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Sailboat Cam Cleat Accessories Explained | Expert Advice

Cam cleats are the preferred cleat for lines frequently adjusted under hand loads. They have high working loads, strong holding capability, and are easy to use. For many applications, mounting a cam cleat and running a line straight through the cleat jaws is all it takes. When there are uneven surfaces, unfair leads, and odd angels the crew must cleat and uncleat a line from, you will appreciate the many cam cleat accessories available and the utility they offer.

Cam cleats perform best with a fair led line:

  • Enters straight into the cams
  • On the same plane as the cam base
  • Exits straight out of the back of the cams
  • Mounted to a flat surface

If one of these criteria is not met, you should consider one of the following cam cleat accessories.

NOTE: The accessories reviewed here are for Harken and Ronstan, size medium cam cleats. These are the most popular cam cleats and accessories and readily available.  Many of these accessories are also available for size small cam cleats. Very few are available for size large or offshore cam cleats.

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Choosing Cam Cleat Placement and Accessories

  1. Location – Be sure to choose a cleat mounting location that is easiest to reach and operate the line in the cleat. Think through the most demanding type of sailing conditions where you need to use the cleat. Do you need to lead the line to a different location with blocks? Back to the cockpit for safety?
  2. Line Lead – The line leading back (guided by turning blocks) to the cleat should be at or a little below the plane of the cleat if possible.
  3. Risers & Wedges – For lines leading to the cam cleat at a positive angle (from above the plane of the cleat), choose either a riser, wedge or both to achieve a neutral or negative line angle entry.
  4. Line/Cleat Dedication – Cam cleats are almost always dedicated to a single line. This line should be captive to the cleat to prevent tangles and make locating the line fast and easy. Choose either a line guide, eye strap, or fairlead to keep the line dedicated to the cleat and always ready for adjustment.
  5. Remote Cleating – If you will be cleating and uncleating a line off center, choose a fairlead for off-center cleating. With this option, the line dedicates to the cleat and becomes accessible at off angles.

Wedges

Wedges are primarily designed to angle the cleat back, and away from a loaded line. If a line enters a cam cleat from a positive angle (above the plane of the cleat), over time with dynamic loading as the boat pounds through waves, the line can ‘POP’ out of a cam cleat. The greater the positive angle, load, a pulsing dynamic load is the higher the chance the line can work itself up and out of the cams. To prevent this, add a wedge(s), such that the line is entering on the same plane, or at a slight negative angle.

In some applications, a line may be entering a cam cleat at an extremely negative angle. This can make a highly loaded line difficult to pull up and out of the cams. To correct this, a wedge can angle the cam cleat forward to reduce, but not eliminate, the negative angle. This will make uncleating easier.

illustration-ronstan-wedge

Image courtesy of Ronstan

ronstan cleat wedge

Ronstan Cleat: Wedged forward / Wedged aft

3 Wedges Aft / 3 Wedges, 1 opposed- 1 small flat riser & 1 angled aft / 2 opposed wedges

Ronstan wedges have an 11-degree angle.  You can stack them up to three (3) wedges high to form up to a 33-degree angle; two counter faced as a small riser with no angle, or one of three counter faced to create a small riser with an 11-degree angle.

Harken cleat: wedged forward / wedged aft

Harken wedges have a 15-degree angle, but cannot be stacked.

Risers

Risers help reduce ‘knuckle drag’ on the deck by raising the cleat up and away from the deck. This makes getting a line down into the cams much easier.  They are also used to reduce the negative angle of a line entering the cleat by raising the cleat up to the same plane as a line.

Harken Riser

The Harken riser is 9/16” high.  It does not allow you to add a wedge to it and is used only to raise the cleat.

Harken  Angled Riser

The Harken wedged riser angles the cleat forward 15 degrees. This is useful when a line is coming from an overly negative angle into the cleat.  For example, a cleat with an angled riser may be mounted on the edge of a cockpit seat towards a line coming from the cockpit sole beneath (excessive negative angle).  Lines entering a cleat with an overly negative angle can be more difficult to uncleat, as the line load wants to keep the line down in the cams.  Reducing the severity of this negative angle will make uncleating under load easier.

NOTE: Harken does not offer a riser with a back angle, nor can this riser be reversed to create the effect.

Ronstan Riser/Adapter

The Ronstan riser is 5/8” high.  You can add an additional wedge to the riser to angle the cleat back if needed.  A Ronstan wedge can be added to the top of the riser to angle the cleat forward or aft if need be.

NOTE: The Ronstan riser also serves as a mast/boom curved adapter (see below).

Mast/Boom Adapters

Harken Adapter

Harken’s aluminum adapter plate raises the cleat slightly off the spar to improve ease of cleating.  The plate has a center mounting hole used to attach it to the mast with a drilled/tapped hole and a machine screw.  Then the two cleat mounting machine screws are added to their mast drilled/tapped holes – very strong.

Ronstan Adapter / Riser

Ronstan’s adapter/riser uses the two cleat mounting machine screws to attach to the spar with drilled/tapped holes.  The adapter is made of a fiber reinforced injection molded material and has a higher profile than the Harken.

TIP: If you will have a line running through the cams of the cleat when you are hauling it in (as opposed to hauling it in out of the cams, then cleating when finished hauling in), you should always use an aluminum or stainless cam cleat to reduce wearing out the cam teeth.  Fiber and carbon injection molded cleats will have a shorter lifespan in this type of application.

Line Guides

Harken Line Guide  / Ronstan Line Guide

These low profile wire line guides will keep an uncleated (unloaded) line attached to the front of the cleat.  This reduces tangles and makes finding the line to be cleated on a dedicated cam cleat quick and easy.

Note: These guides are not designed to redirect a loaded line that is not fairly led to the cleat.

Line Eyestraps

Harken Eye strap / Harken Low Profile Eye strap

Ronstan Eye strap

 

Stainless steel eye straps are a classic way to keep uncleated lines associated with their dedicated cam cleat.  They also allow you to pull-in a lightly loaded line at an angle (up, or off center) prior to cleating it.  Most manufacturers will have a standard fairlead that is tall.  Harken also has a low-profile eye strap for less line and clothing snagging.

Line Fairleads

Harken Fairlead / wear wire

Ronstan Fairlead / wear wire

 

These are molded ‘eye straps’ that serve the same purpose as stainless fairleads, but they are smother and lower profile.  These also have a wire on the underside that keeps lines from wearing away at the fiber reinforced body of the eye strap.  Fairleads are smoother on the underside and will allow you to pull in a light to medium loaded line at an angle (up, or off center), prior to cleating.

Harken colored fairleads

Tip: Harken offers five different colors to make crew directions easier.  “Raise the topping lift on the red cleat”

Fairleads for Off-Center-Cleating

There are many times onboard when you need to cleat or uncleat a line but you are not able to pull the line from directly behind the cam cleat.  It could be that you are sitting on the rail, adjusting a line across the cockpit, or hiking out on a dinghy and cannot lean in to make the adjustment.  These fairleads allow you to cleat a line down into the cams from up to a 990-degreeangle away from the cleat and uncleat a line up and out of the cams from the same angles.

Ronstan Front Mounted Fairlead: cleating / uncleating

Ronstan has a fiber reinforced fairleads for lighter loaded lines.  This ‘cage’ snaps onto the cam cleat, and allows for cleating and uncleating from up to 90 degrees from the cleat.

Ronstan Heavy Duty Fairlead: cleating / uncleating

Ronstan’s wire and molded fairlead offers the same functionality as the fiber reinforced version, but can be used with highly loaded lines.

Harken X-Treme Angle Fairlead: cleating / uncleating

The X-treme angle fairlead from Harken allows cleating and uncleating from up to 90 degrees from the cleat.  It relies on a thick gauge rod-arch that is held into place by a molded cap. This fairlead works well with highly loaded lines.

Harken Fast Release Fairlead: cleating / uncleating

Harken’s Fast Release fairlead offers the same functionality as the X-treme angle fairlead, but is lower profile and has more clearance between the cam and the top of the stainless rod. This prevents possible unwanted recleating of larger diameter lines and friction on a free running line.  Ideal for spinnaker halyard take-downs or anywhere a fast release and line running are crucial.

 

Through Deck Cam Cleat Fairlead

Allen Thu-Deck Fairlead w/ Harken Cam Cleat

Through Deck Cam Cleat mounts allow you to lead a line through a deck or a spar to a cam cleat all in one assembly.  Drill a hole in the mounting surface for the line fairlead tube to insert into, then mount the cam cleat by thru bolting to the deck (four fasteners) or by drill/tapping the spar.  If you have control lines lead under deck, these are a clean way to bring them back on deck for cleating.  If you have a flat boom underside, try mounting one of these for your outhaul.  They are available for size small and medium cam cleats.

Under Deck Mounts

Servo Underdeck Mount: cleating / uncleating

This under deck mount kit allows you to mount a cleat under the deck or the cockpit combing to easily adjust lines that are run below.  Using these free the deck space that would otherwise be taken up with a deck mounted cleat and through-deck block or bushings.  It has tall stainless rollers on either side to allow cleating and uncleating from up to a 90-degree angle from the cleat.  They are available for use with the Servo 11 (small), and Servo 22 (medium) sized cam cleats.  Good for small keep boat travelers, backstays, and other control lines.  NOTE: Servo cleats have different mounting hole spacing, so these must be used with Servo cam cleats.

Shop Cam Cleat Accessories

*Product illustrations courtesy of Ronstan

 

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