What should I have on my boat? Part 1 – General Rules for Tools


This summer was amazing. We started the warm weather early, and the beautiful weather kept up late into fall. We had lots of dry climate with low winds. Couple that with a new boat, and you basically have a dream combination of worry-free boating, right? Well, not really. As I will outline in a blog post at some point, I had my fair share of issues. About mid-season, I started having major issues with my battery. I’d run out of power quickly once I was off of shore power and running the boat didn’t seem to charge anything. As it turns out, one of my battery terminals came lose (or perhaps it wasn’t tightened properly to begin with). I had a small leak of coolant into my bilge thanks to a faulty quad-ring. I eventually had to get an engine replaced this summer as well due to a casting error! OK, perhaps with that last one there was no level of onboard preparedness I could have to take care of that issue promptly, but determining if the issue was something I needed to stop and take care of right away, or if it was something I could handle once I got back to home port was something I could do with the right tools.

Now that I’m taking Engine Maintenance class, I’ve decided to look more closely at what I should keep onboard my boat: from tools to spare parts. I’ve done my research and I want to convey my findings to others. However, there’s a LOT to consider, so I’m going to break this series up into several posts. Stick with me and I’ll do my best to get you prepared for whatever comes your way in the season ahead!

This List is General – Consider Adding Other Things

A word of caution, however. There is no way I can possibly prepare every individual and their boat for every situation. So think of these as general guidelines to get you started. But you’ll want to think about your own needs, items specific to your boat and the conditions of your boat, and things you’ll be doing on your trip to make sure you close the gap.

Rules for Tools

Consider Used Tools

We all know that boats are expensive, but if you’ve had a boat for any period of time, you also know that tools for those boats are expensive. So keep in mind that you don’t have to buy them all brand new. Try looking on eBay, Craigslist, local papers, or even boat yards and marinas in your area. They might be willing to part with older tools at a price if they are getting ready to replace theirs.

Buy Hand Tools Instead of Power Where Practical

Power Tools take up space and are often hard to fit into the tight spaces required for work on your boat. You also have no idea if your power will be working on your boat when you need that tool the most. If you must have power tools, consider tools with rechargeable batteries.

Maintain your Tools

Let’s face it. You’re on the water and that’s rough not only for your boat systems, it’s also rough on the tools you keep. You’ll want to make sure you maintain the tools just like you maintain your boat’s systems. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you for a long time to come.

Keep your Tools Dry

It’s a good idea to keep your tools in waterproof containers (plastic boxes with a good seal on them are good). If the box you keep your tools in don’t have a seal, consider it first project to put a seal on that box to keep the water out. I bought a brand new set of tools when my boat was delivered. By the end of this season, I had to not only throw the tools out, but I had to scrub the mess those tools made out of one of my holds. I just bought a new set, and believe me, I’ll be sealing the box!

REALLY Keep your Tools Dry!

For further protection, consider spraying your tools a couple times a year with WD-40 or some other water-displacing fluid. I’m personally going to give UltraTech Ever Dry a shot boat on my tools and in one of my storage containers. Here’s the video that got me looking at it:

I later found this TED video that also amazed me further:

This has been quite a post already, so I’ll keep it short. In part 2, I’ll focus on the specific mechanical tools you’ll want to keep on board.

What should I have on my boat? Part 2 – Mechanical Tools

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One comment

JonErik Johnson 17 January 2014

If you want any content, let me know. I keep a very particular bunch of tools, for mechanical, electrical and plumbing items that may come up. Last season when my alternator belt broke, I had to remove every belt off the front of my motor, and replace the inside belt to continue on our fishing expedition. Took me an hour and a half, and I learned a few more things things that go wrong when boating. It is impossible to plan for everything, but I am usually prepared for the typical stuff that goes wrong. Love the idea of the silicone repellent, perfect idea to protect all types of vulnerable items and components on boat. One thing I have witnessed as EVERYONE forgetting on the land side, an alternative means to remove water from bilge. Love the Blog!


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