Safety in Hand
Safety in Hand
Some offshore races are now requiring knives on deck and worn by each crewmember, so if a personal safety knife isn’t already in your sea bag, it’s time to blade up. "Gear" from our May 2012 issue.
Where to carry a knife outside your gear or in a pocket should be considered as well because it will make a difference. In other words, if you intend to put it in your spray-top or pants pocket, make sure it fits and you can extract it rapidly. If you intend to clip it to your belt, make sure it can’t pop off when you sit.
Also, imagine the following scenarios when considering where you’ll attach it: Which hand will you favor to grab or open it? How will your sailing gloves affect one-handed operation? Will you be using it in the dark or underwater, which would require a brighter, more visible handle? How easily does it store and come out of its sheath?
Blade length is not critical for common sailing applications, but it’s important. Most folding knives have blades around 3 inches. Most straight blades are usually 1 to 2 inches longer. The longer the blade, the easier it will be to cut something, because length allows more effective sawing.
The handle is also worth considering: make sure it fits your grip, and the one-handed operation (thumb placement) is quick and feels natural to you, and that it folds without too much effort.
If you want a personal knife for safety that will also be your all-purpose knife, a folding-blade knife is obviously the ideal choice. For a durable knife that will last a lifetime with regular care, expect to spend around $150, but there are plenty of knives for less than $100 that are perfectly suited for sailboat racing. If you choose a strictly serrated blade, it’s probably best to keep it for safety, not regular use. In this range, you’ll find many knives popular among sailors, including knives from such manufacturers as Benchmade, Wichard, Spyderco, Boye, Gill, and Gerber. Most chandleries and online marine stores stock a variety, but the only true way to meet your personal fit for one-handed opening is to try one before you buy it. Once you buy one, learn how to use it.
The straight-blade knife is an ideal cockpit- or boom vang-mounted knife. Having a blunt tip and/or full-length serration will reduce the risk of accidental cuts and injuries. There are many lock-and-fit mechanisms and knife/sheath combinations. The Gill Rescue Knife (around $26) or the Gerber River Shorty ($34) each have a blunt-style tip and are a good place to start.
Emergency cutters come in many shapes and sizes. It is not intended as an everyday utility knife. You may never have to use one, but don’t let that influence its importance. It’s an inexpensive tool that you can permanently attach to your PFD. Plastic cutters with a stainless blade can be found for $10; Aluminum cutters are only slightly more expensive. Gill’s Harness Rescue Tool and Spinlock’s S Cutter were purpose-designed for sailing, come with pouches, and are less than $40. Benchmade, which has a plethora of choices in many different alloys and coatings, has offerings in the $30 to $50 range. Climbers, divers, hunters, and emergency responders all use emergency cutters so there are many options available, and even kiteboard equipment manufacturers have perfectly suitable offerings.