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What is the proper way to tie a cleat

     I may be stepping on hallowed ground with this subject, agree or disagree, it's up to you.

         Generally, I only use cleats for two things.  #1 to quickly secure the boat when coming into a slip or float.  #2 to permanently tie the boat.  This may  seem like the same two things, but they are not.

        When coming into the dock under adverse conditions, the crew may have only a split second to secure the line and move to the next line before the wind or current drags the boat out of reach.  Sometimes skippers come in too hot and snagging a wrap on a beefy cleat may be necessary to stop the boat from crashing -- another split second job.

        Once the boat is under control, #2 comes into play where I go back and redo my cleating for a permanent job.

      The accepted way to cleat a line is as follows:

         Run the line under the far horn, around the base, and then around the base under the near horn.  Do not double wrap the base.   Your line should look like a loop was dropped over the cleat.  Next take the line up over the middle of the cleat and around the far horn again, repeating figure eights across the cleat.  Finish it off, with one or more half hitches (single twist) on the horn(s).

Drawing of line tied to cleat the correct way

        The reason for not using complete or multiple wraps around the base is so that the extra  line cannot ride up during a moment of slack and then pinch tight on itself creating an overwrap that cannot be undone under load.  Sailors that have experienced an overwrap on a heavily loaded jib sheet winch will recognize this potentially disastrous situation.
        Use up any extra line with more figure eights or lead the line back to the boat, but don't leave a trip hazard across the float.

 more on this topic >>>

More thoughts subject for discussion:
My thoughts  are, as always, plagued with what if's and exceptions for not following my own advice or accepted rules.

        I believe a properly tied cleat -   first and foremost - serves a purpose. As skipper you must determine the purpose
Below are some of my requirements.
  1. Secures the line.  (this means the line won't come loose)
  2. It must be super fast to tie.
  3. Anyone can do it.
  4. Must be easy to untie under extreme load, when wet, or after extended time.
Those are my immediate needs when using a cleat. Now let's list lessor desires in my good cleating technique.

A properly tied cleat or anything for that matter has more attributes.
  1. Does not pinch fingers when applied.
  2. Looks good of course, so does not need an excuse for poor seamanship.
  3. Incorporates the lines tail, not leaving it a trip hazard.
  4. Does not harm or knot the line.
          Modern cleats come in many shapes and sizes, some disappear into the deck, some don't work at all for what they are intended.  As skippers and crew we are forced to make do with what we are handed.  Modern, slippery, sometimes thin, sometimes stretchy line, complicate things even more.

        Some cleats have a large hole in the middle making it easy to invent a new method of tying the boat to the dock, but be careful you don't create an impossible to untie jamb.

          To make things better (or worse) all the chandleries sell  dock lines with pre-spliced loops. Let me expand --  Dropping a loop over a cleat may seem simple enough until a gust or swell lifts it off setting your pride and joy free.  Shoving the bight through the loop makes a very convenient handy slip loop which handily will not lift off a cleat, but it also will be next to impossible to remove under heavy load.  I use loops, if I am making fast a semi-permanent line that I don't want removed, sometimes I regret the decision later.

            So let's wrap this up and agree that a properly tied cleat is,
  1. fast and easy to tie
  2. easy to untie under load
  3. does not slip or loosen
  4. looks good