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Seven Great Boating Tools

Over the last four decades as a wooden sailboat owner, I've purchased and tested countless tools for maintaining my boat. Among them, the 7 products listed below stand out as my favorites. I use these regularly and have frequently recommended them to friends over the years. The images included feature the actual tools I own; if you see a hand in a picture, it's mine.

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Soft Shackle Ultra-lite sheets

I didn't know if I should call this "Splicing Samson Untra-lite", "Integrated Soft Shackle Light Air Sheet", "Soft Light Air Sheet", or "The Ultimate Sheet for Light Air Sailing". Maybe "How I Went From Doing Pirouettes in Light Air to Nirvana." The truth is that it is all of these.

In most of the time I owned Papoose, if the wind got below 5 knots the boat would just sit there and turn usually backing to the wind. Now I have a free flying light air jib, a spinnaker and thses sheets, sailing in 5 knots of wind is my favorite sailing condition.

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Soft Shackle Y-sheets

Y-Sheet use for spinnakers is not a new idea. In fact, it is widely used but typically requires tying to the clew with a bowline. That makes using high tech lines like Amsteel problematic because knots slip in Dyneema. In this implementation, the attachment to the clew is just like a soft shackle but unlike a traditional soft shackle, the shackle is divided into its key elements with the adjustable eye integrated in the Y-Sheet itself and the diamond knot permanently attached to the clew ring.

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Ultimate Unassisted Mast Climbing (Updated 4/5/2024)

NOTE: In reading this article today, I found that the overall process was not well explained. I added a section explaining the design and the theory behind it. I urge everyone who has an interest in unassisted mast climbing to read or reread this article.

I have tried dozens of way to climb my mast. In the process I have accumulated 7 ascenders, three rappel devices, a GriGir, and numerous carabiners. I think this climbing system is the best. It is simple to rig, quick going up, requires very little to transition from up to down, and very fast and controlled going down. I can get down in 2 1/2 minutes including rigging the rappel device.

The article starts with a short (4 1/2 minute) video that gives an overview. Start there.

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My Youtube Channel

As of 4/7/2024 My YouTube channel, @L-36, has 4,470 subscribers. The top video now has almost a half million views. To see the most popular videos, click on the link below.

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A Better Soft Shackle

My "Better Soft Shackle" has become the standard in soft shackle design along with the stronger soft shackle. I invented this version several yeas ago and was co inventor of the stronger soft shackle along with the late Brion Toss and Evans Starzinger. Of the two versions, I prefer this one. It is easier to tie and easier to use. If I want a stronger shackle, I start with stronger line. For example, the stronger soft shackle is 35% stronger but going up one line size gains 60% in strength. All things considered, I believe this is the superior version.

The original soft shackle is rather difficult to open and to milk closed. With age, it becomes increasingly difficult. The alternative Kohlhoff style is easy to use, but it sacrifices some security. This version incorporates the best properties of both of these versions. The eye is easy to open but can only be opened just enough to fit the stopper knot through it. Almost any slight force will close it quickly.


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How to Tie a Bowline (fast and easy)

There are lots of ways to tie a bowline. I think this is the quickest, fastest, easiest to do and remember of all the ways. I learned this when I was a kid from my dad. He probably learned it in the navy in WW II, not sure. But I do know he was a sailor and knew how to tie a bowline fast.

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