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Thanks to new materials and techniques, the world of sailboat rigging has come full-circle. Where once wire rope and stainless steel were replacing weaker natural fiber and corrosion-prone iron, synthetic line is taking back the stage, finding endless uses as stays, halyards, shackles, and strops. Many failure-prone metal parts can now be replaced with soft rigging which is stronger, lighter, easier to work with, and far more elegant. A lot of old uses for line and wood that were abandoned in the quest to load boats up with shiny stainless steel are being re-born and supercharged with the new materials and techniques available.
During five years of cruising on Ganymede, which is rigged with synthetic shrouds, I’ve been playing with various bits and pieces of rigging made from Vectran and Dyneema. One thing that struck me about standard Dyneema soft shackles made with a diamond knot was the awkwardness of milking the opening bigger to get the knot through, then having to milk it back shut, especially in the dark and wet with half-frozen fingers. My solution was to meld modern line with a centuries-old idea: small wooden toggles, which push easily through a fixed loop, but will not shake loose or pull out on their own, have now worked flawlessly on Ganymede for 12,000 hard sea miles.
The plan is to produce these same soft shackles with machined aluminum toggles of my own simple design rather than wooden ones: a wood toggle tested to 5,500 lbs before breaking; with aluminum the strength increase should be exponential. Keep an eye out for updates! In the meantime, Abednego Marine will be busy with custom-length dyneema strops, diamond-knot soft shackles, and custom high-tech, low cost solutions to everyday sailboat problems.
Madeleine’s Mast Hoop Shackles
Twelve strand Mega Braid eye splice for custom nylon mooring pennant
Splicing and Traveller Installation