The Cruising Sailor’s Toolkit

Posted on Wednesday 6 May 2009

On a sailing forum, the question of what tools should a boat have aboard came up. While the tool kit would vary, depending on what boat you have and what area you’re sailing in, as well as what kind of sailing you’ll be doing. If you’re just day-sailing or weekending, or sail on a landlocked lake, the tool kit below is probably overkill, and too much to carry on a regular basis.

However, if you’re sailing on the ocean, or on longer journeys, it would probably make sense to carry this kit, to minimize the number of problems that require external assistance. I believe the more self-sufficient a sailor is, the lower his cruising costs will be, and the safer passages will be. A fairly complete cruising sailor’s tool kit would include the following:

Mechanics Tools:

These are the tools generally needed to repair the mechanical systems, like the engine, and are used in repairing and maintaining most other systems on a boat.

  • A Craftsman mechanics setthis includes both metric and imperial, since I’ve found on my boat there is a mix… the outboards use metric, the rest of the boat is pretty much imperial
  • Several assorted visegrips
  • Assorted screwdrivers, including torx, allen, flat and phillips blades
  • A large set of channel locks
  • A pipe wrench
  • A hacksaw—with extra blades
  • Some chisels—for both wood and metal
  • A few drift punches
  • An automatic centerpunch
  • A small sledge
  • A ball peen hammer
  • A claw hammer
  • Assorted files and rasps
  • A set of calipers
  • A tape measure
  • A strap wrench
  • An oil filter wrench
  • An awl or ice pick

Electrical System Tools and Supplies:

These are tools and supplies that are specifically required to diagnose and repair electrical problems on a boat. Wire should be pre-tinned marine-grade stranded wire. Connections should be crimped with adhesive-lined heat shrink terminals.

  • A digital multimeter
  • An electrical terminal crimping tool
  • A butane torch for heat shrink terminals
  • Assorted heat shrink terminals
  • Some assorted wire in red and yellow. 12 AWG is a very useful size, and can handle a fairly heavy load.
  • Electrical tape, a good brand, like 3M
  • Spare batteries for equipment aboard—I like the Energizer Lithium AA batteries for flashlights, due to the long use and shelf life
  • Spare fuses for any used aboard—I like the mini-blade fuses. Try to standardize the boat to a few types as possible

Rigging Tools and Supplies:

These are the tools and supplies that are specific maintaining a sailboat’s rigging.

  • Spare clevis pins, cotter rings and cotter pins
  • Some small line, say 1/8-1/4″ for various repairs, lashings, messenger lines, etc.
  • A sailmaker’s palm
  • Spare sailcloth
  • Sail repair tape
  • Sailmaker’s needles
  • Sail repair thread
  • Some stainless steel rings
  • Whipping twine
  • Beeswax
  • Stainless Steel Wire for mousing shackle pins
  • A couple of spare blocks of the most common kind used on your boat
  • A bosun’s chair
  • A good awl
  • A good pair of heavy duty scissors
  • Extra shackles of the most common sizes used on your boat
  • A full set of fids or similar rope-working tools—I prefer the Brion Toss Splicing Wands

A Maintenance and Repair Kit:

These are the supplies you need to re-bed hardware and do basic maintenance and repairs.

  • 3M 5200 Fast Cure
  • 3M 4000 UV
  • A roll of Butyl Tape
  • Lanocote
  • Loctite (both red and blue)
  • Boeshield T9—This is like industrial WD40.
  • McLube SailKote
  • PBlaster
  • Heavy waterproof bearing grease
  • An assortment of stainless steel screws, nuts and washers
  • Some epoxy putty that sets underwater. Progressive Epoxy Polymers has some really good stuff.
  • Some regular epoxy resin and hardener
  • Some fiberglass cloth
  • Some colloidial fumed silica (Cabo-sil) for thickening the epoxy
  • Some disposable gloves—nitrile preferably
  • Respirator mask
  • Some mixing supplies—cups, containers, sticks, etc.
  • Acetone
  • Denatured Alcohol

A Plumbing Kit:

These are the supplies you need to keep the plumbing and water-related systems on the boat working properly.

  • Teflon Tape
  • Plumber’s Putty
  • Rescue tape or some other self-fusing silicone tape
  • A roll of duct tape
  • Stainless steel hose clamps of various sizes—I prefer the AWAB or ABA brand, since they have rolled edges and no perforations in the band, making them less likely to damage the hose.
  • Spare hose in the sizes and types you use aboard your boat.
  • Wooden bungs in the sizes of the through-hulls aboard the boat—These should be made of softwood with a hole drilled through the fat end with a piece of light line through it to lash them in place and kept in a plastic bag to keep them dry until needed.

Spares and Extra Parts:

Carrying the proper spares will make simple repairs possible, turning what would otherwise be emergencies into relatively routine events.

  • Spark plugs for your outboard motors
  • Fuel and oil filters
  • Impellers for the various pumps aboard
  • Rebuild kits for the various pumps aboard, including the head
  • Shear pins for outboard motor
  • Props for outboard motors, or spare blades if using a composite prop like a Pirahna
  • Spare banjo washers for the fuel system fittings

An Emergency Kit—for collisions and de-mastings:

These are really only necessary if going on extended passages.

  • Bolt cutters or rigging cutter to cut the mast free
  • A few large pieces of marine plywood
  • Some epoxy putty that sets underwater. Progressive Epoxy Polymers has some really good stuff.
  • A tarp or piece of sail cloth with grommets added to use as a temporary patch for larger holes
  • Extra line, in various diameters and lengths
  • A small sledge and drift punch to remove clevis pins quickly
  • Fiberglass water curing repair tape
  • Fiberglass cloth

Miscellaneous Tools I’ve found very useful:

While these aren’t really necessary, they can make life aboard a lot simpler.

  • A mechanical pencil—0.5 mm is the most useful size
  • An ultrafine tip Sharpie permanent marker
  • A pocket multitool, like the Leatherman Core or Surge
  • A cordless toolset including a drill, a sawzall, a jigsaw and a circular saw is often very useful
  • A random orbital sander is very useful for prepping surfaces for painting, fiberglassing, etc.
  • Battery lug crimping tool—the large bolt-cutter like ones, not the cheap hammer driven type.
  • Several flashlights, including a headlamp
  • A dremel rotary tool is often useful
  • A set of taps and dies
  • A set of bar clamps
  • A pop rivet tool with aluminum and stainless steel rivets up to 3/16″ in diameter
  • A Fein Multimaster—this is a recent addition to the toolkit, and seems to be a worthy one
  • Loos Pro Tension gauges for your boat’s rigging

The above list is overkill if you’re just daysailing, or weekending, but if you’re coastal cruising it can make the difference between being able to get back or being stuck someplace. However, if you’re planning on venturing off-shore or to more remote areas, you would probably want to include it aboard.

1 Comment for 'The Cruising Sailor’s Toolkit'

    October 19, 2009 | 5:40 pm

    […] asked this when I first came aboard and was given this reference by Sailing Dog to his website The Cruising Sailor’s Toolkit | Adrift at Sea This pretty much covers all your needs. As long as you know what to do with it. I.E, no need to […]

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