Don’t set sail without one
No boat is complete without a good toolkit
When my wife, Christina, and I set off for fulltime cruising, we sold our house and got rid of a generation’s worth of stuff. It was tough, but we got it done.
The hardest part was letting go of the tools I had gathered and used over a lifetime of building and repairing boats. Table saws, a bandsaw, planers and a drill press would not fit in a 40ft boat. As painful as it was, we finally pared the tool collection down to the minimum. It all fits into a five-drawer toolbox and three extraneous tackleboxes. Plus, we have a few odds and ends in critical places—the tools for routine generator service, for example, are in a box near the generator, while tools for routine dinghy service are in a waterproof bag by the cabin door with the lifejackets. I’m quite sure that my onboard tools now weigh less than 500lb—maybe!
The number and type of tools you should carry depends on what size boat you are sailing, where you are going, and what skills and abilities you have. What you need on a 30ft weekender is not the same as what you need on a 45ft ocean cruiser.
Here is a list of tools for you to consider. If you primarily daysail close to home, you need very few tools. If you do weekend cruising, you need a basic tool kit, but no more. As your skill increases and you cruise farther from home, however, you will need and acquire more tools. Among other things, any job goes faster with the proper tools, and in the end, you save money and time by buying the tools you need to do the job right.
THE BARE ESSENTIALS
Let’s assume you are putting together a basic toolkit for a new-to-you boat. You’re likely to have many of these items from working around your house or your vehicle. • Three straight-slot and three Philips-head screwdrivers of different sizes; screwdriver blades are designed to fit specific screw slots; same with Philips-head screwdrivers, which fit specific sizes of screw head • Sets of open-end and box-end wenches and sockets in both SAE and Metric sizes • Nut drivers (very handy when working with hose clamps) • Hacksaw and spare blades • Hammer (ball peen) • Channel-locks (large and small sizes) • Vice-grip pliers (large and small) • Needle-nose pliers and diagonal cutters • Crescent wrenches—two large ones to help you adjust your turnbuckles Now you have a tool kit that will cope with most mechanical issues on your boat, and which you can build on according to your needs.
BETTER THAN BASIC
When you’re going farther afield and need to be more self-sufficient, there are many tools that will not be used often, but will be invaluable when they’re needed. • Electric drill with charger, spare battery pack and a full drill index, screwdriver bits and a countersink; since you won’t use this tool too often, be sure to always keep one battery charged • Digital volt and ohmmeter, and a copy of a basic guide to electrical systems, such as Nigel Calder’s Boat Owners Electrical and Mechanical Manual • Infrared pyrometer, aka laser temperature gun, to help troubleshoot engine issues by monitoring the temperature of the exhaust system and other components • Clamp-on ammeter, a great tool for diagnosing engine-starter problems and checking for AC current leakage through your shore power cord • Refractometer or hygrometer for checking the condition of wet cell batteries (also keep a gallon of distilled water handy)