Did you just buy a boat and want to get a proper set of boat tools? Or do you want to update (and clean up) your on-board toolbox? No matter what you're up to: Check out our ultimate list of tools on board and compile your boat tool kit according to your requirements.
What are your boating tool kit requirements?
Of course there is no "one size fits all" kind of toolbox, as every boater's needs are different. If you go out fishing on day trips in an open skiff, you do not need the same tools as a sailor on the open ocean. This is why we split up the list into three parts:
Cheap or Expensive - What Quality Do I Need?
Everyone who has worked extensively with any kind of tool knows that quality makes a big difference. Not only does it make the work easier (sharper tools, better grip), it also is a safety factor, as bad-quality hardware tends to break when they are most needed.
On the other hand, it hurts much more if you drop a 100 $ tool overboard than a 10 $ one. And while being a good indicator, a hefty price tag is not always a guarantee for good quality. So we leave it up to you: For every tool in our list, we suggest both a product with good ratings in the lower price range as well as a high-quality product.
A common practice among serious boater is to have a good selection of expensive tools on board as well as a small set of inexpensive boat tools for everyday use. The inexpensive set is stored next to the companionway and can be accessed quickly for small and urgent repairs. Whenever something needs more time and attention, the "real" hardware is used, but with proper care.
Note that I did not include any emergency tools (such as bolt cutters or a hatchet) in the lists. These tools are very dependent on the type of boat and should not be placed in the box with the regular tools. I also omitted spare parts that float around my tool box such as nuts and bolts, spark plugs, spare wire, hose clamps and much more.
1. Basic Tools on Board Every Boat
The following list are tools that should be on board even if you only go out on day trips. They cover the basic needs if you encounter a problem or an emergency situation. If you do more extensive trips and have a more extensive toolbox on board, the item on this list are the set of tools that you should keep handy near the companionway. I personally go for the cheap option to keep near the companionway and keep a high-quality version of each tool in my larger toolbox for more extensive repairs.
16 oz hammer
set of pliers and cutters
screwdriver bit set
simple hand saw
[no cheap alternative]
2. Boat Tools for Longer Trips
If you want to leave for a longer trip and be more self reliant, here is a list of tools that you might need. You will probably notice that I did not mention any power tools on this list. In my opinion, it is best to keep things as simple as possible and I like to be able to keep using my boat tools even when their battery is dead or there is a power outage on board. However, if you prefer power tools, there are plenty of options available as well.
proper set of screwdrivers
set of combination wrenches (metric/inch)
[the Schroeder is high quality]
multi-purpose drill bits
gas soldering iron
set of chisels
3. Offshore Cruising Toolkit
Now we come to full self-sufficiency. Apart from having plenty of spare parts and other supplies on board, here is a list of tools that might come handy on a circumnavigation (or if you just like the idea of being able to care for yourself). Now we added some power tools which can be useful if you plan on doing extensive woodwork projects on the way. Depending on your power system on board you might only be able to use (or recharge) them in the harbor. Still, I would not want to miss tools such as my Fein Multimaster on board anymore.
oscillating multi tool
portable electric drill
[the Narex is high quality]
We have finally reached the end of this (lengthy) list of on-board tools. Of course these lists are not universal and you might want to add or remove items depending on your personal taste. However, I hope that I could give you some ideas on what boat tools you need to be self-sufficient on the water.
Did I miss something? Do you disagree with my choice for a tool or a brand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. I will be happy to incorporate your suggestions into the list.