Making a Dyneema Soft Shackle Cleat for the Boat

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As with many older boats, our project Norlin 34 has no cleats amidships for spring lines. I’ve often felt the lack of them when coming alongside a dock or leaving the boat in a slip—making spring lines fast to winches or genoa sheet cars isn’t ideal, and securing them to stanchion posts is a huge no-no.

One day I was dreaming up applications for a Dyneema soft shackle I had lying around when inspiration struck. As you can see from the photos, the soft shackle makes an ideal soft cleat. I loop it through a slot in the toerail just aft of amidships, secure my spring lines to it with bowlines, then adjust them at the dock cleats.

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Dyneema is extremely strong and highly chafe resistant, so I’ve never been worried about leaving the boat for a day or two. The direction of pull means that the toerail is never too heavily loaded, especially if you tension the spring lines so they work against each other. As a bonus, you can also lead a dockline through a soft shackle with a loop in its end to drop over a cleat as you come alongside, making it easy to dock singlehanded. I use a Colligo Marine Softie made from Dynex Dux with a 4,000lb safe working load, but you could easily make your own soft shackles with Amsteel or similar Dyneema line.

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