Sailor Craft Knots

Ancient Art of Knot Tying Rewound for Everyday Uses

Soft Shackles

Keith HudsonComment

 

Recently the International Guild of Knot Tyers had their bi-annual meeting here in Charleston, South Carolina.  The President of our Guild arrived from France and other members came from England and a number of States including Alaska.

One of my favorite occasions took place at Charleston Rigging; a company that makes wire cable and a variety of Nylon and Dacron slings used by both the marine and building industries.  The company has a 150 ton (300,000 lbs) testing machine which we used to test our eye spliced lines.

I made some soft shackles from 3/8 inch hollow braid nylon and ½ inch dyneema.  The 3/8 inch shackle broke at 4,080 pounds and the ½ inch shackle broke at 15,090 pounds.  Using the 5:1 ratio the 3/8 shackle would have a safe work load of 750 pounds and the ½ shackle would have a safe working load of 5,000 pounds. 

The more you look around your boat, the more uses you’ll find for soft shackles and rope strops. A soft shackle can handle just about every function performed by a metal shackle; in many cases better. Soft shackles articulate better, don’t rattle around when not under load, don’t chew up toe-rails or beat up masts and decks They don’t hurt when they whack you on the head, are easier to undo and don’t have pins that fall overboard at a critical moment !

This shackle broke at 4,080 pounds.  Safe working load 750 pounds.

This shackle broke at 4,080 pounds.  Safe working load 750 pounds.

This shackle broke at 15,082 pounds.  Safe working load 5,000 pounds.

This shackle broke at 15,082 pounds.  Safe working load 5,000 pounds.

Here are some everyday uses for soft shackles and strops:

  1. Use them instead of snap shackles to secure halyards to sails.
  2. Quickly and easily attach blocks to toe-rail slots or deck padeyes.
  3. If you eye-splice the ends of your jib sheets, you can attach them to the clew ring with a soft shackle to eliminate the problem of bowlines hanging up on the shrouds while tacking.
  4. If your boat lacks mid-ship cleats a soft shackle attached to the toe-rail amidships can be used as a “soft cleat” for spring lines.
  5. A soft shackle is ideal for attaching a snubber line to anchor chain—unlike a chain hook, it will never fall off.
  6. Soft shackles can be used in place of metal hanks to attach a sail to a stay—especially useful if you have a Dyneema storm jib stay.