Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Seaworthy Toolbox

March 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 


seaworthy toolbox 1

Do you have an onboard toolbox? If so, does it contain the most helpful tools? Toolboxes are neither space wasters nor for show. Having a properly stocked toolbox may save you from a soaking, a tow, or from running up a big repair bill.

Let’s start with the toolkit itself. As space on small recreational vessels is tight, the trick is to find a unit big enough to hold vital tools but small enough to tuck where nobody will trip over it. High-impact plastic toolboxes with removable inside trays sold by Workforce and Rubbermaid fit my bill. A 16-inch high toolbox with a width and depth of eight inches respectively has enough room to hold a lot of tools. I recommend a bright yellow box as it’s easier to find amidst all the other stuff we keep on a boat.

Contents of a toolbox depend partly on a vessel’s specific needs and design as well as the tools recommended by the manufacturer of its engine and other breakable components. However, there are tools that are essential on all recreational boats. If I had to pick out just one must-have, I would select Leatherman’s multi-task tools. It may be pricy at around $100.00, but you get multiple stainless steel implements in a small package. If you buy the tools separately, pick up wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, a serrated knife, a metal/wood file, a bottle opener, small, medium, and large-slotted screw drivers, a Phillips screw driver, a hex bit driver, a wire, and a lanyard attachment.

Additionally, stock your box with a variety of wrenches, long-necked (eight inches or more) slotted and Phillips screwdrivers, crimping tools, a set of Allen wrenches, 10-inch locking pliers, a monkey wrench to open to one inch, assorted drive sockets, and a rubber mallet.

Parts of a boat are held together with screws, bolts, and nuts. Inventory the various fastenings on your boat and match them (note lengths and shaft diameters, whether the tops are oval or pan, and/or machine or tapered). Stock at least a few of each, as having only one almost assures it will roll out of sight when you grab for it.

Other items gracing my toolbox include cotter pins and clevis pins, always appreciated by the sailboat crowd. I also carry a can of WD-40 oil to free up frozen and rusted metal parts.

Stock up on what you’d need to improvise. If something breaks away from shore, the best emergency fix may be C-clamps — two four-inch and two six-inch clamps at the minimum, held in place by a two by four-inch plywood backing plate. Stock up on a variety of stainless steel clamps in a variety of sizes. They come in handy should a fuel hose give way.

The market is awash with various leak sealants. Before stocking up, consult with your marine dealer, but keep in mind that you want a goo that seals quickly. Toss some tubes of epoxy into your toolbox, too. It bonds within minutes.

Make sure your filled toolbox has space for duct tape. Yes, that ubiquitous, magical invention that holds the world together. You want what you fix to stay that way, so buy marine-quality, cloth-backed tape such as 3M’s Performance Plus.

The author is the Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the all-volunteer, non-military arm of the Coast Guard, teaching boating safety education and conducting search and rescue operations. Visit to join the Auxiliary or for class information.

By William C. Winslow


is Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and a freelance writer for marine publications. His work has appeared in Sailing, Wooden Boat, and Good Old Boat; he is also the author of Cat Boat Tales.

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