When I first wrote about my recommended knives, I included a couple of paragraphs about storing knives on a boat. Lately I’ve gotten a couple of questions about the topic by e-mail and also seen some ideas posted in lists of “favorite galley gear” so I wanted to go into a little more detail with my thoughts.
Knife storage on a boat is really about two things: keeping yourself safe and keeping the knife safe. In other words, you don’t want them stored in such a way that they’re likely to injure you (or anyone else on the boat) OR that might damage the blade (dull knives or broken blades are no good).
To keep people and pets safe from flying knives, I like to keep knives in a lockable drawer. To keep your hands safe as you reach into the drawer, I like to have the blades in sheaths. And to protect the blades as they are jostled in the drawer, I like for the sheaths to actually attach to the knife, not just slide on. Those that slide on generally also slide off easily.
If you haven’t lived on a boat at anchor or underway, you’re likely to underestimate how easy it is to lose your balance as you’re reaching into a drawer. You don’t want to grab an exposed blade or drop one onto your foot. And this can be a problem even in a protected anchorage, as a boat goes by and kicks up a wake that you weren’t expecting.
Many knives come with little cardboard sheaths. My experience was that they tended to slide off the blades with the normal motion of the boat and they rather quickly came un-glued in humidity.
Instead of the cardboard sheaths, I really like some that are made by Victorinox, who also make Swiss Army Knives as well as my favorite kitchen knives. They’re called the BladeSafe (available on Amazon) and they’re not expensive compared to many other options that don’t work as well — $2 to $6 per sheath. They’ll work on just about any knife as long as you get the correct size.
They lock onto the blade, and were originally designed for traveling chefs. That means they just don’t come off until you want them to, no matter how the boat may move.
- See all BladeSafe sizes on Amazon
The BladeSafe is in first place on my list as it’s relatively small and can fit in just about any drawer and doesn’t take up a lot of excess space.
The BladeSafes are also completely washable — and open up to wash the inside. I’ve always vaguely wondered what could be lurking in the slots of a knife block.
Drawer Knife Blocks
And speaking of knife blocks, there are ones that go inside a drawer. These are my second choice for keeping both you and the blades out of harm’s way. The biggest disadvantage to these is the space that they take up and finding one that’s just the right size for your drawer (many are too tall for the shorter height that many galley drawers are). If you’re looking at them and measuring, note that usually the stated height is just for the block — the knife handles will be higher.
Drawer knife blocks are my second choice not because there’s anything inherently wrong with them, but rather that they just aren’t going to fit in most galleys . . . or if they do fit, do you want to take up that much space with your knife storage?
While it can seem like a great idea to get one that doesn’t take up the entire drawer (so you can put other things beside the block), the reality is that the block can slide and dent up other things in the drawer if you just set it in there. If you decide to get a less than totally filling block, use some (removable) glue or a couple of screws to hold the block in place.
Other Options I DON’T Like
So now I’ll turn to a couple of options that I’ve recently seen recommended but that I don’t like as well: wall-mounted blocks (which are “okay” in some applications) and magnetic strips (which are generally a bad idea).
Those large counter top knife blocks just aren’t going to work on a boat (too likely to move and cause serious injury, knives can come out, and who’s got that much counter space), but some cruisers have created their own wall-mounted knife blocks.
This photo was posted in the Cruising World forum on Handy Galley Gadgets. If you are cruising in protected waters (or, I would think, aboard a catamaran) where there is virtually no risk of a knockdown, it will probably be adequate to keep the knives from getting loose in the galley, while still keeping them convenient.
However, I wouldn’t trust it to keep the knives corralled in a knockdown. We only experienced one true knockdown — in a squall in the BVI the second time we chartered there — but we did have several occasions where we rolled gunwale to gunwale in squalls. And every time, things that I thought were adequately tucked away would come loose. While I don’t know that knives could come out of a block like this, I’m just not sure that I’d risk unsheathed knives falling to the floor and then skittering around.
But the knife storage solution that I think is really bad is a magnetic strip (or even two). And I’ve seen it recommended a few times lately on a couple of different cruising forums. Admittedly, it doesn’t take up any drawer space. But can you really imagine having a bunch of unguarded blades sitting out where you might need to put your hand when the boat rolls?
I see a couple of other problems with this. Most cruisers prefer stainless steel knives on a boat so they don’t rust — it’s hard to keep an edge sharp if there’s rust on it. But stainless steel isn’t magnetic — or at least good stainless isn’t. And even inferior quality stainless isn’t highly magnetic.
What this means in practical terms is that it’s unlikely that your knives will stick to the bar — or if they do, they will jostle off relatively easily. Back when we were just starting to think about cruising, we did a captained charter in Alaska on a Morgan OutIsland 41. I noticed magnetic strips in the galley with nothing on them and asked the captain about them. He told me that the knives had fallen down just in “normal” sailing conditions and they’d never used the magnetic bar again — it had just been too dangerous having knives sliding on the floor to ever risk it again.
The one place that I have seen a magnetic bar be helpful is attaching it to a countertop and putting knives on it (assuming they’re magnetic at all) while you’re in the middle of food prep — but not considering it as permanent knife storage. The minute you’re through with whatever you’re doing, the knives need to go back into their “real” storage. We had a friend who had done this, so I can’t speak from personal experience — my technique for corralling knives while in the middle of cooking was to lay a damp cloth in the bottom of the sink and lay the knives down on it (the rag made it so that they didn’t slide and dull themselves banging on the sides of the sink).
Good, sharp knives are crucial equipment in the galley. I do so much more chopping, cutting and dicing as I buy less prepared food. But knives are also one of the biggest hazards in the galley (I’m not sure if they or boiling water causes more injuries). Spending some time and money planning and creating a good storage system is far, far better than getting out the first aid kit and/or dealing with nicked blades.