Don’t set sail with­out one

No boat is com­plete with­out a good toolkit

SAIL - - Front Page - By Tom Hale

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.


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.


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)

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