Deck hardware and toes (especially bare ones) just do not play well together. I don’t know about you, but my feet are stub veterans when it comes to hardware — especially cleats. So it’s worth taking a look at alternatives to these necessary nautical appendages, especially if you’re thinking of an upgrade, retrofitting, or considering them as a new boat option. Here’s what to look for when stub-proofing your decks and making them sexy, sleek and smooth.
Flush deck cleats are available in three styles: pop-up, pull-up and folding. When properly installed, any one of them is equal in strength and reliability to standard deck-mount hardware. Which is best? From a working prospective, they are all equal. These are arranged using the coolness factor.
Pop-Up: This is probably the most popular style. With the push of a button, the concealed spring-activated cleat snaps up into its working position. Stowing it is just as easy — simply push it down into its recessed base. One drawback: This cleat requires a serious hole in the deck to accommodate the base. Occasional flushing of the base with fresh water will help keep the mechanism in good working order.
Pull-Up: Similar to the pop-up, but not quite as cool. To expose the recessed cleat, thumb and forefinger half-moon openings allow you to grasp the horn and pull up. These stow by pushing down. Fat-fingered skippers might find these tricky: Try them out at a boat show if you can. Depending on size, installation requires three or four holes to be drilled through the deck.
Folding: The easiest alternative to standard deck-mount cleats is the folding cleat. It should have two holes to accommodate stainless-steel machine screws with locknuts and fender washers. Using a proper backing plate is even better. It’s a fast installation and does the job. A push of the release button will spring the cleat into its working position.
There’s only one choice if you’re looking to smooth out the decks, and that’s the folding version. Again, if it’s a question of look, they are worth the energy. From a practical standpoint, however, chocks should be ready the moment they are needed. For anchoring, time is not an issue; for docking or towing, however, the concentration should be on the activity because setup time is often short. Installation is simple. Drill a couple of holes, use sealant to prevent leaking below deck and screw it in.