Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Use a Cleat

Here’s how to properly use a cleat on a dock or onboard. It’s simple and one of the things hardly anyone does right, including racers.

Never lock a cleat by flipping the line over (as in the bottom picture, here), when onboard. The method I show here will allow you to quickly and easily let a line loose when it’s under tension and still keep it safely secured. I’ll write soon about proper cleating but here’s the basic steps:
(1) Approach the cleat at the side that gives an acute angle between the line and the cleat: That’s the far side.
(2) Run the line around the back, going under both horns to the front

Acute angle and around the back of the cleat

(3) Go over the top, holding the line in place with a thumb

Over the top of the cleat, keeping line from slipping
(4) Tuck the line under a horn and you've taken the force of the line on the cleat

Under the opposite horn of the cleat
(5) Go over the top again, going under the other horn (Sorry - I ran out of memory on my camera that day. I'll take more pics soon but you should get the idea.)
(6) Wrap the line around the base of the cleat, yanking it tight, twice. The second time, you’ll wedge the line in place. That’s it!
For docking, use steps 1-4 and then lock the line by crossing over the center, making a loop under the line and looping it over the horn of the cleat. See how I hold the line already crossed before I make the loop with my other hand? That's how I make sure the loop is made in the right direction.

Locking the cleat by looping under, once I've crossed over
You’ve done it right when the line crosses over the top, from one side to the other. Do it a second time if you’re leaving the boat for a while but the first time is secure.
There is no need to bury the cleat in loops of line - Quite the opposite, because they take so long to unwind. As with everything, keep it simple and utilitarian. Wise seamanship dictates work that is easily usable and looks neat because it's easy to use and tell when something's out of place or broken. In this case, a pile of line takes a minute or two to unwind and usually results in a tangle, when tied properly, a line can be released cleanly in a few seconds. The pile of line can also hide line that has frayed around the initial turn on the cleat and that can result in unexpected breakage and damage to the boat.

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