Well, of course he’s got a knife, he’s a sailor.

Do you remember the scene in Crocodile Dundee (I’m sure you’ve seen the film), where the thief pulls a knife, which is a piddling little thing, and Mick Dundee pulls one the size of a sabre and says “now that’s a knife?” Well, it got me thinking.

Knives have always been part of a sailor’s tool kit, and even today I know of skippers who insist that crew carry a knife at all times when underway, sail and power. In my opinion, a knife is a vital piece of safety equipment, and something that turns a sailor into a seaman. 

When I talk about knives, I’m not referring to the wee thing on the multi-tool (I’ll get to the importance of multi-tools in a minute), but sheath knives.

A decent, sharp, sheath knife (with a blunt or rounded end, so you can’t accidently stab yourself or puncture the inflatable), carried on your belt can get you out of serious trouble at sea. I don’t skimp on knives, I sail with a large fixed-blade knife in a winch handle holder fastened to the base of the mast, and one similar within reach of the cockpit, and I wouldn’t go to sea without them. The one on my belt is much smaller and has a lanyard attached to the handle. The lanyard makes sense as I found out the hard way. Crossing the Mona Passage on a squally night, a piece of rogue twine caught in the furling gear at the end of the bowsprit and we couldn’t dump the sail. Flogging wildly, it shook the mast like a demented daemon, and the only way to douse it was to take a knife and cut through the tangled mess at the furling drum. I volunteered and hacking at the line, while being regularly dunked in the water, dropped the knife.

So, now you have a sheath knife on your belt, you need a multi-tool. You really do. I use mine almost every day, on and off the boat. A thing of beauty, multi-tools are engineering perfection, and here I tip my hat to the Swiss Army and their amazing knives, from which all multi-tools sprang. Multi-tools are tough but misuse and abuse is how I usually break something on mine. You’d think by now I’d know enough not to use it as a crowbar or hammer, but some people never learn.

Let’s take a look at what you get for the money. Like everything, not all multi-tools are equal.

My current model comes with needle-nosed pliers that you have to flick out before you can get to any of the other tools, it’s a complete pain in the butt and I don’t recommend it. Yes, the pliers are great, and the wrist flick to get them out might look cool but not when you are in a hurry to open the knife.

The more you pay the more tools in your multi-tool. Some come with a sheath or belt clip, and some do not. There’s not one tool on mine that I haven’t used, and people often say: “Gary, have you got your multi-tool? Can you just cut this, undo this, get this screw out, etc., etc.”

Multi-tools make great gifts.

Note: You can usually walk the streets with a multi-tool on your belt, but not so with a sheath knife. In some countries, the UK for instance, you will be arrested for carrying a knife, so be sure to leave it on the boat when you go ashore. 

All photos: OceanMedia

Author: Gary Brown

On the end of the bowsprit, don’t drop your knife.


Variety Multi-tools 



Leatherman Knife

Leatherman Stainless Steel multi-tool

Leatherman Sheath

Gill Knife Titanium