The small-boat toolbox
What tools do you need on board?
Toolboxes differ. What you need for a larger craft may be inappropriate for a smaller boat. How you will use a small toolbox, where you can store it and what you put in it are all considerations you need to take into account when you decide what’s right for your boat.
Let’s look at the container first. You could throw stuff into an inexpensive plastic box, but will it last and will it protect the stuff you store inside? Your best bet is to get a good quality box like a Pelican waterproof container. These watertight, rigid gasket-sealed boxes take a ton of abuse. With different sizes available, you can find one to fit your contents and your boat’s storage space.
Next, consider where you will be going. Chugging along in a small harbor is totally different from running 15 miles offshore to fish. The tools you need should be appropriate to the usage you expect.
First on any boater’s list should be the universal fix-it: duct tape. Enclose it in a plastic zip-top bag.
Next, add various size electrical tie wraps. These are great for attaching and holding things together, making temporary clamps, and other related uses. You also need a knife or multitool. These tools allow you to do various jobs with fewer tools, freeing up space. Often Costco has these at a reasonable price. Spend the money to get a quality tool, not an inexpensive knockoff.
Water pump pliers, which can be adjusted to various open sizes, are great. These allow you to bolt or unbolt things, and the length of the handle gives good leverage. Add a pair of vice grips to give you locking leverage to a project.
A medium-size adjustable wrench is an asset. Add a large and small Phillips head and a flat-head screwdriver to the box, and if your multitool does not have a wire cutter, add a medium-size one as well. Put in a roll of electrical tape and a small roll of bailing wire.
In another plastic zip-top bag, store some bandages, hydrogen peroxide, and first-aid cream or ointment. In another baggie, keep some spare change for phone calls in case your cell phone is out of range but you have access to a payphone. Add a $10 prepaid phone card to one of the baggies.
Keep several rags, a signaling mirror and a whistle in a zip-top bag. Finally, add several more zippered bags of various sizes. They can be used to store all sorts of stuff as well as your car keys, cellphone and other electrical devices.
With all this, you now have the start of a toolkit you can modify to your own use. Once you need it, you’ll be happy to have it. Start one now, add a card and a pencil to write other ideas down on, and keep the box organized.
This article was originally published in The Manifest, newsletter of Colonial Sail & Power Squadron/5.