them loose. I had to cut an access hole in the top of a cabinet in the aft stateroom in order to get to the nuts. Found that they used free running nuts without a lock washer. They did use a backing plate though. They are almost impossible to reach even with the hole I cut. I had to buy a set of long metric open end wrenches and grind the correct wrench so that it was about 1/16” thick in order to slide it into the area. Took several hours but finally got the cleat tight. Will be checking it regularly from now on.
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:45 PM   #6
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The aft (vs bow) cleats on my boat are on the rail, not the deck. Adding a pair through the deck is on the short-term to do list.

They were apparently originally secured only from the top with some type of wood anchor and screws. One, or maybe both, of them popped out during a storm on the prior owner, who subsequently drilled through the gunwale to get access and thru-bolted them. I'm not sure whether it was he or the brightwork folks -- but by the time I took notice, only two of the 4 bolts in each cleat had nuts and there were no washers or backer plates.

Unfortunately, I took notice because I mistied the boat and a low, low tide came around. I was still used to California boating where all of the docks float, didn't think, and tied the boat too tight at a non-floating dock in Florida, where such things are more common. The next morning, I looked out back and saw the cleat half pulled out.

I added washers and nuts. I couldn't get a backer plate in there, but the wood was thick and solid. None-the-less, the rail is probably not the right place to secure the boat for a storm. I plan to add a couple of cleats with backer plates through the deck

I feel like I got really lucky by mistying the boat that day. Otherwise, it could have been the storm that showed me -- and that could have been expensive!
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:31 PM   #7
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I had one ear bend a little but noticeable amount during a hurricane on my Nordhavn. I was not onboard at the time. One of the few hurricanes I spent elsewhere. I figured it was my fault and should have given that like a bit more slack.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:06 PM   #8
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I bent a large stainless steel hawse cleat docking in 30knot winds once on a Queenship. No damage to the outside hawse hole or the hull just the interior cleat and cleat ears. They look substantial but are no match for 75,000 lbs boat and 1250 hp....
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Old 08-19-2019, 08:03 AM   #9
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" I butter the plate with thickened epoxy before installation so that the backing plate is in complete contact with the deck bottom. Otherwise there can a bump in the bottom of the deck that can leave a gap between the backing plate and the bottom of the deck'.

Good concept , what is flat to SS or bronze hardware is probably not flat on a GRP boat.

A piece of very hard rubber (1/8thick will do) under deck mounted items helps spread the loads and stop hard to find leaks.Cleats , windlass ,water ot diesel fills.

Change the rubber every 6 -8 years when you refresh the bedding under deck mounted hardware.
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Old 08-19-2019, 08:45 AM   #10
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Seen it happen first hand in a towing situation way back in the day. Amazing how far and fast that snapped back towards the towing boat; lucky it didn't bonk someone.

Much more common is the slow loosening of the cleat into the deck, driving the need to re-bed them and'in some cases repair the deck from resultant water intrusion.
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Old 08-19-2019, 10:06 AM   #11
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Had a 1978 Islander Freeport sailboat years ago. Had big 10" bow cleats that were black anodized cast aluminum. Being towed once, bow dropped down into a wave and both horns of one of the bow cleats snapped right off and flew into the air. Fortunately no glass damage so replaced with a 10' stainless cleat.
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Old 08-19-2019, 11:08 AM   #12
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10' stainless cleat

That's some cleat. I don't think ocean liners even have one that large.
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Old 08-19-2019, 11:31 AM   #13
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Was using a Bertram 54 to tow a 20-something foot boat from Abaco to NC, all offshore.

Got into some weird seas and tow stuffed its bow. Super strain on tow line. A stern cleat ripped its tabbing from the Berty hull and cleat snatched upward against hawse hole in gunnel cap. Did not break the cap, so tow line was still intact. Got tow un-swamped and carried on.

The cleat was on a block tabbed to the hull. Structurally it was poorly done and weak.
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Old 08-19-2019, 11:34 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rsn48 View Post
10' stainless cleat

That's some cleat. I don't think ocean liners even have one that large.
10 inchers? Absolutely!



Hatteras glassed in a big thick backing plate along the entire gunnels of the boat for both cleats and stanchions. All you had to do was tap it if you wanted to add or move any of the above.
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Old 08-19-2019, 12:26 PM   #15
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10' is ten feet, 10" is ten inches.
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:17 PM   #16
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In new yachts, cleats are designed and installed to hold docking lines and nothing else. Even then they can fail in bad conditions. If you're going to use them for towing or a bridle you'd better inspect how they're fastened and see if there's any real backing. And you want to inspect them during periods of strain to see how the surrounding deck is taking the strain. The strain on a cleat needs to be shared with the boat structure not just a piece of deck. It's not easy to make proper cleat support pretty in most of the current yachts.


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Old 08-19-2019, 02:01 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lepke View Post
It's not easy to make proper cleat support pretty in most of the current yachts.
Got that right. Ugh, the number of ways I've seen cleats set up on recreational boats... they're awful. Way too much form and not enough function, let alone safety.

Those vertical cleats on the declining stern sections of the gunwales are the one I hate the most. Just ripe for someone to fall on and/or catch something inside the horn of the cleat... ouch.

But I've yet to see a cleat failure, and hope I never do. The force carried during towing, yikes, I don't ever want to be near a cleat that lets go under tension. I've seen hooks fail when winching out while out four-wheeling, but thankfully without anyone getting injured.
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Old 08-19-2019, 02:36 PM   #18
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We had a SAR case where the cleat was mounted on the slanted glass from the deck to the swim platform. I guy jumped overboard and caught his wedding ring on the cleat. It ripped his finger off and pulled a tendon out from way up in his arm. The ring, finger and a big ball of fuzzy looking muscle (I guess) were still hooked on the cleat. We took him and his detached finger to the dock and EMS. Never did hear how it turned out but I am leery of cleats mounted like that ever since.
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Old 08-26-2019, 02:30 PM   #19
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I was coming across Cook Straight between the North and South islands of New Zealand, wind piped up really nasty as it tends to do there and I pulled into Palliser bay. Wind was hanging around 55 to 50 Kts with higher gusts. (I found out later Palliser bay is NOT the place to anchor as wind tends to funnel down thru it.)

I was up at the anchor, checking the chafe gear, sitting next to the windlass when there was a BANG, and something hit my lip, cutting it open. The Snubber line was tied to a cleat, the cleat ripped the bolts thru the deck, a couple breaking, one flew in front of me, cutting my lip, the cleat and line hit the haws pipe and stuck. (I still have it, bent about 45 degrees).

This was an 80' Palmer Johnson, the deck was aluminum with teak decking on top, aluminum backing plates welded below.

I was lucky I was not leaning a bit more to starboard.
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Old 08-26-2019, 04:07 PM   #20
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I haven't had a cleat fail on me, but I bent a 1 1/4" diameter stainless bollard 45 degrees when anchored in a big swell.

Luckily, it held without any damage to the deck. I re-cored that section of the deck and installed a good backing plate a few years earlier.
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