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Gear test: Kennedy tie-downs

Securing the variety of gear that needs to stay put on a boat can be a daunting task. I prefer using a rigid mounting system as opposed to bungee cords or sail ties whenever possible, but locating a flexible, well-made solution has been difficult.


Recently I located a tie-down system that appeared promising, so I contacted the manufacturer — Kennedy Products, of Pompano Beach, Fla. — which agreed to send me samples to work with. Kennedy offers a series of stainless steel components that can be easily adapted for securing many portable items on board, from coolers to chairs to buckets, while using a minimum number of individual parts.

The root of the Kennedy system is the deck plate. Die cast of 316 stainless steel, it measures 3/16 inch thick, 7/8 inch wide and 2 inches long. It is drilled and countersunk to accept two No. 10 mounting screws or bolts, and a center hole is threaded to accept all of Kennedy’s 1/4-inch-by-20-tpi accessories. The plate’s exposed edges are rounded and polished. These are solid stainless steel plates that are certainly capable of securing any loads that would be held by 1/4-inch fasteners.

Several accessories, all made of 316 stainless steel, are available for threading into the deck plates: eyebolts for turnbuckle installation, T-bolts that will accept 1-inch-wide nylon strap for securing various equipment, and an eyebolt/rubber washer combination for securing a bucket or pail. Turnbuckles with an adjustment range between 8 inches and 13 inches and hooks on both ends can be used to secure an assortment of coolers and chairs. All of the components are offered both individually and in prepackaged kits for specific applications, such as securing coolers, bait wells, buckets and chairs. Kennedy also offers a universal adaptor that simplifies turnbuckle installation on items that may otherwise be inconvenient to secure, such as coolers with rope handles.

To provide a secure mounting base, proper installation of the deck plate is critical. As with any hardware installed on your boat, care must be taken to locate a suitably strong mounting location so that the fasteners don’t pull out, and the fasteners should be properly bedded.

The cooler kit consists of two deck plates, two turnbuckles and two eyebolts. Begin by installing the plates to the boat deck on both sides of the cooler, then screw the eyebolts into the deck plates and hook one end of the turnbuckle into the eyebolt and the other end into the eye on the cooler. Adjust the turnbuckle as needed, and you’re done.

There are concerns that could arise with a system like this, but my testing showed that Kennedy’s tie-downs are up to the task. The depth of thread on eyebolts, deck plates and turnbuckles is appropriate, and the turnbuckle hooks are strong enough to not open further under load. I assembled two deck plates, two eyebolts and one turnbuckle, then suspended 75 pounds from the assembly. Adjustment of the turnbuckle was still possible, and the hooks didn’t distort. I would be confident using the products as long as the deck plates are properly installed.

One word of caution: The threaded section of the eyebolt can extend completely through the plate, which would allow the eyebolt to dig into the deck surface below or compromise the mount integrity. I recommend fully assembling the parts, then trimming or filing off any additional length from the eyebolt.

Kennedy tie-downs are available directly from the manufacturer, and the retail price for the cooler tie-down kit is $33. Accessories are listed individually on the company Web site,