A sailing knife is one of the most important hand tools that any sailor should own, whether on board your boat, or while rigging up your dingy on shore. Designed as a multi-tool in many cases, the best sailing knife is, more often than not, more than just a sharp cutting blade.
In this guide, we will introduce you to the many different features that the best knife for boating may contain. We will also discuss the other aspects that should be considered when shopping for one of these tools for your boat.
Finally, we will provide a snapshot look at some of the top sailor’s knives through reviews of each. In addition to a short description of each knife, we will highlight both the benefits and disadvantages associated with each.
Considerations When Choosing A Sailors Pocket Knife
Here is a closer look at the many features that you should consider when looking for the best sailing knife:
You have two main choices in the category of blade tips. Either it is pointed or blunt. A pointed tip knife can prove to be dangerous when used in conditions that include wet decks and slippery surfaces.
However, when survival skills are put to the test, a pointed tip knife can provide puncturing power or delicate cutting. Otherwise, a blunt tip is generally a safer option, and depending on the racing events you plan to participate in, maybe a requirement.
The purpose of a blade lock is to hold the knife in the open or closed position, depending on how it is being used. A reliable lock will keep the blade in place preventing injury from accidental closing.
The blade lock can also be a handy feature if you find yourself having to open or close your sailing knife one handed. Knives that have lever locks are easier to operate and perform opening and closing safer.
Since we’ve already mentioned single handed opening and closing of sailing knives, we have to tell you how that can be performed. Most good quality sailor’s knives have a hole, a pin or a notched surface where a single finger or thumb can pop the blade open.
It may take a bit of practice to master the single move required. However, knives that do not have this ability may not be as effective when you need them in bad sailing conditions. The decision will be determined by your sailing style and preferences.
There are a few different blade materials used in sailor’s knives. They include cobalt and stainless steel. Cobalt will resist corrosion. Stainless steel can as well, with high quality stainless steel performing better than cheaper low-quality steel. Carbide blades continue to get harder with use.
Knife Sheath/Belt Clip
First off, not all knives come equipped with either a sheath or belt clip. However, for the ones that do, you may not find them all that comfortable or convenient to wear. Sheaths can be strapped to the outside of wet weather gear and belt clips can be worn on the hip. Your personal preference will determine how you will carry your knife.
There are three basic types of knife blade edges. They can be straight, serrated or a mix of both. Serrated edges provide more force but less cutting edge than a straight edge. Straight edge blades with a slight curve allow even pressure throughout a complete stroke with less work.
If you require quick cuts to the rope then a serrated edge may be your best bet. If you are cutting rope and intend to keep the cut clean for whatever the reason, a straight edge would do this for you.
Although you are not likely to be holding your sailing knife for extended periods of time, the design still needs to be comfortable to hold. In addition to comfort, the handle should have a texture or surface that provides a good grip for when you do need to use it. A good grip is especially important for use in wet conditions.
We’ve mentioned the different types of sailing knives available and how they differ. What will really pass the test is whether or not the blade can actually cut through rope when it absolutely has to. This has a lot to do with the grip, blade design, and sharpness. We prefer a straight edge blade with a comfortable sturdy grip, but this can come down to a matter of personal preference.
One thing you need to not get confused about when looking for a good quality sailor’s knife is the added tools and features that come with each type. Other extras that some of the best sailing knives incorporate include:
Marlin spikes can come in handy, and are used to insert into a tight knot to help to undo it. However, it can take up an extra room (adding to the overall size of the boat knife) and add weight, and as such many people prefer not to have this included in their favorite sailing knife. It’s a “nice-to-have” feature (like most of these other extras), but you may not use it that often.
Depending on the type of sailing you do, a shackle key may come in handy. You can get stand-alone shackle keys, or they can be built into other tools, such as sailing knives. As mentioned above, this will add to the size and weight of your sailing knife but can be handy especially for dinghy and small yacht sailors.
Similar to above, screwdrivers (both flat head and Phillips head) can be built into your boating knife. However, many people find the full-size screwdrivers a better option.
Bottle Openers, Corkscrews, Magnifying Glasses, etc
If you are someone that likes to have every tool under the sun on your boating knife, then there are options out there to keep you happy. But for many, these just add to the size and weight and as such, you may want to go without these.
Carefully examine the extras that are built into the multi-tool designs of several of these knives and decide which you can benefit from and which ones you can do without. Shackle keys and a nice firm grip may outrank a pretty design and other extra features you may only use once in a blue moon.
Reviews of Some of The Best Sailing Knives On The Market
Here is a look at a handful of our favorite sailing knives that are currently available:
Spyderco Atlantic Salt Serrated Edge Knife
This boat knife features a blade that was ground from H-1 Japanese steel which gets harder and tougher with use and is resistant to rust. The product is tested for quality and durability and is made by the most trusted name in the cutlery industry.
The knife comes complete with a hollow ground serrated edge blade, and a high strength back lock mechanism which ensures a secure and safe blade lock up. The handle contains high visibility yellow fiberglass reinforced nylon with a textured pattern to improve grip.
The pocket clip is black and made from titanium and can accommodate left side, right side and tip up carrying.
- Very sharp and extremely durable
- Affordable price
- Easy to open one-handed with the 14mm round hole in the blade
- Great gripping with the textured handle
- Some users find this knife to be too sharp!
- An improved locking mechanism could keep the blade in place when closed
Maxam Sailor’s Tool
This could be the best knife for boating. It features a honed blade, spike, bottle opener, stainless steel handle, shackle key and a double sided ruler (2-inches on one side and 5-centimetres on the other). All of these items are carefully fitted into a compact and rugged stainless steel body.
It measures 6 1/8-inches when open and 3 ¾-inches when closed. It is called a Sailor’s Tool but it really is useful for much more than just sailing. For example, this tool would be handy for fishing, hunting or camping as well. Maybe even for one of your do-it-yourself projects.
This sailor’s pocket knife tool comes complete with a limited lifetime warranty.
- It has a marlin spike that can assist with untying wet knots
- It is compact and contains a bottle opener along with other useful tools
- The stainless steel handle keeps this looking like new
- The marlin spike may have rough edges on it, they can be ground smooth, if needed
- Some users felt this product was too small in their hands when closed
Camillus Carbonitride Titanium Folding Knife
This boat knife features a carbonitride titanium non-stick blade constructed from VG10 Japanese steel, which is ten times harder than untreated steel. It will stay sharper longer and will also resist rust, corrosion and staining.
The handle is made from G10 stainless steel, has a marlin spike and a liner lock. It is lightweight and sturdy.
- Strong blade that is very sharp
- The marlinspike is a nice added feature
- Affordable and lightweight
- Some users found this knife to be not very sharp or difficult to cut with
- The blade opens too fast for some users
MYBF300-BRK Generation 2 Captain Pro G-10
Here is a handy sailing rescue knife that includes a shackle slot, locking marlin spike and a blade made from German steel. The blade has a standard edge and satin finish. The handle is black and made from G10 stainless steel.
The bolsters are of stainless steel, and it comes complete with a pocket clip. The knife measures 4.5-inches when closed and has a 3.25 inch sheep foot(curved) blade. It includes a black nylon belt sheath.
- The blade is razor sharp right out of the packaging
- One-handed operation can pop the knife open with your thumb
- The blade locks when open
- There is no lanyard hole in the design
- The marlin spike opens easily and locks into place, so be careful
Davis Instruments Deluxe Rigging Knife
This is easily one of the best boat knife options. It features a stainless steel blade, screw driver, marlin spike, shackle key, housing and lanyard loop. It is well made and constructed in a compact package that will prove to be both handy and useful.
In fact, this marlin spike pocket knife is durable enough and has enough features to make it effective when used hunting, fishing, hiking or when you need it at home for a personal project and need a sharp edge or a screwdriver in an instant.
- Very sharp blade
- Contains a marlin spike that can assist in untangling wet knots
- Very reliable performance
- Easy to clean but some report that it needs oil applied to keep it from staining
- Flathead screwdriver is actually just a piece at the tip of the knife blade
Gill Marine Tool
This Sailor’s pocket knife features a serrated blade that is made from Marine Grade 420 stainless steel and has a titanium coating for strength and corrosion resistance. The handle is made from G10 composite and allows for reliable gripping wet or dry.
The knife folds and has a liner lock to prevent accidental closure when in use. Additional features include a shackle key, webbing cutter, spanner, flathead screwdriver, marlin spike, bottle opener, a protective pouch and belt loop. This knife measures 165millimeters/ 6.5 in open with a 70millimeter/ 2.76 in blade.
- Attractive, easy-to-use knife
- Excellent grip
- Has a serrated blade edge
- Blade may not be sharp enough for rope cutting
- The locking mechanism is sometimes unreliable for some users
Personalized Laser Engraved Survival Knife
This is called a survival knife and it features a rosewood handle that you can have laser etched with a personalized message. The stainless steel blade is bead blasted and has a partly serrated edge.
The knife measures 8¼inches open and is just 5inches when closed and the blade is 3inches. It contains added features including a hook knife. The knife comes complete with a belt loop and nylon pouch.
- The locking mechanism is solid and works well
- You can pop this knife open easily with a single hand
- The blade is sharp
- As this is made in China, the quality may be less than expected
- The engraving idea is nice but takes away from the function according to some users
The best sailing knife is the one that you can use easily and is reliable when you need it to perform. Not just any knife will do as the demands of sailing require a specialized tool to address situations that can only occur when boating.
You really want to have the best knife for boating, as anything less can be difficult to use or downright dangerous. Fortunately a number of knife manufacturers have created tools made specifically for sailing. Hopefully, we have taken away some of the mystery and confusion associated with sailing knives.