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THE TOOLS FOR THE JOB
One sailor’s essential gizmo is another’s sailors gimmick, so choosing tools for an onboard tool kit is a hard job. The deciding factors usually depend on how far away from home you’ll be, whether you’ll have access to shoreside help, and the type of boat and its onboard systems. The tools detailed below are those that I regularly carry aboard my own 24ft wooden gaff cutter and with them I can undertake the majority of likely repairs. I choose multi-purpose tools and everything fits neatly into a small plastic toolbox. I store spare parts separately in small, easy-to-stow plastic tubs.
WD 40. So useful that I class it as a tool. Lubricates and frees corroded and frozen parts.
Duct tape. Strong and easy to tear. Useful for making temporary repairs to plumbing and so much more.
Plastic insulation tape. Insulates chafed electrical connections and can be wrapped around turnbuckles and other fixtures and fittings.
Tape measure. You never know when you’ll need to measure something. Remember to measure twice and cut once.
Hand drill. The ultimate rechargeable requires no batteries and takes drill bits up to 3/8in diameter. A model with a keyed chuck holds the bits without slippage.
Matches. Melt the cut ends of synthetic line and rope to prevent fraying.
Hacksaw. Can be used to cut metal, fibreglass and wood.
Hammer. Persuades things to go together and come apart!
Mole grips. Useful as a portable small vice and adjustable wrench at a pinch.
Mirror on a stick. For locating errant components that fall into the bilge or get lost in other corners of the boat.
Multi tool. Wear this on your belt so that you will have a knife, pliers and bottle opener at hand.
File. This one is double-sided; one side is a metal file and the other is a rasp for wood and fibreglass.
Drill bits. A selection of bits from 1/32in to 1/4in will do almost all the drilling you might need. Anything larger is hard work with a hand-powered drill.
Socket spanner and sockets. One to fit every nut and bolt on the boat. Add a plug socket if you have a gas engine.
Multi-meter. Invaluable for electrical and fault tracing. Learn its functions and how to operate it before you have to use it on the boat.
Pencil. Handy to use with the tape for marking and measuring.
Screwdrivers. A selection of Philips and straight blades in various sizes and lengths.
Putty knife. For scraping up excess bedding compound and the like.
Circlip pliers. You’ll need these to take a water pump apart – it takes ages without them.
Rigging knife. A sharp rigging knife is the best thing for cutting line and cordage.
Adjustable spanner. This is one of my favourite tools on the boat. Made from high-grade stainless steel it not only loosens and releases nuts and bolts but also incorporates a shackle key and bottle opener in the handle.
Crimping tool. A cheap crimping tool cuts and strips wire and crimps new terminals onto cable ends.
Wood chisel. A very sharp wood chisel will cut wood – obviously – and fibreglass at a pinch, although you’ll need to sharpen it afterward.
Extending magnet. The perfect tool for retrieving fittings from inaccessible places. Spend a bit more and get one with a rare earth magnet, which is immensely powerful.
Needle-nosed pliers. To hold small parts; the built-in cutters will cut seizing wire and small cable.
Allen keys. The only thing that will undo socket head screws.
Toolbox. To keep essential tools where you can find them.