Top 10 Most Used Tools!

Most cruising sailboats carry a wide variety of tools.  After all, they are essential to be prepared for “fixing things in exotic locations”.    Our top 10 most used tools include …

1.  Stainless Steel Screwdrivers, Pliers and Crescent Wrench.  For Christmas one year, my son got us a small set of stainless tools, including two sizes of straight and phillips screwdrivers, a pair of pliers and a crescent wrench.  We had all those tools in the toolbox.  At the time we thought we wouldn’t need the duplicate set in stainless.  We put them in the bottom drawer in the galley and soon they became the go to set for anything needing tightening.  After a couple of seasons cruising the Western Caribbean, we realized that the only tools aboard that didn’t rust were the simple stainless steel variety!

2.  Socket Wrench Set … get a good set, ours are Craftsman from Sears in a big black box.    We have both metric and regular.  The issue with our boat is that all the bolts or anything connected to the diesel is metric.  Nothing else on the boat is metric.  So check your boat before you leave to make sure you have a set of whatever you will need for your particular situation.

Sometimes You'll Need BIG Tools!

Sometimes You'll Need BIG Tools!

3.  Allen Wrench Set … We have a regular set along with several special allen wrench looking tools.    The special tools open special things such as our NavPod electronics at the helm.  I’m assuming they require a special allen wrench so that not just anybody can come aboard and take them from the NavPod housing.

4.  Regular Wrench Set … Again, we have both regular and metric, thanks to the Nanni Kubota diesel folks back in 1985 in France!

5.  Voltage Meter.  Get a good one – we like the kind that clamps around the wires because it has a double function.  The most important thing about your voltage meter is to know how to use it.  When there’s an electrical issue, the first question you’ll need to answer is … “is it getting juice” and the only way to know that is to know how to use your voltage meter!    We started with the cheap Radio Shack variety voltage meter and could never figure out how the silly thing worked.  One day when an electrician friend was over helping us, we asked that he take the time to show us how to use our own meter.     Turned out it didn’t work — no wonder we could never get it to read right!   Then we bought the clamp around version and it’s been much easier figuring out what we’re checking!

6.  Wire Cutter & Stripper.   After diagnosing an electrical issue, often the wires will need to be stripped and redone.   So our wire cutter stripper tool sees a lot of action.  And for putting the wires back together, don’t forget the electrical connectors that the wire cutter stripper clamps on.  Have a variety of sizes for different applications.  We also have liquid electrical tape and regular electrical tape.

7.  Duct Tape … OK, so technically it’s not a tool, but duct tape fixes almost anything … before last winter’s cruising season I would have said it’ll fix anything.   But  it failed us by melting when we needed it to hold the throttle control together,   so now it’s relegated to almost anything status.

8.  Dental Tools.   Behind the stainless steel screwdrivers/pliers/wrenches, the dental tools are the most used tools aboard.  Dental tools allow you to clean corrosion out of any nook and cranny tucked away in bizarre and difficult places.  We use them all the time for a variety of needs that I can’t even remember now.  But when we’re faced with a project, often we’ll say “go get the dental tools”.     Ask your dentist sometimes they’ll have old dental tools that they’ll just give you.  Or you can order them online.

Dental Tools, Always Useful

Dental Tools, Always Useful

9.  Wire Brushes.  Wire brushes clean corrosion off anything.  Keep several on hand because you will go through them regularly!

10.  Plus a regular tool box filled with anything and everything.   Keep in mind, the moist salt air will cause everything to rust … our toolbox smells funny and I finally figured out it’s because of the dampness and corrosion.  Different cruisers have different methods to try and keep their tools from rusting.  Some wipe them down with WD-40, some try to keep them out of the salt air by storing them in baggies, there are other solutions as well.  We wipe ours down with WD-40 when we remember and just live with the rust.  After 10 years of cruising, all the tools still work.

The tools most taken out of the toolbox include the channel locks and the oversized screwdrivers.

Dremel Enlarging Waste Fitting Deck Opening

Dremel Enlarging Waste Fitting Deck Opening

Honorable Mention:  Our battery powered dremel and drill always seem to be dead and need recharging when we need them.  I’m not sure why but since they don’t get used as often, perhaps the hot humid conditions cause the batteries to go dead quicker than they would under kinder conditions.  We have a good set of drill bits for the Makita cordless drill.    Also, after eight years or so, our Makita needs a new battery, the battery doesn’t hold a charge long enough to drill one hole these days.  Unfortunately the particular model we have may not have replacement batteries available because it’s been eliminated.   So typical!   I’ll search on E-Bay and see if I can find one!   🙂

One final suggestion … be sure to check your boat for any special tools you might need.  For example, we have antique porthole screens.  They have little handles on either side that tend to fall off regularly.  David uses a rivet gun to replace them, but so far it’s the only thing we’ve needed the rivet gun for.  On the other hand, keeping the screens in place can be a priority along about sundown … especially if you’re in an anchorage called “El Bight” in Guanaja!   🙂  There’s a reason it’s called “El Bight”!   🙂

If you have any favorite tools that we’ve overlooked, please post a comment and let everyone know!  THANKS!   Jan



  1. Love this! Will have to refer back to it at Christmas time for my hubby!

  2. Hi Jan
    My husband and I love your sight! We are on the homeward stretch to being full time travelers and anything I can learn before hand is a good thing. You and your gf Carol are very much appreciated for all your wonderful tips.
    We have a BaBa 40 She is our new love! Anyhow I’ve been thinking that a rubber strip around them (antique window screens) as you said, might tighten them up and keep the nasty bug at bay.I was thinking the type of gasket that you buy to keep the wind out.

    • Hi! Let us know if you try the rubber around the screens idea, what kind you got and how it works. I’m glad you enjoy the site! We looked at a couple of Baba 40’s and made an offer on a Toshiba 40 which is, I think, a later version of the Baba’s. But the owner decided to take the boat off the market. Our Passport 37 is designed by Bob Perry too. Thanks for posting! Cheers! Jan

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