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 !
Here are some everyday uses for soft shackles and strops:
- Use them instead of snap shackles to secure halyards to sails.
- Quickly and easily attach blocks to toe-rail slots or deck padeyes.
- 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.
- 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.
- A soft shackle is ideal for attaching a snubber line to anchor chain—unlike a chain hook, it will never fall off.
- 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.