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.
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.