I didn’t used to bring tools on the boat.

I always had a Leatherman, some duct tape, and a can of WD-40, which is kind of the MacGyver Mirepoix, but I didn’t have dedicated boat tools. If I needed to work on something, I’d bring the necessary tools from home—although what seemed necessary during the planning phase often proved inadequate once I was contorted upside down into some dark hatch with sweat running into my eyes, mildly bleeding, and swearing as if I were being paid by the word. I’d have to shimmy out and make a wild-eyed plea along the lines of “Jen, there is no tomorrow. If I don’t buy a [tool that I already own] before the store closes, we’re never going to sail.”

Eventually, I bought enough duplicates in this manner that it started to make sense to just get a tool bag and keep them on the boat.

Today is the vernal equinox, and I felt like I should be thinking about boat things, but given the “wintery mix” that’s going on out there, it’s not exactly bottom painting weather. Just to feel productive, I decided to pull everything out of my boat tool bag and give it a light coating of rust-inhibiting (I hope) lanolin.


I don’t make any claim that these are the best or remotely appropriate tools for a sailboat, but it’s what I happen to be carrying at the moment.

Roughly from left to right along the top row, I have:

  • soft face hammer
  • claw hammer: I’d like to upgrade this to a ball-peen at some point, since I rarely pull nails on the boat.
  • pop rivet gun: Not to be confused with the marina’s “Big Daddy” rivet gun.
  • LED flashlight
  • wire strippers
  • ratcheting wire crimper: Yeah, it’s from Harbor Freight, but it has the machined dies and still gets the Maine Sail Seal of Approval (with an asterisk for high variability.)
  • ratchet set
  • keyhole hack saw
  • Loos Gauges: For ballparking rigging tension. I need to carry two because my boat has two different gauges of wire which happen to span the gauges.
  • horrible stuffing box wrench: This thing is garbage. Does anyone make a nice one?
  • soft tool bag: My Gorilla tape has a loop of paracord going through the roll, which is clipped to a carabiner on the bag.

Middle-ish row:

  • center punch: I have no idea why I have this in here?
  • scratch awl: Used mostly for stabbing myself while looking for other tools.
  • razor blade holder
  • wrench set: metric and imperial
  • mechanical pencils (2)
  • hex bits

Bottom row:

  • Big honkin’ screwdriver
  • assortment of normal screwdrivers: both flat and Phillips, various sizes
  • offset screwdriver: very handy when you need to get to an obnoxious place
  • hex driver
  • crescent wrenches (2): I need two for adjusting the rig.
  • Vise Grips: standard, needle nose, and Fuzzy Bunny-sized
  • pliers: regular (AKA “plars”), needle nose
  • Channellocks: one small, bobo; one large, genuine Channellock brand

Honorable Mention (i.e., not shown):

  • Fluke 87 multimeter: I was tired of messing around with junk meters.
  • full-sized standard hack saw
  • oil filter wrench
  • Extremely Large Channellocks: Jen only refers to these as “The Dinosaur.”
  • Speedy Stitcher: Previously, uh, reviewed/set to poetry here.
  • whipping twine
  • stainless steel bailing wire
  • ~20 pounds of stainless nuts, bolts, rigging parts, wire terminals, cotter pins, and assorted paraphernalia.

This is, of course, all subject to change the next time I find myself in a losing game of Twister somewhere under my engine in dire need of a muffler bearing wrench or whatever, but for now, this collection mostly keeps me from having to hammer in screws with a winch handle.

Please leave a comment if I’m missing anything obvious (or just to shower adulation.)

Now let’s get back to the more spring-like weather.



"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."

3 thoughts on “Sailboat Tools

  1. Never trust your life to a $5 bargain tool store meter! Certainly there are other good brands but you really can’t go wrong with a decent Fluke. One of those things that just requires you to spend the money.

    Thanks for sharing Chip!

    1. I still remember my first meter. I got some junk mail from Radio Shack advertising an analog meter that was usually $19.99 on sale for $5.99 or something, and I got super excited. I went and got it, but when I brought it home it didn't work. I took it back immediately, while the guy I bought it from was still working, and before I could even explain anything, he said with a huge grin, "You caught me!" 

      Instead of exchanging it I got my money back, and went meterless until I could afford one that wasn't a literal joke. But it was still many years before I upgraded to the Fluke.

      Thanks for reading our boat log, BG!

      1. That guy is the reason people invented swear words and thumb screws. Joke was on him though. He was an employee of Radio Shak in this or the last century. People only go in there now to find out what died. HINT: It’s guys like the “you caught me” guy. They end up the same as forgotten pet lizards; smelly little pieces of jerky pressed desperately against the glass.

Comments are closed.