This article focuses on the fittings that help your lines do their work — the shackles. Remember that a key part of caring for this gear is visual maintenance — looking for hairline cracks in metal parts, signs of corrosion, or other indications that something isn’t quite right.
Most sailing blocks are very low maintenance. Rinse any block with freshwater after a day of sailing in saltwater, and all blocks appreciate being stored out of those ultraviolet rays. Some blocks require occasional lubrication; however, check with the manufacturer’s directions first, because the lubricant may gum up the works. Often, the way the block is attached to the boat — by its shackle — is the weak link.
Shackles (the metal fittings used for attaching different parts of the boat, mast, and sails) are everywhere on your boat, just like blocks. Your boat may have twist shackles, snap shackles, brummel hooks, and/or captive pin shackles, to name a few. Keep the following considerations in mind when picking out, installing, and maintaining shackles:
Strength: The shackle’s manufacturer specifies the safe working load; however, you can get a good idea of its strength by looking at the diameter of the metal.
Accessibility: A snap shackle is the easiest type of shackle to open, but it can be large and expensive. The D-shaped shackle is by far the most common, but it’s more difficult to open in a hurry.
Security: Shackles, especially the ones attached to the corners of the sails, can really get flapped about when the sails are luffing. Wrapping plastic tape around a snap shackle keeps it from opening accidentally. Dshaped shackles are often secured by a screw pin; tighten the pin securely with a wrench. As with any nut and bolt, be careful not to crossthread these shackles.
D-shaped shackles and other fittings can have a clevis pin with a cotter pin or ring ding securing it. Ring dings are easier to put on and take off, but you must tape them so that they don’t catch something and open up. Cotter pins shouldn’t be too long and should be spread open, with the ends bent out just enough to facilitate removing the pins in an emergency, and taped, because their points are very sharp.
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