A person who is said to be proficient at the arts is like a fool. Because of his foolishness in concerning himself with just one thing, he thinks of nothing else and thus becomes proficient. He is a worthless person. – Tsunetomo Yamamoto
I’ve received a few questions & comments about not carrying a knife on my PFD. That’s great. I sort of baited everyone by putting that non-descript little sentence there and not going into detail. So let me explain. . .
I’ve always carried the big (insert Aussie accent here) KNIFE, (as in, “You call that a knife?!”) on the front of my pfd. I can remember the first day of my ACA instructor training seeing the IT (instructor trainer) with his big honkin’ knife and thinking, I gotta get me one of those. I read all the various articles talking about entanglement issues and such and that just confirmed my decision. Besides everyone else is having fun with knives! I wanted to look like a bad-a** too!
What to get? Well my logic was simple. First I asked myself what conditions would I get tangled up in? Well odds would say it won’t be on a calm lake on a warm sunny day. It would probably be in the rough stuff. After all, I like the rough stuff! Ok, so a folding knife is right out. How would I get a folding knife out of a pocket & unfolded while being thrashed upside down and sideways in the surf? I’d just wash up on shore wrapped around my boat with a closed folding knife still clutched in my cold dead hands. (sorry, Chuck) So I needed a knife I could just pull right out and use. The simple choice was one of those long dagger-like blades that slips into a sheath right on the front of your PFD. My choice was the Gerber Clip Lock Rivermaster Knife. Now, that’s a knife. The great part about it is it’s spring loaded locking mechanism. It stays put in it’s sheath and it’s double sided blade means I wouldn’t die in a panic trying to cut a rope with the wrong side of the knife as would be my fate. Mary choose the Gerber River Shorty Knife. She wanted something smaller than the Rivermaster and with a blunt tip. So after a little fiddling we were part of the Knife crowd. We could now walk around proudly displaying our weapons in public. Something us Americans take very seriously! However like most fantasy’s come to life, hints of reality started to seep in.
The first issue we found was that Mary began getting hung up when she tried to launch up on her boat for a self rescue, or as she would slide back off the deck. The plastic sheath would catch under the lines and bungies. I didn’t have that problem because I get a lot of air when I launch up over the deck, but she slides onto the deck and was very susceptible to getting caught on a line. To add to the issue, once you’re caught your caught. The sheath will not come out of the attachment point with any amount of force. Next we started to both occasionally get the beasts hung up when doing scrambles. Suddenly the knives were the first actual entanglement issues we had experienced. Getting the knife/sheath caught could be tough issue to deal with if your adrenaline was up. You have to take the time to work the rope out from under the sheath to get free. And it can get pretty wedged up in there at times. Yikes.
In addition to entanglement problems Mary’s knife was emerging as even more of a hazard. I say “Emerging” in that it kept “emerging” from the sheath. Suddenly you have a dagger flinging around on a bit of line like a mad giant bumble bee while you’re in some awkward position on your deck. It didn’t take long before we knew that that River Shorty was just not going to be a safe knife. Frankly the design of the sheath and clip is not up to any kind of real stress. Over time the plastic clips wear and become more flexible. Soon the knife is falling out quite regularly. We replaced the first one thinking it was defective. But the second was the same right out of the box. This is the last thing you need with a dagger that you plan to mount on your chest. So that knife amounted to a small financial donation to Gerber, hopefully to R & D.
What’s more is the danger of slitting your own throat or stabbing yourself with the blade while trying to use it. Remember you shouldn’t run with a knife. Let alone spin upside down, shoved in all directions, banged into rocks, etc.
But entanglement is a real issue right? Certainly. You have to make your own choices and weigh the risks. I’m certainly no expert. There are a plethora of options out there from folding blades to round blades, little saws, scissors and more. You have to try them in the world you use them in. Theory never really seems to tell the whole story. At the BCU skills symposium it was brought up to us that at least antidotally the knife on the PFD is causing more issues than resolving. Our personal experience is just that. So I was more than happy with the concept of getting that knife off my chest. But, what’s my solution?
Well, that’s a good question and I’m not sure I’ve settled on an answer yet. A few folks at the symposium were showing me how they use surgical scissors that were placed in a pocket on the side of the PFD. Very easy to get at, and will cut through just about anything. I’ve got a pair and am leaning toward that solution. But I’m always looking for input from people much wiser than me.
On the other hand I’ve been feeling a bit moody lately, a little less self assured, less confident. I wonder if I’m feeling a little less manly without my shiny weapon proudly on display? Will I be a little less aggressive in my boat? Maybe I won’t edge with confidence. Maybe braces will become weak and ineffectual. Maybe I’ll buy a bright blue rec boat. . .