Tools for cruisers: the definitive list
Let’s assume that you’re about to embark on your new life as a cruiser. You’ve done enough research to know that cruising is not all sunsets and umbrella drinks, and in fact, you’ve probably already heard the saying that cruising amounts to fixing boats in exotic places. What tools will you need to carry on board to affect those repairs? What follows is a list of what I consider to be essential tools for a self-sufficient cruiser, along with a few nice-to-have items. Unless otherwise noted, we carry all of these items with us, and wouldn’t leave home without them.I’ve titled this post Tools for Cruisers: the Definitive List, and I’d like it to be just that. If you carry a tool on your boat that you feel is essential, please let me know in the comments and if I agree that it fits, I’ll amend the post to include it.
Basic Mechanic’s Tools
I’m sure that real mechanics have a much more extensive list. They also have the knowledge and skill to go along with them. The following list has allowed me to complete every engine repair job that I’ve been required to do.
- socket set: imperial and metric – ideally a set that includes deep sockets, large diameter sockets, and spark plug sockets
- screwdrivers: slot in various sizes (plus a really large one that could double as a small pry bar), Phillips in various sizes (consider adding specialty screwdrivers like Robertson and Torx, and possibly a security bit set)
- pliers: Channelocks (tongue & groove), needle nose, linemen, side cutters, vice grips
- open end wrenches: SAE and metric, long and short – and a few extra 10mm ones. 🙂
- ratcheting wrenches (I prefer stubby ones)
- crescent wrenches of various sizes
- monkey wrench
- allen keys: SAE and metric
- strap wrench ( a filter wrench is good, but a strap wrench can be used in more applications)
- spark plug gap tool
- headlamp and/or drop light
- impeller puller – I’ve never owned one, but they do seem to be recommended
A note on tool quality and purchasing. There seems to be two camps when it comes to tools:
- buy the best you can afford, and you’ll never be disappointed
- buy cheap, and when they wear out or break, buy a new one
I tend to be in the initial category, where my budget allows. In cases where I own and can recommend a specific brand/model, or wanted to point out exactly what the tool was that I listed, I have included a link, Amazon affiliate or otherwise.
Other Basic Tools:
- chisels: cold and woodworking
- files: small and large, coarse and fine
- dental picks
- tape measure
- wire brush
- safety glasses
- putty knife
- punches: center and drift
As much as I hate cutting holes in boats, or chopping things up, there comes a time when it’s required.
- cordless 1/2″ drill + bits, including spade bits and hole saws
- Dremel tool
- hacksaw with extra blades
- wood saw
- box cutter (utility knife) with extra blades
- AC/DC clamp-on multimeter
- ratcheting crimper
- wire strippers
- soldering iron – butane or electric
- lighter/torch to melt shrink-wrap tubing
Extras that are good to have:
These didn’t really fit in the above categories, but I still pretty much consider them must-haves.
- heat gun
- vice (you may want to give some thought to mounting)
- rivet gun + rivets
- Pres-N-Snap tool + associated snaps, etc.
- sailmaker’s palm + needles, thread, whipping twine
- splicing fids
- caulking gun
- grease gun
- bolt cutters
- tap and die set
- wet/dry shop vac
- extension cord – if you have AC powered electrical tools that are not rechargeable, make sure that you have an extension cord long enough, and of the proper gauge, to power them from your inverter and/or generator.
- hose removal tool – never had this, but definitely want one!
- mirror, perhaps an extendable one
- damaged screw remover and extractor
- fish tape
- hose clamp driver – 1/4″- 5/16″ – more convenient that digging into your socket set
- telescoping magnetic pick-up tool and/or a claw type retriever tool
- carburetor jet cleaning tool
Nice to have:
The following items I either have never had on board, or do not presently own. If you have the money though, they’d be a good investment.
- cordless grinder
- Fein Multimaster
- jig saw
- electric sander
- torque wrench
- wire cutters (large enough to cut standing rigging)
- digital infrared thermometer
- Engel hot knife
- splicing wands from Brion Toss