How to

Toolkit For Your Boat

Unless you’re a skilled mechanic, there is little you can do when faced with a catastrophic breakdown on the water.

Even if you are handy with the tools, an engine that’s shat itself, electrical issues or some other disaster will more than likely require major surgery in a workshop .

This is why joining your local marine rescue association is such a good idea – when it all goes pear shaped, they can come and give you a tow home.

But plenty of minor problems can be fixed as long as you have the basic tools on hand. The following is a rundown of the tools and equipment I carry aboard my boat.

Adjustable wrench: I have a seven-inch stainless steel Sea Spanner, a high quality tool that’s invaluable for tightening nuts and battery connectors. I also carry a bigger forged adjustable wrench for heavier work.

Screwdrivers: I carry a variety of Phillips and flat-headed screwdrivers. These are handy for various basic fix-it jobs, mainly relating to loose wiring or replacing things like lights and fuse blocks.

Pliers: I use several types of pliers/cutters. Pliers are always handy and can be used as de facto spanners, hammers, vice grips and a variety of other tasks. The cutters can be used on wire or cable.

Scissors: A small pair of scissors is invaluable for trimming cable ties.

Fuses: Blown fuses are a common problem when boats mysteriously won’t work. I carry a set of replacement fuses so that if I experience any issues, I can check the fuse block and easily replace any fuse that’s blown. It’s important to keep your spare fuses away from water and safe from vibration or shock damage.

Water dispersant/lubricant: A spray can of Inox or WD-40 is standard equipment on most boats. This stuff frees up corroded bolts, can be used to clean away grease or oil, can temporarily help conduct power through corroded wiring/battery terminals and helps disperse water from wiring, fuses and terminals.

Cable ties: These are a must-have for any boatie. I carry a wide variety of different size cable ties and use them for a range of tasks. Used as temporary fasteners, or if tidying up loose wiring, cable ties are easy to use, especially in a rocking boat.

Files: I carry a couple of basic files, which are useful when cleaning corroded battery terminals or if you need to smooth off sharp edges following damage to metal or plastic components.

Spare nuts & bolts: I always have a zip bag containing various stainless steel screws, bolts, nuts and washers. Ensure you buy marine grade 316 stainless products.

Grease: A tub of marine grade bearing grease lives in my boat. This is vital when replacing bearings but handy when doing a whole range of DIY repairs.

Spare bearings: These are vital when towing any sort of distance. Even though I regularly check my trailer wheel bearings, a bearing could fail anytime. Having spares – plus the grease and tools needed to replace them – gives peace of mind when towing.

Spare hub: Even though replacing a set of bearings isn’t hard, it takes time and there are better things to do than sit on the side of a road covered in grease. A spare hub loaded with greased bearings is a much quicker option. I sourced my spare hub from Easy Tow Trailers – it comes rigged on an axle stub and is pretty much ready for action. It’s bulky to carry but it’s much easier to replace a hub than it is to remove and replace bearings.  

Electrical tape: A few rolls of electrical tape can be used to make emergency repairs to wiring as well as many other uses. Gaffer tape is stronger than electrical tape but isn’t suited for use on wiring repairs.

DIY advantage
Apart from the Sea Spanner, which is a really classy piece of work, I bought all these tools relatively cheaply. They are quality but not top shelf.

Life on a boat puts tools at risk to significant corrosion so there’s little point investing in really expensive equipment. That said, I keep my boat tools in a sealed toolbox in the cabin of the Bar Crusher and give them a good grease up at least annually. This has meant that most of my tools are 10-15 years old but still in excellent working condition.

While I’m not able to do anything much about major mechanical or electrical problems, I have been able to deal – at least temporarily – with most of the minor breakages and malfunctions I’ve experienced with my various boats and trailers.

These sort of issues are part and parcel of running a fishing boat and being able to DIY deal with them has meant I’ve been able to either keep fishing longer or get home quicker.

If you don’t have a basic toolkit in permanent residence on your boat, then perhaps it’s time you thought about assembling one? At some stage or another you’re going to need a selection of tools and equipment to get yourself out of a fix…

Fact Box: More Handy Kit
You could fill your boat and vehicle with all manner of “essential” tools and equipment. While the basic toolkit outlined here will help get you out of trouble, here are a few other items you may want to consider:

  • Spare water separator
  • Spare inline fuel filters for your engine
  • Fuel conditioner
  • Battery operated tyre pump
  • Spare tie-down straps
  • Various D-shackles
  • A volt meter


This story was first published in the Fishing World October 2013 issue.


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