How to Choose and Use Sailboat Snap Shackles | Expert Advice

Snap shackles come in a variety of sizes and configurations, and are generally used for halyards, sheets, guys, and tack lines, along with a few specialty applications.  The beauty of a snap shackle is the easy open and release function. Let’s take a closer look.


A few basic components are found on every snap shackle. The hinged bail, the shackle body bail to which your line is attached, a spring loaded plunger pin with a pull ring on the end. When you pull the ring,the spring loaded plunger pin slides back until it disengages.  At this point you can swivel the hinge open and then release the pin.  Once the shackle is open, you can now attach what you need- clew of a jib, head of spinnaker, etc. Simply press the free hinge back closed, and it locks tight with a ‘snap’.

Now, if you are concerned about the snap shackle leash or ring catching on some part of the boat while in use and accidentally opening up, you can secure it with a few wraps of rigging tape around shackle covering the pull ring.

It’s important to remember that snap shackles cannot be safely released under load.  If you’re in a situation where you might need to release a shackle under load, like when ‘peeling’ to a different spinnaker, you’re going to need a Trigger Shackle.


The first thing to help decide which one you need is to figure out the load of the application and compare that to the safe working load (not the breaking load) of the shackle.  Also, take into consideration what you’re attaching it to.  Is the body of the shackle large enough to accommodate what will be inserted into it?


The first type is a fixed bail snap shackle. The bail is part of the shackle body and does not swivel. This works for applications where you don’t want any twisting, or the application is simple and a more expensive swivel block is not warranted.

Next, the most common, is the standard bail snap shackle. The bail is connected to the shackle with a swivel. A 360 degree range  allows twists in an attached line to work themselves out, or a twisted spinnaker to untwist more easily on the hoist. Popular for jib and spinnaker halyards, and sheets.

Next, is the large bail. The larger bail allows more space to splice or luggage tag lines. Some prefer to connect both the guy and sheet to one shackle. Or, with the guy spliced permanently to the large bail, there is room to attach the snap shackle of the sheet to it when using separate spinnaker sheets and guys.

Finally, the clevis bail, or a screw bail. The Wichard bail comes with a clevis pin, while the Ronstan bail uses a flat head screw. These are ideal for permanent attachments, and especially popular to attach the tack of a jib to the base of the furler drum.



Ronstan Shackle Pulls

Schaefer Leather Leash for Shackle

Some snap shackles come or can be fitted with accessories to help make opening easier whether it’s a braided line or a leather leash. These are attached permanently to the pull ring on the end of the plunger, and add extra area to grip for ease of opening.

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