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Do you sail with a sharp knife on your person?

  • Yes

    Votes: 49 62.8%
  • Sometimes

    Votes: 19 24.4%
  • No

    Votes: 10 12.8%
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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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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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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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Telstar 28
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30+ years.
 

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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.

Ilenart
 

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"A seaman without a knife is like a whore without a ****."

My old bosun said that to me over three decades ago and I've seen nothing since to disprove him. All seamen are dealing with forces on lines far in excess of what they can control when in extremis. A knife below decks or aft might as well be upon the moon. We'll not even consider the more scary aspects of being over the side and fouled. In most cases, a quick and timely slash of a blade is all that's necessary to change a serious situation into a mundane repair/replace chore.
 

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Always carry a knife without fail and it's not a fancy knife, just a knife. I always grind off the point on a knife for a rounded tip. I do this because I don't know any situation I would need the point unless attacked by pirates and I think in a bad situation, the pointed tip may be more of a danger than useful IMHO. But I think a knife where lower part of the blade has saw like finish might be good.

When I was a kid, my dad wore shorts most of the time with no belt like you and what he did was make a nice rope belt just to carry his knife and not to hold up his shorts. It actually looked pretty cool.
 

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I have carried a knife with me since I was 10 years old, usually a Swiss army knife. When I bought my boat a good friend of mine gave me a Myerchin Offshore Navigator Pro. It has a locking blade and locking spike. I'm never on the boat with out both knives.
 

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Siren 17
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When I was four we went to Silver Dollar City in Branson MO. When asked what I wanted for a suvineer, I picked out a little pocket knife. Mom said no, but dad said yes because it had a really small blade. Pretty much carried one since then. Don't wear shorts without pockets. So yes, I've always had a knife with me. Even caried it to school after they quit allowing it. Tend to forget about it once every other year and have to throw it away when I fly. Currently a cheap one, less then ten dollars.
 

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Since I was in the USCG, where it is required. A knife is inexpensive, light, and indispensable when you need it. A guy died in the Sound this fall with a single turn of an anchor line around his ankle, holding him under. A knife would have saved him. Nothing else could.
The only time I remember needing it for an emergency, I hurt my back badly trying to raise an anchor that was probably snagged. When my back popped, I cut the anchor line and got back to the dock while I could still stand.
The real question isn't "why carry a knife?" it's "why not?".
 

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I also have a dive knife strapped to the wheel pedestal and another one at the base of the mast.
If you have a steel boat, it's easy to have them magnetically stuck to things a sufficient distance from the compasses. I have one by the companionway and even a hand axe under a lid.

A friend who dives and also owns a steel boat has a pretty serious dive knife mounted next to his companionway steps so that he can grab it and unsheath it with his trailing hand as he hauls himself into the cockpit, so it's not so uncommon a practice.
 

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It is much easier to turn one long line into two short lines, than the other way around. So I was taught to never cut a rope or string unless I really needed to cut it.

And, that it only takes one slip for a line to wrap itself around a wrist, an ankle, a couple of fingers, and you can have a traumatic amputation or a severe crushing injury in less than a minute. I think you'll find that almost anyone who spends full days (working or playing) around "rope" also carries a sharp knife, because IF someone gets caught in it, you need to cut the line and release the pressure "NOW NOW NOW" not in two or three minutes after you've putzed around looking for a blade.

And for the same reason, I keep a very sharp edge on that knife and make a point not to use it for cutting much of anything. There's always something else around for general cutting, which I don't spend as much time getting as sharp.

Leaving one strapped to the binnacle, or on the mast, is a nice idea--but then you still have to go fetch it. Which only works if you're not tied down at the time.
 

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STARBOARD!!
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If you get an over-ride in any winch; it could be so tight that you can't pull it free, or in an emergency to avoid a collision or going aground you would want that sheet that is jammed eased or free. I can see no reason why a knife should not be on every person who sails be it skipper or crew; and on my boat it's as "required" as a hat clip if you are handling lines (casual guests are not required to have one).

If you ever got caught in a sheet (imagine your hand inside the over-ride knot) or pulled overboard by an anchor line; what would you do if you had no knife? A good option is to have a knife you can open with one hand in addition...
 

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A long time ago, I was pulling off a ~36' boat that had reached onto a rock up at the cottage in October in 15-20knots. Tow line (theirs) from a tow eye on my stern to their stern cleat. They left their sails up. As I pulled them off, they started sailing, pulling me backwards. My little runabout has a low transom. Water started coming in. I had to put my brother in the bow to get the stern up while I reached back with a knife and cut the line.

I learned that day that a 36' boat on a broad reach with full sails can very easily overpower a 20hp motor on a runabout. I was luck I had my filleting knife on the boat. Since then, I always have a knife on my belt or in my pocket. At minimum it's a multi-tool, most of the time it's a lockback or a fillet knife.
 
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