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Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Amy
One of the things David and I love about cruising is being out in remote locations, away from cities and towns. During our world circumnavigation, we’ve been able to go to some amazing places like the Lau group of Fiji and the Ha’apai group of Tonga. This also means we’re away from professional repairmen, chandleries, and Amazon Prime shipping. Therefore, we have to be fairly self-sufficient. Part of this is having a well-stocked selection of tools onboard our sailboat to get the projects done, both improving our boat and making repairs to critical systems. While a lot of them aren’t specific sailing tools, sailboat maintenance is more than your rigging.
While this is a list of what we think are the best tools for a sailboat, it is by no means an exhaustive list of what you should have on your boat. Every boat is different, and your boat will have different needs from ours. Also, some of our tools are relatively old as some of them belonged to my dad. We’ve linked to the best looking, highest rated tools on Amazon for this list. Additionally, some items may have made their way into the bag for a special project recently, and who knows if we will use them again. Some we’ve never used, but we bought them because we borrowed a tool from someone else and thought it would be a good addition.
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After spending the summer and fall of 2022 doing a refit on the boat, we have added quote a few things to our tool kit.
We did buy tools that we ended up not keeping – a circular saw and two different sanders immediately come to mind – but before we left Rhode Island we went through everything and decided what we wanted to keep.
Tool organizers – we ordered two different kinds of organizers to try to tackle the mayhem of a tool bag. One is a roll up tool organizer and one is a set of zippered bags. So far, the zippered bags are our favorites, as the tools to fit in the roll up organizer have to be just right to work.
Heat gun – David’s angry he didn’t buy one sooner because a heat gun makes working with hoses and connections so much easier.
Hole-saw kit – we had one before, but we upgraded. Considering how many holes we had to drill with the electrical work, this was a good call, and the Milwaukee hole-saw kit has a good variety and a small case.
Rubber sanding block – for any kind of flat sanding, you really need to have a sanding block if you are going to do it manually, like I did for my fiberglass projects.
Specialty screwdrivers – we had a fixed one before but when you are working in tight quarters, it really make sense to have a ratcheting low profile screwdriver. Additionally, short screwdrivers are handy too, like this phillips head stubby screwdriver. And when we need more power, we have a small powered screwdriver. The most important thing we bought – his and hers ratcheting screwdrivers. These are the workhorses of tools, and we both needed our own when we had so many projects going on at once.
Work table – last year, when David was working on the batteries, he bought a collapsable workbench. It ended up being really handy over the season, and then we got a lot of use out of it over the refit. We have a set of clamps to go with it too.
Drill guides – for many projects, you don’t really need to be super exact with getting your drilling perpendicular to the surface, but for a woodworking project like my new galley pull-out shelves, we did. We got a metric drill guide and an imperial drill guide.
Strippers and crimpers – with all the electrical work, we needed crimpers. This ratchet crimp tool is for coax cables while this ratcheting crimper has interchangeable teeth which makes it a good jack of all trades tool. This one works as a stripper and a crimper, which we primarily use for small gauge wire stripping. This square self-adjusting ratchet crimper works for ferrules. Lastly, we kept a large gauge cable stripper.
Scissors – I didn’t have these on the list before, but it’s kind of an obvious one: a really good pair of scissors. The tool bag should have it’s own set so that the galley or office ones don’t disappear all the time.
Jigsaw – yeah, we have manual tools to cut materials with, but over the refit we found the Ryobi jigsaw to be very helpful and easy to use. Additionally, we bought a jigsaw blade kit to cover the variety of materials we need to cut.
Protection and safety gear – David’s knees take a serious beating so we upgraded his knee protection to volleyball kneepads.
Specialty wrenches – David had apparently been wanting this crows foot wrench set for a while and finally bought them to wrench in small spaces. To replace our thru-hulls, we needed a 10-inch wide jaw wrench and a 12-inch wide jaw wrench. These have very wide jaws but shorter handles, making them easier to store.
Electric sanding – while we didn’t think we needed a big sander like I used for the fiberglass project, we did keep multi-tool sanding pads, which we use with our multi-tool to sand small areas.
Endoscope – oh boy. We got stumped a lot trying to run cables or remove parts and often needed to see what was happening beyond our visual ability. We bought a wireless endoscope which rescued us a lot!
Tool Bag v Storage
We divide most of our tools into two places, the tool bag and the storage underneath our couch in the main cabin. The tool bag is easily accessible and contains the most common tools we use around the boat. Items kept under the couch tend to be bigger project tools.
The Sailing Tool Bag
The tool bag itself is a soft-sided bag with lots of pockets and solid handles. We’re very pleased with the size, as it’s easy enough to carry and hold the most critical items.
Sailing Tool Bag Contents
- Ratcheting screwdriver with double drive and 30 bits
- Two putty knives
- Stubby screwdriver set
- Phillips and flat head screwdriver set
- 8″ extra large screwdriver
- Vise-grip locking pliers
- Metric AND SAE hex key sets
- Slip joint, long nose, and diagonal pliers
- Butane torch
- Adjustable wrench set
- 4″ adjustable wrench good for fitting in tight spaces
- Metric and imperial tape measure
- Vise-grip long nose locking pliers
- Paint can opener
- Two utility knives and spare blades
- Plastic putty knives
- Assorted zip ties
- Thread seal tape
- Electrical tape
- Super Glue
- Loctite Blue Strength
- Loctite Red Threadlocker
- Silicone grease
- Tactical knife
- Outlet tester
- Sharpie markers
- Waxed whipping twine white with a needle
- Flexible screwdriver extension
- Paint scraper
- Paper towels
Tools in Storage
- Hacksaw with extra blades
- Ryobi Multi Tool with extra attachments
- Ryobi Power Drill with accessories and extra batteries
- Impeller puller
- Duct tape
- 15″ adjustable wrench
- Rubber mallet
- Pipe wrench 10″
- AC Voltage detector
- Lighted mechanical pick-up tool
- Lighted and magnetic pick-up tool
- Strap wrench
- Gear oil pump (specific to our outboard)
- Fixed wrench sets for metric and SAE
- Socket wrench set
- Dremel rotary tool
- File & rasp set
- Variety set of stainless steel screw, bolts, washers, and nuts
- Drill bits
- Hole saw kit
- Screw extractor set
- Screwdriver bit set
- 3/8 inch torque wrench and 1/4 inch torque wrench
- Fish tape
- Blind rivets
- Soldering gun with a rope cutter attachment
- Kill a Watt electricity usage monitor
- cotter and clevis pin kit
- Rivet assortment pack
- Wet or dry sandpaper
- Pry bar
- Soldering iron kit
- Coax cable toolkit
- Pipe cutter
- Rivet gun
- Heat shrink tubing set
- Heat shrink wire connector set
- Universal boat motor flusher
Miscellaneous Tools for Sailing Boats
- Fid set kept with spare lines, a very important sailing tool
- Chamois kept in the main salon cabinet as we use them all the time
- Fuel filter and siphon kept in the engine room
What We Don’t Have
When we first left home we had a sander/polisher onboard. Firstly, we had trouble powering this tool. Even when we did our DIY bottom job, we’d rather have someone else do the sanding. It’s the nastiest part of a bottom job. Polishing is something, with our new boat, we’ve only done every haul out, so we’ve paid someone to polish our topside.
More Sailing Tool Stuff!
There are a few more things we use here and there. Absolutely all of the best tools for sailing boats are in this post and even more are in our Out Chasing Stars Amazon Storefront.
Did we miss any? Let us know!