What are some of your favorite special tools?

I love tools! I’ve often said that cruising is nothing more than extensive repair and maintenance in beautiful and exotic places. I am a bit of a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to looking after Moonshadow so I have amassed quite a collection of tools over the years – probably a few too many. I suppose I have just about everything I need to take her apart and put her back together again.

For tools that I use on a regular basis, I have a tray mounted on a wall in the engine room/workshop. As you can see (above), it is straining under the weight! To access them, I simply open the door and reach for what I need. In the event of very rough weather, I’ve got room to stow these safely, but so far, we’ve never had to. This tray has the basics:

  • Adjustable end wrenches
  • Pliers
  • Vice grips
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Diagonal cutters
  • Wire stripper/crimper
  • Scrapers
  • Wire brushes
  • Tape measure
  • Small hand drill
  • Small hacksaw
  • Small torch
  • Electrical and Teflon tapes

The rest of my tools I keep on shelves in the engine room, strapped down when we are underway. One box contains all my mechanic’s tools – end wrench and socket sets, both standard and metric. Another contains metalworking tools such as files, grinders, saws, taps and dies, drill bits, etc. The last contains woodworking tools such as rasps, saws, mallet, chisels, sanding blocks, scrapers and the like.

I do have a number of specialty tools that I think are pretty cool. These are a few of my favorite things, all of which I consider to be “must haves.”

Photo 1, going clockwise:


  • Impeller puller. This makes removing old impellers a snap.
  • Electronic labeler. Want to keep your boat organized? Don’t leave the dock without it.
  • Precision screwdriver set. I find these ideal for working on small electronic items, computers, watches and eyeglasses.
  • Dental pick. You can purchase a set and they are excellent for cleaning and scraping small parts.
  • Telescoping magnet. For finding small bits of steel that have dropped into hard to reach places.

Photo 2, going clockwise:

  • Large magnet. Hung on a line this is great for recovering steel items, tools and keys that have gone overboard.
  • 1/4″ drive socket set. This set is useful for working on small mechanical items in close quarters, and particularly for tightening hose clamps.
  • Impact driver. Ever have a screw, bolt or nut seize up on you? This is not subtle, but usually does the trick.
  • Articulating mirror. Invaluable for having a look at things that are around corners or behind other things.
  • Multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver. Eight drivers in one, with a reversible ratchet which makes single hand work easier and more comfortable. Bits store in the handle.
  • Plastic hose cutter. Faster, neater and easier than knives or hacksaws.

Photo 3, going clockwise:

  • Head lamp. Great for night watches, as well as working in dark areas where you need a lot of light and both hands free. One of the most used Christmas presents I ever received.
  • Steel band-it tool. For tightening stainless steel bands around spars-this is sort of like a giant hose clamper. This tool is excellent for splinting and used to be a requirement for ocean racing.
  • Mini torch. Great for small heat-shrink jobs, applying heat to seized fasteners, melting line ends, soldering and, of course, lighting cigars. The guts are a Bic type lighter.
  • Conductivity tester. Ideal for testing tap water for impurities or reverse osmosis (water maker) water for salinity.

Not shown are my flexible extendable grabber and a regulation size crowbar. The first has proved invaluable for reaching and grabbing the odd stainless fastener that I drop in the bilge while working on the engine. The latter is a great “helper” tool for a multitude of jobs including liberating “Bruce boulders” jammed in the anchor.

From time to time tools break, rust, go missing or are donated to the sea gods. Never fear. Even in the third world one can find great tool shops in almost any city. Here are a couple of typical tool emporiums (above and below) Southeast Asia style.

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