To cut or not to cut, that is the question - SailNet Community
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View Poll Results: Do you sail with a sharp knife on your person?
Yes 50 63.29%
Sometimes 19 24.05%
No 10 12.66%
Voters: 79. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 45 Old 03-14-2009 Thread Starter
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To cut or not to cut, that is the question

I often read about having a sharp knife on your belt when you're sailing and the implication is that if you don't then you're not practising proper seamanship.

I rarely wear anything other than shorts when I'm sailing and I NEVER wear a belt. Consequently I never have a knife on my person. I have one in the cockpit but never on me.

So the poll asks a simple Yes/Sometimes/No. If you answer Yes, help us by posting how long you have done this, what you reckon you would cut in an emergency and whether you ever have had to.


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post #2 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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I have done this since about the second year I was sailing.

I was single-handing in high wind off the land, so there was only "nervous" seas, but plenty of air. The boat was sailing nicely and I had the tiller pilot on.
I stupidly went down on the lee side to retrieve dunked fenders as the boat started to cross an open estuary, and the wind was funnelled there to much higher speeds (I suspect 40 knots as it was already 25-28 knots). I had on neither tether nor PFD nor handheld radio, and we were welll knocked down, with the cold October water of Lake Ontario up to my hips. By arm strength alone, I crawled up to the coach house traveller and managed to release the mainsheet, which flew out with such speed that it took part of the flesh on my fingers with it (Yes, now I wear gloves, as well!). The boom went out and the boat found her feet, and I spilled air until I could tie up my hand and continue. The autopilot had simply been overwhelmed at that point.

Had I a knife on me , I might have had the option of cutting the mainsheet instead of releasing it from an awkward "too close for comfort" position. I had plenty of line on board to rereeve the blocks and to get back to sailing.

Later, after I started to carry a knife, we rounded a point with an old No.1 up and again, the wind went from 8 knots to 22 knots very quickly. The leech line of this sail hooked on a spreader end, making it difficult if not impossible to douse (hank on sail). Going off the wind didn't help...the leech line was somehow hooked deeply into there (yes, I now tape off the spreader ends.)

Once the sail began to rip, I got out the knife, told my seven-months-pregnant wife to "feather the main close to head to wind" and stood on my toes and cut the leech line. I was then able to drag the mess down and we sailed into our basin under main only.

I have also cut off a piece of line that threatened to foul a moving prop, but that was on another boat.

As can be seen, inexperience or lack of anticipation led in part to bad situations, but there's a place for a small, sharp knife on board any boat, I think, and now it's habit for me to carry an inexpensive sailor's knife (serrated edge) on my belt, plus an inexpensive multi-tool. I use the multi-tool far more often as I am forever tightening bolts or screws or other fasteners both above and below deck. I go "inexpensive" because it's not tragic if a ten-dollar knife or multi-tool is sacrificed to Neptune.

I am aware that slicing a loaded line brings its own issues, but I still believe that lines are cheaper than limbs, and sometimes you have a need to cut away a line to save limbs, life or more important parts of the boat.

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post #3 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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I also have a dive knife strapped to the wheel pedestal and another one at the base of the mast.
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post #4 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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Got accustomed to carrying a hook-blade knife back in the service, when it was required to be carried in a special pocket in your flight suit, hook blade opened.
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post #5 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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I've carried a sharp knife on me since I was a Boy Scout. It wasn't illegal to carry to school in those days. I'd feel naked without one, so many uses anytime, anywhere.
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post #6 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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Ditto what MtnMike said.

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post #7 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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Sometimes i have one, but generally i don't! I certainly don't consider it as an essential piece of equipment! If i was that bothered about the what ifs i'd carry my own parachute on airliners!

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post #8 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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30+ years.

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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

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post #9 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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Two weeks ago in 30-35 knot winds we gybed the self tacking staysail and the traveller block disintegrated & the staysail, boom and sheet was all madly shaking itself to bits. The halyard was jammed on the winch so I decided cutting the halyard was the better option, rather than damaging the staysail more (staysail ended up with two rips after flogging for about 30-45 seconds). My wife told me she had a wrap around the staysail winch, however at the time we werre sailing through a channel with a nasty reef about 100m to leeward & I forgot to do something about it later.

Note that I said no to this pole as the question appears to be about whether you carry a knife on your person. We carry several knives in the pilothouse. A knife on my person may have meant cutting the halyard quicker, however like Omatako we often sail in hot weather just wearing bathers and / or shorts.

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post #10 of 45 Old 03-14-2009
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Not on me, but handy as it is hanging at my binacle.
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