Mooring Cleat: The Helmsman's Best Friend

A mooring cleat is a small, unassuming piece of hardware that plays a significant role in keeping your boat safe and secure. Like a loyal friend, a good mooring cleat will be there for you when you need it, holding your boat fast in rough waters and keeping you from drifting away.

But what is a mooring cleat, and how does it work? In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at this essential piece of boating equipment and find out everything you need to know about mooring cleats.

What are Mooring Cleats? And Why are they so Important?

A Mooring Cleats is a metal or plastic fixture mounted on a boat's deck. They are used to tie up the boat to a dock, a mooring, or another vessel. Mooring cleats usually have one or two horns or flat plates, which provide a secure point to attach your vessel.

Mooring cleats are designed to be used with a rope or line. The rope is tied around the cleat, and the tension from the rope keeps the cleat in place. The size and shape of the cleat will depend on your boat size and type.

What are Mooring Cleats Made of?

Mooring cleats are often made of stainless steel, aluminum, or PVC. 

Each type of material has its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, stainless steel is very strong and durable, but it is also very expensive. 

Aluminum is less expensive and is still quite strong, but it is not as durable as stainless steel. 

PVC is the least expensive option, but it is not as strong as either stainless steel or aluminum.

You should evaluate these benefits and drawbacks and choose a mooring cleat material that matches your needs

Mooring Cleat Installation

Installing a mooring cleat is a simple process that can be done in a few easy steps: 

  • First, you'll need to find a suitable location for your cleat. 
  • Once you've found the perfect spot, mark the location of the holes that will need to be drilled. 
  • Next, drill holes through the deck of your boat. 
  • Attach the mooring cleat, pass bolts through the holes, and secure them with washers and nuts. 

That's all there is to it! With just a few simple steps, you can install mooring cleats on your boat and be ready to tie up to any dock or buoy.

How do you use Mooring Cleats?

There are many ways to use mooring cleats, but the most important thing is to ensure you tie them correctly. Many knots can be used to secure a mooring line to a cleat, but the 8 knot is the most common.

  1. Take the mooring line in your hand and wrap it around the base of the cleat.
  2. Make sure the line is wrapped snugly around the cleat, with no loose ends.
  3. Take the end of the line and make a loop or bight.
  4. Pull the bight through the middle of the cleat so that it forms a second loop on the other side of the cleat.
  5. Take the end of the line and tuck it through the second loop.
  6. Pull on the line to tighten the knot. The knot should be snug against the cleat, with no loose ends.

Mooring Cleat Sizes

If you're in the market for a new mooring cleat, you might be wondering what size you need. The answer, of course, is that it depends. Mooring cleat sizes can range from small to large, as indicated below: 

  • Small 8-12 inches
  • Medium 12- 24 inches
  • Large 25- 54 inches

The size you need will depend on the size of your boat and the type of mooring you're using.

However, there are a few general guidelines you can follow when choosing a mooring cleat. For example, most small boats can get away with a small or medium-sized cleat, while larger boats need a larger cleat. 

And if you're unsure, it's always better to err on the side of caution and choose a cleat that's too large rather than too small.

Types of Mooring Cleats

Basic design

Horn cleat

The horn cleat is the most classic type of mooring cleat. It's named for its shape, which resembles a horn or anvil, and it's the type of cleat you're most likely to see on older mooring structures. Horn cleats are simple and easy to use, but they're not as elegant as other types of mooring cleats.

Cam cleat

If you're looking for an easy way to adjust your rope, then a cam cleat is a great option. Cam cleats work by pinching the rope, which allows you to easily adjust the rope without having to tie any knots. Cam cleats are also great for use in high-wind conditions, as they help to keep the rope from blowing around.

Jam cleat

A jam cleat consists of a v-shaped slot in which the line is pinched. Jam cleats are often used on sailing boats and other vessels to secure lines.

Jam cleats are available in different configurations, such as with a single slot or with multiple slots.

Special characteristic

There are 3 different types of mooring cleats depending on unique characteristics: inflatable, folding, and rotating cleats. 

  • Inflatable mooring cleats are excellent for boats that need a little extra protection from the elements. 
  • Folding cleats are perfect for boats that are frequently moved or stored.
  • Rotating cleats are ideal for boats that are moored in high winds or waves.

Number of attachments 

There are two main types of mooring cleats: those with single arms and those with double arms. 

The most common type is the single arm cleat, which has one arm that attaches to the vessel. The double arm cleat is also common and has two components that attach to the vessel's line.

Single-arm cleats are typically used for smaller boats, while double-arm cleats are better suited for larger boats.

Choosing Mooring Cleats

You'll want to consider a few factors when choosing mooring cleats for your boat. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind.

Max line or rope diameter 

First, you'll need to decide on the maximum line or rope diameter you'll use with the cleat. This will help you narrow down your options and ensure that the cleat can accommodate your line. Most mooring cleats can accommodate a rope diameter of ¼ to 1 inch. 

Custom design to meet your needs

You'll also want to consider the design of the cleat. Some cleats are more ornate than others, and you'll want to choose a design that fits your boat's overall aesthetic.


Mooring cleats can range in price from $10, $50, $100, to $150, depending on the size and material. If you're on a budget, you may want to opt for a cheaper option, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Cheaper mooring cleats may not be as durable or secure as their more expensive counterparts.

Corrosion resistance

Finally, you'll want to think about corrosion resistance. If you are mooring your boat in salt water, you'll need to choose a cleat that can withstand the elements.


How do you tie a boat to a dock without cleats?

There are many ways to tie a boat to a dock without cleats, but we recommend using cleats for the best results. Securing your boat without cleats can be dangerous and may result in your boat floating away or damage to the dock. 

That said, you'll just need something to tie the line or rope to if you don’t have a cleat installed. This can be anything from a tree branch to a piece of furniture. Just make sure it's sturdy and won't move.

 How much Weight can a Boat Cleat Hold?

The strength of a boat cleat depends on the material it is made of and its size. A standard mooring cleat can usually hold about 3-4 tonnes in line and 1 tonne laterally, while a heavy-duty cleat can hold about 3-6 tonnes in any direction. For extremely heavy loads, you may need a super reinforced cleat, which can hold up to 10 tonnes in any direction.

It is important to note that the weight a cleat can hold also depends on the condition of the cleat itself. If a cleat is old or rusty, it may not be able to hold as much weight as a new cleat. Always inspect your cleats before using them to ensure they are in good condition.

Mooring Cleat vs. Mooring Bollard vs. Mooring Bitt?

When it comes to mooring your vessel, you have a few options: cleats, bollards, and bits. But what's the difference between these three mooring options?

Cleats, bollards, and bits have different designs, and they're each better suited for different types of vessels and different weights. Cleats are typically used for lighter vessels, while bollards and bits are better for heavier vessels.

Cleats are also the simplest of the three mooring options and are typically the cheapest. Bollards and bits are more complex, and they can be more expensive.

So, which mooring option is right for you? It depends on your vessel, your budget, and your mooring needs.

Are wood mooring cleats effective?

It's a well-known fact that wood mooring cleats can be used as a way to secure your vessel. But are they practical for this purpose? Here are the pros and cons of wood cleats for you to make the decision:


  • Wood cleats look great and can add a stylish component to your mooring vessel.

  • Wood is soft and kinder to the rope.

  • Wood creates more friction for a more firm grip.Wood cleats are more inexpensive compared to other types of cleats.


  • Wood, especially the untreated type, is prone to rot when exposed to water for an extended period.  

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