The essential toolkit for your boat

It's always best to expect the unexpected while boating. Keeping a stocked toolkit on board may mean the difference between a nice day on the lake and a day you wish you would have stayed home!

The importance of boat tools

I admit that we’re a little over-the-top when it comes to our onboard toolkit. To clarify, my husband (aka “Boatman”) is a firm believer that one can never have enough tools because when problems happen on the water, you need to be prepared. And having trailered our boat to Lake of the Ozarks and Kentucky Lake, countless times, as well as having spent years boating on the Chain O’Lakes in northern Illinois, we’ve never regretted having a mini Ace Hardware on hand because bad things do happen to good people!

Our friends are always amazed to learn that we have four toolkits (yes, four!) stored on our 23’ open bow Chapparal, which is quite a feat in itself. And while a serious breakdown will require a skilled mechanic, there are many minor problems that can be fixed as long as you have the basic tools available. Here’s a partial list of what’s in Boatman’s toolkits:

Screwdrivers: Phillips and flat-headed screwdrivers in various sizes and lengths. We also carry a cordless screwdriver, but make sure it’s fully charged!
Adjustable wrenches: large and small sizes as well as a prop wrench, filter wrenches, spark plug wrench and vice grip
Ratchets and sockets: the more the merrier, just be careful when using it on your pier (I’ve lost more than a few sockets in the water!)
Cutters and scissors: you can’t beat a wire cutter for cable ties
Pliers: be sure to include a needle-nose in your toolkit along with your pliers
Spark plugs and fuses: carry an extra set of spark plugs and replacement fuses and you won’t be sorry
Screws, nuts, bolts, and snaps: make sure you have various sizes, as well as stainless steel screws, and extra snaps for your cover
Emergency repair tape: self-bonding silicone rubber tape for temporary radiator hose repairs
Cable ties: these are one of Boatman’s mainstays as he carries various lengths on the boat an in the car
Electrical tape and Gorilla tape: electrical tape for wiring and Gorilla tape for anything else (it’s like Duct tape on steroids!)
Gorilla glue: this stuff is amazing – we’ve even fixed our wooden pier with it
Hose clamps: various sizes
Drill: you never know when you will require a drill; just make sure the battery is fully charged!
Wire: just like cable ties, you’ll be glad it’s there when you need it
Caulk: Boatman has every type caulk known to man; but marine caulk is the all-around favorite
Velcro: because with Velcro, anything is possible!
Flashlight: again, make sure the batteries are fresh
Safety glasses: accidents can happen, so always wear your safety glasses

Yes, this list is extensive and may outnumber the tools many people have in their homes (and this list doesn’t even begin to cover replacement parts, lubricants or tools for trailering, which will be covered in a future article). And yes, we’re excessive when it comes to preparedness. But having the right tools may make the difference between an enjoyable day or having to bring your boat to the marine repair shop for what may be a small, but costly fix; not to mention losing precious time on the water.

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About the author: Karen has been boating for 25 years and is a Markel boat insurance customer. Her 23’ Chaparral is slipped in the Chain O’Lakes, in northern Illinois, where she and her husband spend as much time as they can during the summer months. 

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