Do you carry bolt croppers. And are you sure they'll worK? We tested some


Following the story about the rescue of the catamaran crew whose broken rig holed their yacht mid-Atlantic , I think it is worth adding here something I hope might be useful if you are planning a similar voyage.

The skipper of Spam, Pete Kyne, told me that they did not have bolt croppers aboard. This has always been part of our boats’ oceangoing inventory but – and there is a big but here – having bolt croppers aboard is no guarantee you will be able to cut the rigging quickly enough to avoid serious damage to the hull.

A few years ago we commissioned Chris Tibbs to do a test of rigging cutters. Chris, incidentally, was once dismasted in the Southern Ocean. Here’s what he found:

Your average pair of trusty, rusty standard bolt croppers severed 1×19 wire with great difficulty and only if you rested a handle on deck and put all your weight on the other, but they wouldn’t even scratch rod.

Hacksaw blades are effective, but it is hard to hold the rigging firm and you’d need to keep a fair few blades specially as they blunt quickly.

Felco cutters – These £200 odd cutters (the largest, the C112 would be the best, pictured above) are effective but there’s a special technique of resting one handle on the deck and bouncing on the other. They left a nice neat edge you could fit a Sta-Lok or Norseman terminal to, but Chris didn’t feel they would work easily on a heaving deck and he didn’t manage to cut through rod.

The failsafe bets (also, I’m afraid, the most expensive):

Hydraulic cutters, price about £700. Chris had used these to cut away his rig in the Southern Ocean. In the test it took him 8 seconds to sever 1×19 wire and 13 seconds for rod. Easy to use and a good, clean cut.

Shootit explosive cutters – They operate with cartridges that fire a piston into the wire. Very quick and effective, and very impressive with rod.

As always, comments and first-hand experiences welcome?