Cleats, Chocks, Bits, and Bollards: Securing Your Vessel

Cleats, Chocks, Bits, and Bollards: Securing Your Vessel

At some point early in your maritime career, someone is going to ask you to tie a boat to something solid so it doesn't float away.

There are specific fixtures on all vessels and docks made for this purpose. We will take a short look at four of the most common and save the specialty fixtures for a little later.


These are fixtures found on docks and vessels. They are shaped like a very wide and short capital letter T.

Closed types have a solid base while open types have two closely spaced legs in the center. A line with a loop on the end can be passed through the legs and secured over the horns -- the name of the horizontal piece of the cleat.

This allows it to pull tight without the chance of working loose as it would if the loop were just placed over the cleat. Some Dock Masters frown on this because the line can abrade the dock.

The best way to tie to a cleat is with a hitch at the end of a line. They come in all sizes from the size of your little finger to the size of your leg.


These are fixtures that hold a line rather than using it as a tie point. It is found near a cleat and keeps the line in position so it does not move laterally and chafe or abrade. They are flattened loops that have a narrow opening at the top to accept and remove the line. Like cleats, these come in all sizes but are usually found aboard vessels and not on docks.


These fixtures are a solid column which is sometimes square and sometimes cylindrical. They have a crossbar that is of lesser diameter and forms a lowercase letter t. These are also called Samson posts because they are so strong. You tie to them with a hitch around the crossbar or they accept a looped line well.

Bits are mostly found on vessels near the bow and stern, they appear infrequently on docks but it isn't unheard of if there is a need to use something taller than a cleat in order to accept large diameter lines.


These are the things that look like short metal mushrooms. You can find them on docks and large ships and almost never on smaller vessels. They are made for a loop of line that is placed over the top and the slack is taken up on the other end to make the line tight.

Each of the fixtures above has a preferred method of tying. Some of the methods, such as passing the loop through the legs and over the horns of an open cleat, are suitable for heavy weather situations with strong wind and waves. Other methods like a loop should be used in calmer conditions but a hitch can be used at any time.

If you want to learn more go to our maritime glossary where you can find more than a simple definition of a term and get some insight into the context and rich maritime history.