Saturday, April 16, 2011

The not so good old days...

Being someone who has been doing this cheap-seat-sailing-gig for longer than I care to admit, every once in awhile I need to remind myself that there are no shortage of improvements to life at and on the sea...

For instance, some years back James Wharram suggested that a great way to put catamarans together was to lash them. At the time, Wharram was met with a certain skepticism (spelled frothing at the mouth thuggery) by many folk who felt they understood how a boat was meant to be built. As a builder of one of his designs that happened to be lashed together, I can attest to the fact that building a Wharram at times allowed you to know just how Dr Frankenstein and his monster felt being confronted with all those angry villagers waving pitchforks and torches.

Yeah, so much for the good old days...

In the present time, once shocking ideas have become rather common place and rigging or using rope as a structural component is no longer considered a crime against nature and, while not quite mainstream, just yet do not get the local yacht police looking for their pitchforks. The downside is that a lot of this acceptance is not about function but that someone has derived a means of charging for these new/old ideas and if there is a profit it has to be OK.

I have had several readers ask my thoughts on soft shackles as they seem to be on something of a breaking wave of hipness (and rightfully so I should add). My respone is that they do make a lot of sense if used where needful and can save weight, increase performance, and save money in one fell swoop... Providing, of course, you do not lose your head in the process.

According to my Sailrite catalog (really a must have on anyone's sailboat) I can get good quality bronze sail hanks for around $8+ a pop and with a minimum of care they will last like... forever. Colligo makes a "Softie" shackle for the same purpose for around $29 which of course is way lighter and stronger but at that price, unless it also makes my morning coffee and cleans up the cat's litter box, those $8+ bronze hanks start looking awfully good.

Then again, if you happen to be of a DIY mindset soft shackles have something of an allure as for a little over $2 worth of 3/16" Amsteel Blue and a bit of labor while you listen to Warren Zevon (my personal choice for music to splice by) gives you an affordable soft shackle and somewhat calloused fingers... All the tools you need can be found here at the L-36 site!

Of course, the real empowerement to the exercise, is that once you realize you can make your own shackles for not a lot of money you find all sorts of ways to use them from lashing blocks to the boom to a means of keeping the iMac from banging around in a seaway. Even better is now that lashing stuff together is hip no one is going to make fun or form unruly pitchfork and torch mobs... Way better than the good old days!