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Protect Your Costly Sailing Lines with These Magic Blocks!

by Captain John Jamieson on 14 Sep 2013
Use a snatch-block for high load applications SW
Imagine that you are sailing before the wind in a big sea. You've led the staysail (or genoa) sheets aft. But you see a big problem, and you will need to fix it super quick to avoid the No.1 most deadly enemy of any sailing line aboard your boat. How can you attack this menace fast, smooth, and easy--without a lot of fuss?

If you need an extra block to redirect a sheet, this can turn into a major hassle--in particular with a line under load.
For example, if you need to place a block between the sheet lead block and winch, you may need to tack to release tension on the line.

Then, you could unwrap the line from the winch, thread the bitter end through the new block, make up the turns to the winch again, and tack again once finished.

Or you can use a snatch block and cut out all those steps. All blocks are made somewhat like a sandwich, with hard, flat cheeks on the outside and sheave (pronounced 'shiv') in the center to accept the fiber or wire rope.

Snatch blocks have one cheek that can pop open with the press of a finger on a button or some other means.
This allows you to place the line over the open block with no threading necessary. Seat the line, snap the cheek shut and you're ready to go.

Take a look at the photo to the right. Note how the staysail sheet leads from the clew down to the staysail sheet lead-block and aft.
You can see how the sheet would chafe and wear against the Genoa lead-block and cabin trunk.

A snatch block (yellow arrow) was placed aft of the staysail sheet lead-block. Webbing was looped to the toe-rail and tensioned to pull the sheet to the side. Simple and effective.

In just a few seconds, the sheet was pulled clear of obstructions to protect it from wear and tear. You can use stout bungee cord or low stretch line in place of webbing strips to hold the block in place.

You could also use snatch blocks to...

• Make up a purchase for lifting the dinghy or an engine.
• Lead a line in a different direction to a winch or cleat.
• Rig a bridle to enable you to adjust a sea anchor.

Brion Toss, in his book 'The Complete Rigger's Apprentice' says that the more secure snatch blocks come with a positive-locking mechanism. He says this about the positive-locking snatch block: 'It's a little slower to open or close, but you can trust it with your life. It's perfect for use as a turning block when hauling someone aloft.'

Use positive-locking snatch blocks for critical applications aboard a sailing boat; and use this easy sailing tip when you need a sailing block for those tough jobs aboard your sailboat. Protect your expensive sailing line all season long--wherever in the world you choose to sail or cruise!

John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com. Sign up for the Free, highly popular weekly 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'. Discover how you can gain instant access to 1000+ sailing articles, sailing skills videos, sailing tips newsletters and Free sailing topic e-Books!

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