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The Best Boating Essential Toolkit for Full-Time Cruisers
After living on a boat and doing all the maintenance ourselves for 2.5 years, we upgraded our tools to find the essential boating toolkit. Boats (Break Out Another Thousand) always require work, and having the right tools will save you time, money, and headaches! We listed all the tools below in our tool kit and consider them the most essential to have aboard. This toolkit is specialized for living aboard a boat, but if you have a day cruiser, you might find some ideas for tools to keep aboard. Some items below might surprise you, but we share why we purchased them and some links so you don’t leave the dock without them!
Note: We use affiliate links which provide us a little kickback each time you use one of our links and make a purchase, without any additional cost to you. We do not recommend products that we don’t already love or have heard great things about, so you can trust we’re only suggesting great products to you.
While you also need a normal screwdriver on boats, everything is a bit more challenging. You find that the extra force using a power drill fits the bill. We also used our electric drill to operate a pump for oil changes! Because of this, we use our power drill every month! We recommend a hammer driver-drill because it allows that extra torque for those pesky stuck screws.
A small tiny vacuum machine is critical for living aboard, which is why a shop vac is the second essential item in our boat tool kit. Using a shop vac as our vacuum, we could use it to clean up those pesky areas of the boat that you would need to reach down with a bucket and pump otherwise. You never know when you’ll need to vacuum dust or debris from the latest boat project, so ensure you have a small shop vac onboard.
A multi-tool is a specialized tool with different-sized vibrating blades. Unlike a rotating saw, a multi-tool vibrates. This means you don’t spread fiberglass or dust all over your boat! The blades are also normally flexible, allowing you to slide them into hard-to-reach places a normal saw can not reach.
A multimeter is required in your boating toolkit because most boats have a complex DC or AC electrical system, and, like most things in boating, sometimes it doesn’t work! The only way to resolve these issues is to diagnose the problem. You can determine if your components are broken, requiring a large repair bill or if your connections are loose – give you a quick fix. A multi-tool will save you money in the long term!
After all those power tool options, the rest of the list are regular tools you don’t want to miss in your boating toolkit. A chisel is something that, honestly, I didn’t think twice about when moving on to a boat; we just had an extra one in our tool bag. However, the amount of times I needed that trusty chisel was astounding! Barnacles on the bottom of the boat? Bring out the chisel. Need to pry open a deck fitting that was sealed with 5200? Bring out the chisel. Not to mention, when we replaced our decks, it was my most used tool! Save yourself time and get a high-quality chisel.
Owning a boat comes with a lot of maintenance. Read our 9 Boat Maintenance Tips to keep your boat in ship shape!
Oil Change Pump
A crucial piece of maintaining a boat, is ensuring routine oil changes. We used this oil change pump connected to our electric drill to make changing oil a breeze. Our main engine took almost 5 gallons of oil, and the entire process only took 30 minutes, filter included! We also held a 5-gallon bucket on board for used oil.
A quality headlamp is a crucial safety feature on a boat. As I learned, after falling and breaking my wrist, you always need three contact points while navigating the boat! A headlamp lets you be safe while moving around the boat at night. It also is a huge quality-of-life tool in general. I used it every night I had to take our dog to shore because it allowed me to navigate the dinghy while constantly looking at different points in the water for obstructions. We recommend a rechargeable headlamp because you will use it often, and it will limit the number of batteries you need to keep onboard!
Fuses are critical to boating safety and are designed to blow, protecting your boat and equipment. You need backup fuses in your boating tool kit so you aren’t stranded when this happens! Review your electrical system to find the correct amperage amounts, and keep a few backups readily available. One time, when we were on a town wall in Canada, the shore power tripped two times in a row, and our Air Conditioning blew our main fuse twice! We kept many backup fuses on board, so this issue was a minor inconvenience instead of waiting for shipping to a rural town!
One saying you may have heard is, “May the water stay on the outside of your boat,” and proper sealant is key to accomplishing that! Keeping a few small containers of 3M 4000 (don’t use 5200) is needed in that boating toolkit. Whether it is sealing that pesky window leak or replacing your deck fitting because you lost a cap (yep, that happened), having a small container of 4000 is the perfect stopgap until you are at a marina to fix the issue completely.
A basic toolbox is essential for boating. Find one with a hammer, a wrench and socket set, different variations of screwdrivers, and high-quality pliers. Each tool is critical, ensuring you can look into it no matter what boat project is unexpectedly thrown at you.
Quality Tool Bag
Finally, to keep your boating tool kit organized, we recommend a high-quality tool bag. We recommend a bag over a hard box because often you need to put the bag in a tight location. If it was a toolbox, it might not fit, but a bag can conform to the space. Also, they are normally lighter than boxes, making dragging them around to your next boat project a breeze.
All in all, you will find that you will iterate and enhance your boating tool kit as you spend more time around boats. We hope that this list will kickstart your boating toolkit with the essentials. Theres no right or wrong tools to have aboard. Please leave a comment below if you have any other tools you recommend as a part of a beginner’s boating toolkit!
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One response to “The Best Boating Essential Toolkit for Full-Time Cruisers”
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