Sir Francis Chichester’s Cleats

11 Dec

When I first inspected my 1967 Salar 40 ketch, I noted her cleats. In my mind I said something like, "Those are some funky cleats." They were bronze and teak. I'd seen similar ones before, with bronze struts holding up a thick teak dowel, but on these cleats it wasn't a round dowel, but an oblong oval shape.

The teak was very warn and needed replacement, but I was immediately daunted by the prospect of shaping a piece of teak in that precise oval shape. After using the cleats for a few years I found that they were indeed very funky cleats, the line didn't seat very well on them, and the rough teak chewed through line. I considered replacing them with bronze or stainless cleats.

Then I spent some time in London during the summer of 2002. Like all sailors, I made my pilgrimage to Greenwich Museum to see the Cutty Sark and stand on the Zero Meridian. Sir Francis Chichester's Gipsy Moth IV was there on display (photo above).

Sir Francis began construction on Gipsy Moth IV in 1962 and launched her in 1967, the same year as my boat. He sailed her around the world solo, making just one stop, and was knighted for his accomplishment. He died a few years later, but Gipsy Moth IV remained on display in Greenwich as a monument.

Like all boats that sit in one place for years with no maintenance, she was looking pretty sad when I saw her. I wondered if there would be any similarities with my boat, since they were both built in England in the same era. There were, the cleats!

Now my boat didn't just have some funky old English cleats from the sixties, she had Sir Francis Chichester's cleats.

Several years after I saw Gipsy Moth IV, a group banded together to restore her to her former glory, and I banded together to restore my cleats to their former glory…someday. The group spent a mountain of money, and prepared Gipsy Moth IV for a second circumnavigation to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Sir Francis's. They ran her on the reef in Rangiroa, a massive salvage operation, a second restoration in Grant Dalton's America's Cup headquarters in New Zealand, yada yada, and she finally made it back to England a second time.

Finally one of my cleats gave up the ghost:

I'm sure the original cleat factory had some kind of jig to mill the teak to this precise shape. I'd have to wing it. I started with about a 1" by 2" by five foot piece of teak, long enough to replace all four of my boat's cleats. I shaped the whole thing to rough dimensions with a block plane:

Then I cut it into fourteen-inch lengths:

Then I fine-tuned with a belt sander and trial fitted the teak, oh, about a hundred times, until I got it right:

And then rebedded them on the aft deck, where they are a monument to Sir Francis Chichester, Gipsy Moth IV, and my industriousness:

The cleats on the foredeck will have to wait until I've got another day, and a lot of patience, to spare.

Gipsy Moth IV now lives in Cowes, races in classic yacht regattas, and is still on display so people can come from far and wide to admire her fine cleats.

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