Friday, June 19, 2009

Spare the blood

Day 3 of this year's WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, just off the coast near Wiggins Pass, I unclipped from my PFD my beautifully sharp (and expensive!) non-rusted (at all!) two-year-old Boye Pointed Tip knife (as above) to slice off a length of waterproof tape to relieve a hot spot on my palm. As I finished the effortless slice (how I loved that knife)--too effortlessly--it flew from my hands and spiralled down into the unseen depths below. For the rest of the EC I used either my teeth or borrowed SandyBottom's or KneadingWater's rusty, blunt PFD knives.

I was devastated by my loss. I really liked that (expensive!) knife.

After a suitable period of mourning, only now have I started the search for a new knife. Which got me thinking about doing a little more research into the intricacies of "the best" PFD-attached kayak knife, because, as we all know, research is half the fun of the purchase, particularly with anything related to water use.

First up is the debate on whether to wear a jolly knife on your PFD or not, which apparently is as heated as to whether to have a rudder on your kayak or not. Having been sold many moons ago on the "yes, I will wear one because it is a huge safety resource" side of the debate, I spent less time on the whys-and-wherefores. But, if you are still wondering yourself, Trevor Gardner of the NSW Sea Kayak Club has written an excellent article, The PFD Knife: Don't leave home without it. He left me with this salutory reminder:

"... it really doesn't matter what knife is on your PFD as long there is a knife on your PFD. A good quality knife is one of the most important survival tools you can carry. However, if you can't locate your knife when upside down with your eyes closed then it's no longer a survival tool, it's ballast."

After having reconvinced myself that I do need a knife on my PFD, I was now left with the question, which knife should I replace my beloved Boye with. The Boye was a folding knife, and I must admit, it wasn't easy to open with one hand, which can be pretty necessary in a dodgy situation. In this respect, I'm now convinced I should carry a fixed blade that I can pull down from its sheath and is ready for action in one sweep.

And I'm also moving from the pointed blade to the blunt tip--for obvious reasons--as well as adding a serration or two.

I contemplated tying the dang knife on to my PDF so it couldn't fall overboard, but running through various rescue scenarios in my mind nixed that idea--all one needs is another jolly line floating around while upside down.

And I don't want a knife in the $100 range or above, just in case I do lose it overboard again. But I don't want something that's going to rust with just a season or two of use. I found that the two factors--price vs. rustability--tend to be linked.

Let me warn you now, you can spend hours Internet-researching for the perfect (cheaper) PFD knife. But what I believe I'll now end up with is the Gerber River Shorty (as below). It's medium-carbon stainless steel, which isn't as robust as Boye's dendritic cobalt, but for around $30, I should be set.

Comments welcomed!


SandyBottom said...

That was the rusty one I had before the rusty one I have now :)

Gary Blankenship said...

A local marine supply store that caters to commercial fisherman sells a carbon steel knife in a plastic sheath for about $6 (it's about the size of a paring knife); I've got one tied and sewed into my lifejacket. I don't trust the sheath enough to carry it so you pull down to get the knife outj so it's carried handle up. And Harbor Freight, of all places, was selling a rigging knife for $4 (on sale) last week that had a surprisingly sharp (blunt-tipped) blade as well as shackle key and marlinspike. It's a folding knife, though, and I'm sure the stainless blade will need more frequent sharpening.

Cate said...

Thanks for posting. I am looking for a second knife for my river pfd. I will definitely check out the boye, gerber, and Gary's recommendations. I currently have a wenoka which is a great rust free knife but would like something more economical.


Ron said...

I've had the blunt tip River Shorty hanging on my pfd 5 or 6 years now. I've never had to use it for anything more serious than spreading peanut butter ... but it's nice insurance. What I first thought was going to be a problem with the knife would be the locking mech would loosen up, and I'd have a loose knife to cut myself with, or lose. That has not been the case. It's worked perfectly for everything I've needed it for. Including spreading peanut butter.

David said...

My sailing knife for the past 10-plus years has been a Spyderco folder with a spring-loaded clip on the end of the handle. This lets me clip it to my belt, my PFD or a padeye, for example, on the boat. I can retrieve it with one hand, and because I'm so familiar with it, I can open it with one hand. As a folding knife, the design is brilliant, so of course they don't make it anymore.

That said, I'd really prefer a chisel tip, and your argument for a fixed blade is convincing.

Captn O Dark 30 and Super Boo said...

You've always been on the cutting edge, when it comes to kayak gear. Me pretty much lost at sea... So...

My suggestion would be a broad axe, with a 24" handle. Things can get dodgy out there with pirates and sea serpents.

whoop whoop... :-)

DaveO said...

I've had so much stuff hit the bottom of the lake(s) that I make sure to clip everything on something. For the fixed blade on the lifejacket, I tied an arms length piece of thin bungee cord between the knife and lifejacket ring and then daisy chain the bungee (like my tow line) to keep it out of the way. Works like a charm.