When you’re looking for a useful marine tool to carry on board your boat, you need to take quite a disciplined approach (advice that applies equally to anyone buying gifts for boaters). Yes, a multi-tool with seven million functions can be very attractive, but do you really need to pluck your eyebrows at sea? Probably not - and even if you did, the prospects of levering out a pair of mini-tweezers with the end of a cold, briny fingernail on a wildly tossing boat are very slim indeed. What you need is something much simpler and much more marine-specific.
That means marine tools that are made of corrosion-resistant materials, with quick access, easy stowage, an efficient cutting blade and proven safety features. If it also boasts bright colours and buoyant construction so you can retrieve it when it falls overboard, so much the better. A serrated edge is by far your best bet for cutting rapidly through the fibres of a rope, while a blunt nose on the blade is often best for the avoidance of accidents on a moving boat. If you go for a folding knife, it should ideally be deployable with one hand and if you go for a fixed blade, it should come with a sturdy sheath that enables you to keep it about your person and access it at speed.
As a powerboater, you might not expect to get involved in any splicing, but a marlinspike remains a very useful tool for helping loosen off a knot in a line. Similarly, a shackle key (or shackle opener) is a great asset for operating the screw-pin shackles on marine rigging. A bottle opener, a screwdriver, an adjustable spanner and a pair of pliers can also be very useful assets on a boat but it is often best to split these into a separate tool kit (see for example: Guide to choosing good marine electrical tools), enabling your immediate quick-fix tool to be smaller, simpler and more portable. Here are a few of the best marine tools...
(1) Gill Harness Rescue Tool
This simple, lightweight blade from Gill is designed to cut through harness webbing quickly and easily. Measuring just 9cm in length, it is built from titanium-coated 420 stainless steel for a very hard edge and excellent corrosion resistance. It also features a shackle key that will fit most small to medium shackles, plus a bright orange grab cord and a sturdy nylon sheath for easy portability.
(2) Gerber AR 3.00
Though simple, the AR 300 from Gerber is a ferocious rope-cutting tool. The blade is built from high-carbon 440 stainless steel for great edge retention, with a black Teflon coating for clean cuts and improved corrosion resistance. The handle is constructed form die-cast aluminium with SoftGrip inserts that enable you to open the knife with just one hand. It’s tough, lightweight, neatly contoured to fit comfortably in the hand and it even comes with a lifetime warranty.
(3) Ocean Safety Fixed Floating Knife
Despite its modest price, this is a very well conceived tool for powerboaters. Developed for use in and around inflatable structures (like the tubes on a RIB) it comes with a buoyant, brightly coloured plastic handle and a safety-conscious rounded end. At around £7 it’s great value - and there’s also a folding version for about £4 more, see Ocean Safety.
(4) Force 4 Race Rescue Knife - Blunt Tip
Specialist marine chandlery, Force 4, developed this fixed blade rescue knife in conjunction with the RYA so it is a very capable piece of equipment. The convex, serrated, powder-coated blunt tip blade is tremendously sharp and yet safe on board a boat. It comes with a shackle key and an easy-drain plastic sheath that can be fixed in the cockpit or attached to your belt.
(5) Gill Marine Tool
Built from marine grade 420 stainless steel with a titanium coating, this folding boat tool uses a serrated blade edge for quick rope cutting, an anodised aluminium handle with a lanyard attachment loop, a shackle key that fits most mid-sized shackles, a marlinspike for ropework and a moulded nylon pouch with belt loop.
(6) Currey Captain
Built by famous British marine brand, Currey of Chichester, the Captain is a traditional stainless steel pocketknife with a locking spike, a shackle opener and a sliding knot cotton lanyard to keep it safe. It’s top kit but if you want to save about £6, the original (and equally well-equipped) ‘Bosun’ has been a well-loved classic ever since its introduction in 1940.
(7) Gerber River Shorty
The blunt-tipped Gerber River Shorty is lightweight and compact, making it an ideal tool for adding to your Grab Bag or (with the supplied plastic sheath) attaching to your foulies. Constructed from a highly polished, medium-carbon stainless steel (for useful corrosion resistance), the blade comes with a serrated edge, plus a knurled area on the top, so you can apply additional pressure when cutting.
(8) Bear Grylls Survival Pack
Built by Gerber, this Bear Grylls branded pack includes a 12-component multi-tool, flashlight and fire starter rod. It comes sheathed in a locking carrying case that attaches to a belt - and while it’s not marine specific, it’s a swanky looking kit that would look very plush mounted beneath your dash.
(9) Wichard three-piece knife
From marine hardware specialist, Wichard, comes this folding three-piece marine knife. With a shackler, spike and locking blade forged from 316L stainless steel, the half-serrated blade is well able to cut abrasive materials without damage and the elastomer handle comes in a choice of four easy-find colours.
(10) Myerchin Sailor’s Tool
Myerchin of Dorset makes a range of uncompromising marine knives and the new multi-function "Sailor's Tool" is a very effective solution for boaters. Built from 440C stainless steel with an anodised aluminium handle, the three-quarter serrated blade uses a double lock (to secure the blade, the spike or both) and a one-handed opening mechanism. It also comes with ingenious pliers for opening shackles, plus a lanyard loop and a Ballistic nylon sheath.
For more gear and equipment reviews on boats.com, see: 10 perfect gifts for boaters or 10 great modern boating inventions and innovations.