Essential Tools and Supplies for a Boat

Having worked on our boat for the last seven years, we have found that there are some essential tools that you will need to have on your boat. The links below show what we would likely buy if we had to do it again, although not necessarily the ones we have.

If you don't see the links, you may need to disable your ad-blocker.

  • Cordless Electric Drill

    Of all the tools you need on a boat, this one is essential. You will need to drill holes in stuff.

  • Drill Bits up to 1/2"

    You will need bits to about 3/8" in SAE sizes. You will also need a bit about two sizes larger than the largest hole you will make in your fiberglass to relieve the edges. This keeps the fiberglass from cracking.

  • Cordless Dremel Tool

    We have found a Dremel tool, especially a cordless one, to be an essential tool on the boat. We use this thing all the time.

  • Dremel Sanding Bit and Routing Bit

    Of the 50 different bits we have for the Dremel, we find that there are two that we use the most: A course sanding bit and a router bit.

  • A Right-angle Attachment for the Dremel.

    We find that there are times that you can't get the Dremel into a tight space. The right-angle attachment makes it work.

  • Digital Volt Meter

    You have to have a volt-meter on board.

  • Long Wire with Alligator Clips

    This is something we made. Get a long piece of wire and attach alligator clips to both ends. This is used with the volt meter (actually the ohm-meter on it) for doing connectivity tests. The wire should be at least half the length of your boat.

  • Straight-slot and Phillips Screwdrivers

    You will need a variety of straight-slot and Phillips screwdrivers. We use the Phillips ones way more than the straight-slot. Have more than one of the Phillips sizes will help, because you will misplace them. You might think that would be impossible on a 22 foot boat, but you'd be wrong because you'll set something on top of it or it will roll behind something.

  • Awl

    The number of times we use the awl is pretty large. Just having a pokey thing to open 4200 tubes and stick in screw holes is nice.

  • Vice Grips in Several Sizes

    We use these all the time for both clamping and when one of the other wrenches we have isn't the right size.

  • Open Wrenches in SAE Sizes

    You will need these.

  • Wrench for Battery Terminals

    The standard battery terminal is 10mm. Keep a wrench near the batteries just for this.

  • Ratcheting Wrenches is 8 SAE Sizes

    We find these way more useful than a socket wrench and use them all the time. There are a handful of times we've need the socket wrench when access is tight, but we don't keep it on the boat.

  • Adjustable Crescent Wrench

    For those times you can't find the other wrench you need or need a second one in the same size at the same time.

  • Wire Strippers

    Find good wire strippers. They should be labeled for stranded wires and work for 10 AWG to 22 AWG. Stranded wires are thicker than solid wires.

  • Crimping Tool

    For the wire connectors. Get the clamp type.

  • Heat Gun

    Much better than an open flame for heat shrink. However, requires an AC socket on the boat, either shore power or a generator.

  • Utility Knife

    You'll need to cut things.

  • Scissors

    Good sharp scissors. We prefer ones with metal handles for the boat.

  • Head Lamps

    Get one that is really bright for project work. Get several others that are cheap and adequate for coming and going to the dock in the dark.

  • Flashlights

    In bulk, flashlights are cheaper than the batteries they come with. When they stop working, throw them away.

  • Parts Box

    Keep your connectors, screws, clevis pins, cotter coils, etc. neatly sorted.

  • Claw Hammer

    Not needed often, as it is overkill. Still carry it.

  • Rubber Hammer

    We use this way more than the claw hammer as we are usually not banging on metal.

  • Needle Nose Pliers

    An extension of your fingers for hard to reach things. Also useful when whipping lines to make that final pull on the thread.

  • Klein Bottle Opener

    We don't know how you open a klein bottle, but this tool manages somehow. This is a math joke.

  • Electric Pump for Inflatable Dinghy

    Get one with an auto shut off at a given PSI.

  • Battery Pack for Electric Pump and Other Stuff

    This thing will power the pump, recharge your cell phone, power medical devices, and just all-round handy to have. The EXP48 is the largest size lithium ion battery you can take on a plane.

  • Hand-held VHF

    What if you get demasted? There went your antenna for your fixed VHF. Perform your own radio checks. We keep this one in the cockpit and use it much more frequently than the permanently fixed one when contacting a marina or another nearby boat. Also useful for taking on the dinghy.

  • Portable Generator

    Recharges batteries at anchor. Fits in the port side lazerette on the Catalina 22 (width on the generator is only 10.25" despite what the product description says). Also useful for running the heat gun on shrink wrap when working on AC wiring. We bring it to the boat when it will be useful.

  • Center Punch

    You will need to center punch sometimes before drilling a hole.

And these supplies should be kept on the boat:

  • 3M 4000 and 4200 Fast Cure Sealant

    These act as sealants and glue. We have 5200 as well but have never used it. The higher the number, the more permanent it is.

  • Butyl Tape

    Use this for stuff where seating stuff needs to be water tight, but not act as glue. Particularly useful for making things water tight that are through-bolted.

  • Blue Painter's Tape

    Keep a roll handy. We have a million uses for this on board: labeling things, temporarily attaching things, temporarily covering holes in the deck we are planning to seal tomorrow, hanging a plastic bag under where we are about to drill a hole in the fiberglass, etc.

  • Black Electrical Tape

    We hate this stuff, but occasionally it is useful. Use it exclusively for covering exposed electrical wires. Use something else for every other use.

  • Yellow Electrical Tape

    Use this for marking the ends of black DC negative wires that come with devices. We use yellow for DC negative on the boat, but some of the stuff we bought comes with black negative wires that can't be replaced. In those cases we wrap the ends with yellow tape to identify them as DC negative.

  • Automotive Tape

    For providing attachment of stuff that you may want to remove later. This is awesome for attachments to fiberglass where a screw could cause a problem.

  • Duct Tape

    We hate this stuff, too, but if you need a quick temporary patch on an air mattress or dinghy it's the right thing to have. Use blue tape almost everywhere else.

  • Two-sided Velcro

    It has the fuzzy side and the hook side on the same strip, so sticks to itself. Useful when you need to group stuff. Cut to the length needed. Use this instead of black electrical tape for grouping wires.

  • Wire Ends

    Rings, forks, joiners in 10 AWG to 22 AWG, especially 14-16 blue forks. 10-12 AWG are yellow, 14-16 AWG are blue, 18-22 AWG are red. Get ones that are heat-shrink.

  • Electrical Heat Shrink

    In a variety of sizes and colors.

  • Paper Towels

    You just need these in bulk.

  • Lint-free Rags

    Useful for applying teak oil and other solvents.

  • Teak Oil

    We use Starbright teak oil, which is tung oil. Makes our teak look beautiful without being sticky or drippy.

  • Spray 9 Cleaning Fluid

    Work great for cleaning stuff.

  • Melamine Sponges

    Exactly the same stuff as Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, but 1/10th the cost. If it won't come off with a paper towel, this will almost always get it off or clean.

  • Nitrile Gloves

    For handling gasoline, porta-potty, solvents, and other things you don't want on your hands. Keep them readily accessible, not buried in a locker, so you'll put them on before getting your hands dirty.

  • FSR Fiberglass Stain Remover

    If Spray 9 and a melamine sponge won't remove something from the fiberglass, this will. Put some on, leave it a few minutes, then wash it off. It's magic for cleaning grime off the hull. Don't use it where it will get into the water, though, as it is a very mild acid.

  • Stainless Steel Screws, Bolts, Washers, Lock-Washers, Nuts

    We keep a parts box of a wide variety of these. Keep a magnet for checking them. Anything that easily sticks to the magnet is not stainless and should be tossed off the boat as it will rust.