Select Page

It is wise to have a comprehensive and well-organised tool kit and a supply of spares for your boat. This is both for routine maintenance and to deal with unexpected breakages and equipment failure at sea. Read on for some tips and advice on what you need…

You can get by with very few tools aboard a boat, as long as nothing breaks and someone else does all the maintenance for you. The previous owner of my present boat used it mainly for inshore racing and in order to save weight made do with a small ratcheting screwdriver with six double-ended bits, a large rusty hammer and very little else.

For all boats heading offshore this is not such a good plan. The greater the distance you travel the more you need to be prepared for dealing with breakdowns and equipment failure at sea.

Tools should be kept as dry as possible and safely stowed in secure lockers as low in the boat as possible – overhead lockers are not the ideal place to stow heavy tools and spares for obvious safety reasons.

Good hand tools will last a lifetime with proper care. The marine environment shows no mercy on cheap tools which can corrode in next to no time, so it pays in the long run to buy good quality and to look after them. It is a good idea to build up a collection of specialist tool kits for rigging, sail repairs, engine and electrics.

Power tools

A selection of cordless power tools are also useful. Cordless tools with lithium-ion batteries are the best, as their batteries retain charge almost indefinitely when stored. Potentially useful items include drill/drivers, saws, soldering irons, Dremels and angle grinders.

Tips:

  • Only buy tools that will withstand the marine environment.
  • Organise the storage of your tools wisely and make sure you know where they are kept.
  • If you plan to head offshore and go cruising, take a comprehensive toolkit to cover every eventuality, plus plenty of spares.

Below are some lists of specific tools and spares to carry on a medium sized cruising yacht. Personally I find the Leatherman multi-tool the most useful single item – mine is more than 20 years old and still going strong!

General tools

  • Allen keys.
  • Bolt cutters.
  • Bradawl.
  • Centre punch.
  • Chisels.
  • Drills – hand and powered plus drill bits for wood and metal, including stainless steel.
  • Files – wood and metal.
  • Hacksaws – large, small + spare tungsten carbide blades.
  • Hammers – 2lb lump + plastic mallet.
  • Hole cutters.
  • Knives – craft, palette + spare blades.
  • Mallets – wooden mallets are kinder to a boat than hammers.
  • Mastic gun.
  • Mole wrench.
  • Multi-tool – eg Leatherman.
  • Oilstone for sharpening blades.
  • Paint scrapers.
  • Pliers – various sizes and types, including circlip pliers.
  • Screwdrivers, various sizes and types.
  • Screwdriver bits, various sizes and types included Torx bits.
  • Socket sets – both half inch and quarter inch drives with metric and imperial sockets as appropriate.
  • Spanners, open ended, ring and adjustable types.
  • Tap and die set.
  • Torches, including a head torch.
  • Vernier gauge.
  • Vice – the type designed to fit on top of a winch is ideal.
  • Wire brush.
  • Wood saws.

General spares

  • Adhesives.
  • Abrasive paper (in various grades).
  • Duct tape.
  • Hose clips in a range of sizes.
  • Marine grade sealant.
  • Masking tape.
  • Petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
  • PTFE tape.
  • Spray can of lubricant.
  • Stainless steel nuts, bolts and screws in a range of sizes.
  • Washers (including large penny washers).

Electrical tools

  • Crimping tool.
  • Electrical pliers.
  • Multimeter
  • Precision (small) screwdriver set.
  • Soldering iron.
  • Wire cutters.

Electrical spares

  • Cable ties.
  • Electrical tape.
  • Fuses.
  • Heat shrink tubing.
  • Light bulbs, including navigation lights.
  • Solder.
  • Spare battery terminals.
  • Torch batteries.
  • Wire terminals and connectors.
  • Wire of different sizes.

Engine tools

  • Feeler gauge.
  • Filter wrench.
  • Injector spanners.
  • Oil change pump.
  • Spark plug spanner for outboard motor.
  • Torque wrench.

Rigging and sail repair tools

  • Cutting board.
  • Hot knife.
  • Rigging cutters.
  • Sailmaker’s needles – it’s worth noting that many of these are sized for rope work and only the smallest sizes tend to be suitable for sail repairs.
  • Sailmaker’s palm.
  • Sharp knife – consider a ceramic one as these maintain an edge for longer.
  • Splicing fids.
  • Swedish fid.

Rigging and sail making supplies

  • Blocks, including a snatch block.
  • Dyneema line – 2mm and 4mm.
  • Electrical tape.
  • Sailmaker’s thread.
  • Self-adhesive sail repair patches.
  • Self-amalgamating tape.
  • Shackles in a range of sizes.
  • Spinnaker repair tape.
  • Whipping twine.

One final tip is that it helps to store tools and spares in transparent plastic boxes clearly labelled with magic markers. Finding a tool or spare in a hurry on a pitching and rolling boat can prove very frustrating and seriously affect your sense of humour!

Sail trimming for cruisers

Sail trimming tips for cruisers. Whether racing or cruising, a well tuned boat will sail faster and tend to heel less than a boat with badly adjusted sails.

First Aid Afloat – jellyfish stings

  Wherever you are boating in the world I am sure you will be using a pilot guide to aid your navigation. Often in the...

How to improve a yacht’s upwind performance

There are several ways to improve the upwind performance of a sailing yacht. Read on for some useful tips including headsail reefing, heavy weather jibs and motor sailing.

Essential Knots: Figure of eight

Essential Knots: Figure of eight Use: Stopper knot, prevents a rope from being pulled through a hole e.g. through a block or...

Common medical emergencies at sea

A medical emergency aboard a boat at sea requires immediate attention to ensure the safety of the casualty and the crew in general. The skipper needs to know which crew members, if any, have had medical training or have a first aid qualification. All boats should carry first aid handbooks to help an untrained crew cope with a medical emergency.

Essential Knots: Round turn and two half hitches

Essential Knots: Round turn and two half hitches Use: Tying a rope to a pole or a ring. Step 1. Pass the end around the object. Step 2....

Boat engine basics

Boat engines come in all shapes and sizes and include inboards, outboards, petrol, diesel, electric and hybrid systems. Some engines are...

Rudders and steering systems – Part 2

One thing all rudders have in common is that they have three main parts that need to be checked: the rudder, or a steerable drive leg in the case of many power boats; the system that joins the rudder to the steering; the steering control itself.

Tacking a sailing boat

Tacking is the sailing manoeuvre used to change a boat's direction through an oncoming wind. Tacking a sailing boat calls...

A five day sailing cruise of the Solent, UK

Welcome to our virtual Solent sailing cruise – a five day sail in the south of England from Bosham Quay in Chichester...

Engine failure at sea – keeping the boat safe

If the engine stops when you are underway, or your have to shut it down when a warning buzzer sounds, you also need to make sure the boat remains safe. It’s important therefore to recognise situations in which the boat would be immediately put in danger if the engine were to fail.

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 2

To prepare for antifouling, as soon as your boat has been lifted out and pressure washed, you need to check all the surfaces of the hull below the waterline, remove any remaining barnacles and check for blisters.

Pleasure craft safety equipment recommendations

Safety equipment is an important part of boat preparation and it is advisable for all pleasure craft skippers to check their vessel is...

The give-way hierarchy – sail boats and power boats

Who gives way to who at sea? Even seasoned sailors sometimes get this wrong and in a crowded harbour this can easily lead to a collision or at best considerable embarrassment for a boat that mistakenly thinks it has right of way over another.

Gybing a sailing boat

Gybing is the sailing manoeuvre used to change a boat's direction through a following wind. As with the tacking manoeuvre,...

Rudders and steering systems – Part 1

Rudders and steering systems. A rudder is one of the most critical parts of a boat. Rudder failure is a common occurrence on neglected or overworked boats and a very unpleasant and potentially dangerous thing to happen when you are out at sea.

Rewiring a boat – overcoming the challenges involved

Skippers need to have a basic knowledge of boat electrics, to avoid potential problems and to be able to solve them when they happen.

Know your Navlights & Shapes – essential for all skippers

Know your Navlights & Shapes International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (ColRegs) Anyone who is...

Capsize – understanding the risks

A skipper should know how their boat will cope with rough seas. By working within known limits and understanding the risks,...

Jester Challenge 2022 – Sailing single handed from Plymouth UK to the Azores: Part 10 – The Return Trip

Jester Challenge – A modern experiment in old-fashioned self-reliance, self sufficiency, and personal responsibility. This is the final instalment of a 10-part post where solo sailor, Bernie Branfield, shares his first-hand account of his single-handed, 2022 Jester Challenge, from Plymouth, UK to the Azores, in his 26′ Invicta Mk2, Louisa.

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps Make Learning Rules on iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android...

How to cope with an emergency at sea

A safe skipper will be mentally prepared for all kinds of potential emergencies happening at sea, including medical emergencies, engine failure, fire, a holed hull, capsize and dismasting.

Competent crew skills: arriving and leaving a berth

Skilled boat handling is needed when entering or leaving harbour. Crew tasks include preparing the mooring lines and fenders before docking and...

Anchoring – getting it right is not always straightforward

If you can set an anchor correctly with confidence and know your boat will be safe in a secure anchorage, then you can rest...

Hourly Checks when sailing or motoring

  Hourly Checks Get into the habit of carrying out these checks and both yourself, your crew and your boat will be...