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Old 03-06-2002
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On Board Tool Kits

What type of tools should I keep on board?

Mark Matthews responds:
My trip from San Francisco to Charleston, SC, taught me that you can really can never have too many tools on a boat. Of course the type of tools you have on board will ultimately depend on several things: the kind of boat you have, the kind of on-board systems you have, the type of sailing you do, and how much work you plan on performing yourself.

Thereís no sense in having, for instance, a pair of feeler gauges, a hand plane, or a router, if you are not going to be using these things due to the fact that you plan to pay someone else to do this work for you. And if you prefer electrical tools like a battery-powered drill, you may want to have an appropriate hand-tool backup in case you find yourself out on the ocean with a limited amount of electrical juice.

What works best for me is to organize several tool boxes according to the various systems I have on board. For instance, I put sail-handling and rigging gear in one box, and plumbing items in another. The engine-oriented tools go in a specific box, while electrical equipment is kept by itself, and then I also have a box labeled general carpentry. Here are a few more specific suggestions:


  • Sockets (metric and/or standard; and a deep set of each is also recommended)
  • Assortment of screw drivers
  • Torque wrench
  • Swivels to reach those out of the way places
  • Open ended wrenches
  • Several sizes of crescent wrench
  • Oil-filter wrench
  • Pipe wrenches, for the biggest nut on the boat
  • Feeler guages
  • Oil filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Spare belts
  • Spare parts (starter, alternator, regulator etc.)
  • WD 40
  • Metal pry bar
  • Packing nut wrench
  • Allen wrenches ( metric and/or standard)
  • Zincs

Sails and Rigging:

  • Shackles
  • Seizing wire
  • Rigging Tape
  • Marline Spike
  • Whipping Twine
  • Sail Tape of varying lengths and Thickness
  • Grommet Kit
  • Palm
  • Sail Thread
  • Sail Needles
  • Clevis Pins
  • Cotter Pins
  • Norseman fittings, if applicable
  • Sewing machine
  • Bolt Cutters
  • Fid Splicing Kit
  • Spare stay, as long as the longest stay
  • Tension guage


  • Spare wire
  • Crimpers
  • Butt Splices
  • Assortment of rings and connectors
  • Voltmeter
  • Heat shrink
  • Solder
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire Stripper
  • Wire Crimper


  • Pipe wrenches
  • Big vice grips
  • Teflon tape
  • Hose Clamps
  • Duct tape
  • Propane torch
  • Wooden Plugs


  • Hammers of varying sizes, including a small sledgehammer--sometimes you need to whack it like you mean it.
  • Rubber mallet
  • Ball pean hammer
  • Chisels
  • Every type of screwdriver you can imagine, including big and small, flat and philips head
  • Cordless and regular drills
  • Electrical sander
  • Block sander
  • Hand drill
  • Drill bits
  • Spare bits
  • Hole saw bits
  • Hack saw
  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw
  • Punch
  • Tap and die set
  • Jig saw and blades
  • Vise grips
  • Hand plane
  • Vast array of stainless steel screws, bolts, nuts, fender washers,
  • Rivet gun
  • Rivets
  • Rasps
  • Epoxy, fillers, and respirator
  • Fiberglass

For a more involved answer regarding what tools to keep on board, I suggest you also read The Rewards of Self Sufficiency in which longtime SailNet contributors Sue & Larry offer a list of tools to carry on board.

I hope that all of this helps. At the very least it should give you some ideas. Good luck, and if you enjoy SailNet, don't be shy about visiting the company's online Store where more than 40,000 items are available, including a good stock of tools.

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