A tool box should be an essential part of any boat. What type of tool box and what you carry in it is usually depends on a number of things. The most important being the level of proficiency you have with repairing something when there is a breakdown. I have spoken to some very mechanically inclined captains that have multiple tool boxes and parts on board in which they are confident that they can fix their way out anything. On the other end of the spectrum a friend of mine with 26 foot Searay considers his most important two tools to be a corkscrew and his Sea Tow number.
For full disclosure, I rate myself a 6.5 out of ten in regards to being able to fix a problem so my tool kit reflects that. I keep on board a West Marine “shipyard tool set” with all 175 pieces packed tightly in a fold out plastic case. In addition to this I have a hammer, rubber mallet (to check the hull when it is out of the water), two different size vice grips, extra screw drivers in assorted sizes, hose clamps, tie wraps, electrical and masking tape, a head mounted LED light and a bright LED search light that can light up the engine compartment if needed. For parts I carry an extra impeller, fuel filter and belts but leave the replacement of them to the mechanics who have figured out better than I on how to wiggle around my two Cat 3208’s in the tightest of spaces. I also have a good knife along with a dive mask and snorkel in case I have to check under the boat or cut a line on a prop. After my research here I immediately added Rescue Tape and Stay Afloat Putty.
A good collection of tools starts with the box. Whether you have 20 assorted tools or 100 you need to keep them protected. If you are in a bigger boat with dry cabins than any good stainless steel tool or strong plastic box should do the job. If you are in a small boat where the sea air and moisture is a problem, consider buying a waterproof box. Doing this will keep your tools from corroding away in the salty air environment.
On the conservative side of what to carry on board some captains like Bryan Hallock, from Lindenhurst who has been boating for 34 years has 200 types of tools. He also stores all his filters, hoses and normal maintenance parts. With all these tools only once did he have a need to bring out the repair box out while out cruising. This happened when an impeller blew out early. His rule is “take care of your maintenance and there should be no on board repairs”.
Another long time Captain, Peter Hirschorn from Port Washington, recently changed from a 40’ Sea Ray with big diesels to a 32’ Catalina sailboat with one small 20hp diesel. He used to carry 75 pounds of tools and spare parts. Now he keeps his tool box to no more than 20 pounds. He said that most engine companies sell various part kits to take care of normal types of repairs that come up from time to time and has had those on board. As for tools, he keeps the basics now because he is never more than one night away from his dock.
Many captains agreed that for day or overnight use having a basic tool kit on board was sufficient. Cruisers and off shore fisherman have been known to carry items like tarps, plugs and an extra pump as well as anything that think that will bring them home.
Below is a list of items you should consider having on board. The list is compiled from research and doing a survey for this story. The list does not include safety gear which is required on all boats.
• All manuals. This should include everything from the head to the engine.
• A good tool box (see above)
• Socket set and wrench kit along with a medium size adjustable wrench
• Any specific tool needed for your engine (i.e.: Tool for bleeding out air in the fuel line)
• Vice grips
• Telescoping magnet and mirror
• Screwdriver kit with interchangeable bits or an assortment of screwdrivers
• Rescue tape, Duct tape, Stay Afloat Putty, Marine epoxy putty, electrical tape, tie wraps, fuses, lightbulbs, assorted clamps and rubber gloves (in one box marked)
• Dewalt inspection camera kit (to look around corners and tight spaces)
• Mask and snorkel
• Sharp serrated knife
• A high-quality LED flashlight and spare batteries
• Gallon of engine oil and anti-freeze
• A spare propeller and prop hardware (prop nut, cotter pin, thrust washers)
• A propeller wrench and a six-inch long piece of a 2”x4” wood
• Six shop rags
• Extra maintenance items like an impeller, hose and belts.
• Sea Tow or Tow Boat US service contract
• Spare handheld radio (to call out if your electrical goes)
In the event of a breakdown on the water follow a few rules. Stay calm and access the situation immediately. If there is a danger to you and the boat put life jackets on and immediately call on channel 16 stating clearly your name, where you are and your situation. If you are broken down and not in danger make sure you are not going to float into a busy channel or rocks. Have an anchor ready to secure your position. Once you determined that your boat is not in danger ascertained if an on board repair is possible and call for towing assistance if needed.
Tab & Maureen Hauser can be found in Glen Cove’s Brewers Marina on board the Miracle in the creek. His cruising stories are at www.tabhauser.com.