Step aboard any sailing boat, and there's one tool you will want to wear on your belt. Fall over the side and this super tool could save your life. Wrap a foot or leg in an anchor line or Genoa sheet and this handy tool could bail you out--smooth and easy. A good sailing knife can do this and a whole lot more! Check out these top five benefits that a sailing knife will provide for you and your sailing partner.
Sailing knife - one example
Choose a knife that's compact, and carries a 3'' to 4'' blade made from high quality stainless or cobalt. All fittings on the knife should be made with similar materials to slow down rust and corrosion. Few knives pass the 'blade sharpness retention test. Find a knife that maintains a 'razor's edge' even after multiple cuts through fiber or high-tech line.
Choose a knife that comes equipped with a marlinspike--a short metal spike hinged on one side. Use the marlinspike to open or tighten a shackle pin, spread the strands on a line for splicing, or pry off the top of a can of paint or varnish. Some sailors prefer a folding knife. Others choose to carry a 'folder' and straight blade. Folding knives require two hands to open or close; a straight blade will be ready to use right away in any emergency.
Equip your sailing knife with a long lanyard. This keeps it attached to your person, even if it slips out of wet hands. Make the lanyard as long as possible. Attach the knife sheath to your belt first; then attach the lanyard to your belt or a spare belt loop. Wear your knife at all times while sailing--even when anchored or at a mooring.
Use your sailing knife to...
1. Cut Common Fibers and Fabric.
Find a knife that keeps its edge razor sharp, even after repeated cuts. Realize that you will need to make sharp, even cuts across sailing rope, webbing strips, waxed twine (like that used in sail making), and sailing rigging tape, just to name a few common items.
Most sailing knives will not be up to the task. They will start with a clean cut, but then lose their edge. You will end up with jagged edges and uneven fibers. This can shorten the life of rope or fabric. Choose a knife with a superior blade that holds its edge to be rewarded with better cutting performance while sailing or cruising.
2. Shave Bitter Ends to Prolong Rope Life.
Three-strand spices top my list of one of those skills all sailors need to know. After all, I believe the ideal line for anchoring and docking remains three strand nylon. Sure, you can opt for the double braid variety, but it's tough and slow to splice and requires a multitude of tools above and beyond the sailing knife.
After you complete the four to five tucks in the eye splice, those bitter ends will stick out like branches on a tree. And, they can snag, fray and wear. Neaten them up when you taper the bitter ends of each strand. Shave the ends down to a point and bury them beneath the strands. Hold them in place with a sailmaker's whipping for a beautiful, seamanlike eye-splice you'll want to show off to your sailing buddies!
3. Chop Off a Jammed Sheet.
Slice through an impossible winch jam in just seconds. You can bet that if you sail, you will get an occasional jammed Genoa of jib sheet. That's where you wrap the sheet around a winch, haul in to trim it, and the outside wrap of the sheet buries itself beneath the turns like a stubborn barnacle sticks to a boat bottom!
There are ways to relieve the tension and unwrap those turns. But in an emergency, you may need to chop through the sheet to release the wind filled sail and tack away from a dangerous shoal or another boat. Enter the razor sharp knife--attached to your person at all times. In just a second or two, you can slice through the sheet, tack, and clear out of harm's way.
4. Saw Through a Prop or Rudder-Wrapped Line.
What lurks just beneath the surface? These days our waterways are littered with more garbage than ever before. And that includes line and netting which can wrap around a propeller when you are under power and stop you cold in your tracks. Or it could jam your rudder and make it impossible to steer.
That could mean you need to hang over the side or even dive down to saw or hack the ornery line away from your propeller, propeller shaft or rudder. Keep your knife by your side to make this messy job quick and easy to remedy.
5. Slice Through a Harness to Save Your Life.
This single factor alone should make all sailors pause and consider the danger of being on deck without a sailing knife worn on the belt or clipped to your person. Time and again, racing and cruising stories have told of crew overboard being dragged alongside or trapped beneath a boat in their sailing harness.
Without a means of cutting yourself free, chances of serious or fatal injury increase tenfold. You absolutely, positively must have a way to free yourself. Carry a lightweight knife attached by lanyard to a belt loop for peace-of-mind sailing.
Pass these sailing safety tips along to your sailing partner or crew for sailing safety. Provide them with the knowledge they need for safe and sound sailing or cruising--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 hundreds of sailing articles, videos, and e-Books!