Installing a Cleat... Need Help - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 08-08-2010
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Installing a Cleat... Need Help

I just bought a 17 foot fishing boat. Now don't worry, I am still a sailor. I just like to do a little fishing from time to time. That being said, I respect your judgement about boat maintenance much more than over on the fishing forum.

The problem is the previous owner partially pulled out the rear cleat and bent the screws when he forgot to untie the rear cleat when leaving a dock. There is no access to the cleat from inside the boat, and to make matters worse the boat is completely foam filled - not foam cored, but filled with foam to make it "unsinkable." To properly replace the cleat I would need to cut a big hole in the boat, dig out a ton of very hard closed-cell foam, install the cleat, and then patch the hole. I really don't want to have to do that.

Can I reinstall a new cleat using screws instead of bolts. The boat is kept on a trailer and rarely be tied up to a dock. When tied up it will only be for short periods of time in calm water (generally loading and unloading the boat).

Thanks for your help, even if it is for a stinkpot.
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Old 08-08-2010
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Sounds like you already know how to do it the right way but if you decide against that which also sounds like you already have, you could try expanding the area to which the cleat grabs by digging out the surface glass, filling with marine ply and epoxy covered by X glass layers and re-gell/paint.

Sometimes cleats are an integral safety piece when used to retrieve an errant overboard swimmer.
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Old 08-08-2010
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Lots of options. Hard to say for sure but I would probably try to fill inject some thickened epoxy in the holes trying to get a blob under the deck. Then put in the screws and allow to harden. Use microfibers to thicken the epoxy. You might need to open the holes a bit and use a wire to remove some of the foam under to create a cavity for the epoxy. You probably wouldn't be able to ever remove it again however. Cleats should have backing plates but hard to say whether a 17 foot power boat was built with them.

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Old 08-08-2010
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No need to apologize for liking stinkpots. They have their place -- especially the fishing variety.

Sorry, but I don't like the idea of re-attaching that cleat with screws into the fiberglass. Despite how you expect to use it, it will only be a matter of time before it gets a good yank and tears out again -- maybe making things worse than they are now.

Some builders do use screws for attaching deck hardware, but they normally will have a backing plate with tapped threads that the screws set into, rather than relying on grabbing into the fiberglass (which doesn't really work well).

There has got to be some way to minimize the invasive procedure of getting access to the back side of that cleat. Or, could the cleat be re-mounted in a somewhat different location, where access is better? Whatever you end up doing, be sure to add a backing plate.

Hopefully MaineSail or another savvy maintenance guru will come along and offer some better suggestions. Good luck!
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What about getting a 1/2" drill bit, and drilling completly through that section of the cap rail/deck edge? Then, using good old ziplock baggies (epoxy doesn't stick to them) you could 'plug' each end and fill it with epoxy. Let the epoxy dry, then you could drill/tap it for screws. The better plan would be to throughbolt the cleat, but there again, you could just drill right through that epoxy plug with no mess and no concern about crushing the foam.

Of course, using a 3/4" bit or larger is always good.. it's rather dependent on what amount of space is available in your work area.

Hopefully I did at least a halfway decent job of explaining that whole thing.. it's really quite simple.
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Old 08-08-2010
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Why not use something like a toggle bolt to fasten the cleat. It isn't ideal, but it is a hell of a lot better than relying on screws in relatively brittle fiberglass. I'm thinking of something like this:



Which would be relatively easy to install, and if you wanted more security with it, you could always inject thickened epoxy around it to secure it to the hull and prevent any water intrusion.

It is essentially retrofitting a tapped metal plate into the hull as JRP mentioned builders sometimes do.
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Thanks for the advice everyone. Never thought about toggle bolts before - that may do the trick.
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Using something like that will at least spread the load out a bit more than the screws would, and not be dependent on just the strength of the threads biting into brittle fiberglass.
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a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

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A good secure way of handling the cleat is to remove the existing cleat, create a new base out of fiberglass reenforced plywood and glass the whole assembly in place. No worries about the ability to take a strain.
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You can get those togglers in stainless, I was surprised to see them in West Marine! However my choice would be to use a RivNut. A Rivnut works like a pop rivet. It has a head on it and internal threads. You use a threaded mandrel with an inexpensive tool that you tighten up to expand the back end of the rivnut. Then you unthread the mandrel and put your bolt it. Rivnuts work very well in fiberglass. If it ever gets damaged you use the same size drill to drill through it, and just install a new one. McMaster Carr among others sell them.

For lighter loads than a cleat I also recommend SwellNuts. Similar to a RivNut but made from rubber with a brass insert. They seal completely and won't crack the fiberglass, tolerate lots of vibration, and can be replaced at any time. Great for fastening interior hardware to fiberglass liners inside the boat, especially if foam filled.

Gary H. Lucas
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