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In reading various internet forum threads relating to the disposing of “stuff” prior to embarking on a cruising adventure it seems pretty universal that most people get rid of everything EXCEPT their tools. So, as we are in no position to be contrarians we have tried to do the same. Of course, there’s no place for a large compound sliding mitre saw on a small cat, so we have trimmed our supply down to 2-3 large tool boxes of primarily hand-powered tools. Unfortunately, with yesterday’s foray into shelf building I missed having a nice electric circular saw to cut the wood. Oh well… AC electricity is in short supply on most boats so I think we made the right decision.

Here is a nice list of tools that was recommended by Mark Matthews on an internet thread. Thanks Mark!

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. 

There’s 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 gauges
  • 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
  • Multimeter
  • 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

Needless to say we will have OUR stash of tools all ready for the forthcoming boat repairs. They do say that cruising is “fixing your boat in various exotic ports of call,” don’t they? 🙂


  1. I noticed the item”solder” in electrical but no solder iron! If you are going to mess around with engines and plumbing you will also need work gloves (especially if the engine is hot when you have to fix it) and rags for cleaning up the oil etc

  2. You’re right about the soldering iron. It is missing from the list. Interestingly enough my research has shown that the preferred method of connecting joints is with crimped connectors covered by heat-shrink tubing as opposed to soldering. Maybe I’ll be able to put that expensive electronics schooling I had to good use!

    You are also right about the gloves. I was just reading an internet post by an experienced cruiser who said that he always wears gloves when working on the engine, cleaning a fish, etc. to prevent cuts. He said that he is much more worried about getting an infection from such a cut than he is getting sick from a some malicious bug.

    “I don’t worry much about health when I am sailing offshore because I’m not living in the viral soup found in cities. There’s little risk of getting sick from eating food, and you won’t catch illnesses from other people when you are offshore. But skin infection can be a serious problem if they get out of control. So I try to keep nicks and cuts on my hands to a minimum when offshore.”

    As for rags, I am sure we will have 20 or so T-shirts to use as rags once we find out that we have tried to bring along too much clothing! 🙂

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