Ask Sail: Shackles Versus Bowlines

Publish date:
shackles suggested crop

Q: I’ve sailed and raced on a number of boats over the years. I feel like aboard most of the boats I’ve sailed, we’ve just attached the jib sheets to the sail with a pair of bowlines. However, aboard a few the owners have used shackles. What are the pros and cons of the two approaches?

— Tracy Patrick, Madison, WI


Most raceboats are moving away from shackles and their like for a number of reasons, the principal being weight, since a stainless shackle weighs more than a knot. It may not weigh much more, but it all starts to add up. Similarly, in many other applications aboard raceboats and cruisers things are now being lashed with a light dyneema or something similar. These new lines are very strong for their size and, again, very light. Another advantage of attaching sheets with a bowline is the soft connection. Unlike a shackle, which can bang someone on the head or ding your mast, a bowline is fairly soft. Lastly, tying a knot is, of course, much cheaper than buying a pair of new shackles.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to



DIY: A Better Saloon Table

The original saloon table in my Down East 45 schooner was a single heavy sheet of 3/4in laminated plywood, 27in wide by 57in long. It was supported on two substantial aluminum pedestals locking into a set of large round collars screwed to the sole. There were two annoying more


Salty Dawgs Recognized by CCA

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) has long been the go-to organization for high value, affordable rallies, but when Covid forced the sudden closure of borders in the Caribbean, it pivoted to organizing the Homeward Bound Flotilla. Its experience organizing rallies came more


SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to more


2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which more


BVI Chartering in the Pandemic

The week before I flew out to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, I was having a few second thoughts. The islands had broken out of their Covid-enforced tourism hiatus in December, but the conditions of entry seemed a little stringent: a negative Covid test within more


Sailing Amid Offshore Wind Farms

Here in Europe, the general feeling about green energy from offshore wind turbines has moved on after an initial surge of general skepticism. Concerns raised over cost, threats to seabirds, wind interference and the rest have to some extent been answered, and it’s hard to argue more


VIDEO: Luna Rossa Wins the Prada Cup

The show has gone on despite last week's Covid panic in Auckland, and the "underdog" Italians are victorious. After being bested by INEOS Team UK in the round robin section, they seemed to have an uphill battle ahead of them going into the finals. However, the Italians have been more