Every boat should have the usual suspects in the tool bag: screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and so on. But these handy, cheap, and somewhat odd items belong aboard your boat, too—they’ll help solve some of those tricky problems that often surface during DIY boat projects.
This one may not be so off the wall, but it’s definitely a must-have tool to keep your hands free while wrestling with a project in the bilge, under the stairs, or in an anchor locker.
2. Plumber’s Snake
No, we’re not suggesting this for use on plumbing (though it may come in handy for that, too). Fishing wires under floorboards and through bulkheads is easier with a stiff plumbers snake. They are typically 25’ long, which should provide plenty of reach. Make sure you secure to the snake to whatever you are pulling, so you don’t lose it half way through.
3. Grabber Arm
Since a lot of small parts are stainless-steel, a magnet isn’t much help when you can’t reach that dropped fitting that rolled into an impossible-to-reach crevice. But a grabber that’s about three feet long with prongs on one end and a spring-loaded trigger at the other will reach those places you can’t get a hand into.
4. Mirror on a Stick
Not only are there plenty of places on a boat that you can't reach, there are also plenty of places you can't see. A mirror mounted on a small stick or arm is often the only way to get a look at something. Find one on an articulating arm, to get a good view no matter where you need to see.
5. Aluminum Foil Pan
A 9” by 12” disposable aluminum pan has many purposes. Place your can of paint or varnish in it to contain drips, runs, or spills. Place the pan under any source of liquid to contain leaks or drips. The flexibility of the foil pan allows you to bend and contort it, to get under a tough-to-reach source of fluids. It also works as a parts tray to contain those tiny parts that go SPROING when you’re disassembling something.
6. Plastic Food Containers
If you ever order out, you’ve surely had disposable plastic containers left over—but don’t dispose of them so fast. Save a variety of these containers for thinning varnish or using small amounts of paint, and for keeping small screws, nuts, bolts, and miscellaneous parts of a project from walking away.
7. Clear Packing Tape
Use this instead of duct tape, when you don’t want the tape as visible. A major bonus: when it’s time to remove, packing tape will leave much less residue than duct tape usually does. It also can work to secure sticky labels that don't stick very well, since you can read through it.
8. Butyl Tape
Butyl works very well as a sealant on boats, but you can also place a ball of it on the tip of your screwdriver to hold a screw while you aim it into a hard-to-reach hole. It can also be placed on the bottom of a vase or other fragile items you want to keep on a shelf and not have flying around when at sea.
9. Wooden Cloths Pins
Sure, you can use these to clip things, but half a clothes pin can work quite well as a small wedge, or a small stirrer for mixing epoxy. You can also push a small piece of the soft wood into a screw hole that’s become enlarged, epoxy it in place, and rethread the hole.
10. Turkey Baster
When you place that aluminum foil pan under a leak you might not be able to retrieve it without spilling—but you can suck up the fluids with a turkey baster, to transfer the liquid to another container. You can also use it to suck liquids out of a hose that can't be removed without spilling the contents into the bilge, or to get the last bit of water out of a MSD that can’t be totally emptied. TIP: label your work baster, so the boat’s chef doesn't use it!