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Sailing with Charlie – The Boat Knife

These days every sailor worth his salt carries a boat knife: a multi-purpose tool with many attachments. Most useful of the attachments are the knife, the pliers/wire cutters combo, various sizes of screwdrivers, file, tin opener, and cut-anything blades. A cruising sailor will likely use his boat knife daily to undo shackles, cut lines, prepare fishing tackle, fasten and unfasten just about anything. A 300lb deck ape on a racing boat might use the file to clean his teeth, the knife to trim his nails, the pliers to pull a tooth, as well as more general nautical applications when on the race course.

Just last week Charlie was sailing in the French islands with a group of guests, one of whom was a keen fisherman. Whilst rigging his fishing line on one of the sugar scoops of the chartered catamaran, the fisherman asked Charlie if he could borrow his Leatherman (the brand name of the most popular boat knife) and Charlie handed it over—never to see it again. It was claimed by Davy Jones.

The guest was profuse with apologies and promised to replace it at the earliest possible time. At the very next anchorage, which happened to be St Barth, true to his word the errant guest went to the nearby chandlery and bought a replacement boat knife, a Leatherman.

Back at the boat he handed the brand new knife to Charlie who was happy to have this essential tool close at hand once again. All the guests were gathered in the cockpit as Charlie examined the attachments one by one. A look of amazement crossed his face as he opened up a pair of nail scissors, a cocktail fork, a spreading knife for butter or pate. Gone was the file, the tin opener, the saw blade… He examined the side for the manufacturer’s stamp and sure enough it said Leatherman. Then in flowery lettering it said the name of the chandlery and “St Barthelemy.” This must be the French version, perhaps a customized edition. But the French are a sailing nation—it was a mystery.
It didn’t take Charlie long to come up with the solution. This model must be the ‘Leathergay’ Charlie thought. He checked the maker’s name again but there was no mistake. However the new boat knife was referred to as “Leathergay” for the rest of the trip.

As if by divine intervention when Charlie checked in at airport security on his way back to the BVI, he had forgotten to put the boat knife in his checked baggage. He was relieved of the offensive knife by a security agent who eyed Charlie suspiciously when he seemed almost glad to be rid of the effeminate instrument.

Julian Putley is the author of “The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI,” “Sunfun Calypso,” and a new sequel, “Sunfun Gospel.”

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