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Notice anything funny about the snatch block on the right hand side of the photo below? It won’t take incredible powers of observation to notice that it’s missing a piece of the snap shackle. A critical piece in fact as it was part of what was keeping the block attached to a cleat via the nice soft shackle that is also pictured. That piece, which snapped off and flew overboard during a gust of wind while we were sailing yesterday, has caused us a bit of grief.

As we made our way from Dehaies to Pigeon Island yesterday, with only our 150% Genoa up to propel us along, we experienced a wind-induced chain reaction that went something like this:

  1. Wind gusted from below 15 knots to approximately 24.
  2. Snatch block, which the Genoa’s sheet was running through, broke.
  3. Genoa sheet, which was under a lot of pressure, slammed against a stanchion at a bad angle.
  4. Stanchion bent. 🙁

All of the above was accompanied by a loud bang and then the unmistakable sound of a sail flapping in the wind. Fortunately it took us only a few seconds to figure out what had happened, fire up the engines and get the headsail furled in before any more damage occurred.

Although I was able to switch out the block for another one in short order, and redeploy the Genny, the damage to the stanchion led us to decide to call it quits for sailing for the remainder of the hour and a half trip.

The blocks can be replaced so that’s not such a big deal. Even the stanchion can be replaced. Sadly that can’t be done without redoing the lifelines though, which is a PITA and costly. Oh well, it’s only time and money, right?

In the meantime, we have swapped the Genoa for our smaller self-tacking jib which does not have sheets running to the stern as the larger headsail does. One further comment on this incident: I’m glad that it was not the soft shackle that broke, causing the damage. No, the Amsteel shackle, which I spliced myself, held solid during the gust and it was the metal on the snatch block that broke instead. Quite a testament to the strength of the Amsteel!

That doesn’t look good, does it?


  1. Now you know why they are called SNAP-shackles! 🙂

    And why many people now try to avoid them.


  2. You can usually straighten a small bend in a stanchion.

    Support one part against something soft, ie wood, and a wall/pontoon or something on the other side.
    Then either thump the opposite side with some thing soft and heavy, eg a brick, rock or lump hammer, via a block of wood. Or simply use your strength and perhaps a piece of pipe tied to the stanchion so you have some leverage.

    With carefully applied force, it should be doable.


  3. Dang! Don’t you hate it when something like goes and turns your sailboat into a motorboat?

  4. I’m assuming these are the turning blocks from the winch to the clew.

    a. Why snatch blocks? They don’t need to be opened. Use regular blocks; much more reliable.
    b. Spinnaker shackles? Same problem, they are inherently unreliable. I’m willing to bet that it whipped around and took the load on the gate far from the hinge (it is weaker there). I’ve seen that happen on my boat and on others. In my mind they have no place other than the tack and clew of a spinnaker. They have no place on a jib. I had them on my last boat on a reacher (big jib) and they were trouble. On the chute they were fine. They simply aren’t designed for the high speed whipping. My expereince.
    c. You can’t reuse most of the lifeline? Cut, re-splice, and use a longer lashing? No biggy, it will still look good.

    I’ve had many similar “BANG, what was that” episodes. I’m always smarter afterward.
    *Genoa sheet blew in the middle in high winds, nowhere near a knot. Very loud.
    * Spin shackles.
    * Spinnaker bridle blew due to hidden corrosion (coated SS lifeline wire).
    * Winch pulled out. Thank goodness the rope jammed in the tailer, cramming the winch against the turning block. No warning at all. Checked all of the backing plates that night!

    You’re putting on a lot of miles. and we appreciate all of your field testing! But I’m not as jealous as I could be; we had 70F yesterday–in February–which resulted in a little hookey and a 40-mile ride in near summer clothing. I pity all of the folks that haul out for the year. I’ve enjoyed many solitary Bay cruises this year, generally in the 50s and no frost. Not bad for Deale, not bad at all.

    • I knew you were going to post about this! 🙂

      The answer to your question is, they were the blocks that came with the boat that the previous owner used. And they worked great, up to this point. 🙁 When I replace them I’ll use normal blocks and shackles.

      Glad you’re enjoying some nice weather, Drew!

  5. Not only is it a testament to the Amsteel, but to your splicing! Also, your nice chafe protection isn’t in the right place any more. Seems that the Amsteel is tougher than the snapshackle AND the stancions!

    • Yes, the position of the chafe protection shows how much the stanchion is bent. That was one of the pieces that I lock stitched in place. I have since moved it back inside the hole on the bent stanchion.

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