The Essentials You Should Have in Your Onboard Toolbox

Some of us were Boy Scouts back in the day and we learned to be prepared. For the rest of us, we might not have gotten the lesson. Are you prepared for a gear failure aboard your sailboat? If you cruise offshore or in remote locations like I do, you could be many miles from help if something goes wrong. What will you do if your rigging fails, if your ground tackle fails, or if your outboard motor fails? If you’re not prepared, an inconvenience could escalate into an emergency.

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Think about each system on your sailboat: sails, standing rigging, running rigging, electrical system, ground tackle, steering system. What are the most likely failures of each system?

For example:

  • What if you get a tear in your mainsail? How will you repair it so that you can get back to port?
  • What if there’s no wind and your outboard motor fails to start or run? Can you get it going again with just what you have onboard?
  • What if you lose that gooseneck or tiller pivot bolt overboard? Do you have a spare?

Don’t go to the extreme and rehearse the worst case scenarios like a dismasting or hull puncture below the waterline. They’re not likely to happen and if one does, unless you’re MacGyver, you’re going to need more than a toolbox. That’s when you get on your VHF radio and call for help if you can.

Below is a recommended list of essential items that you should keep in your onboard toolbox at all times:

All in a watertight toolbox.

Here’s a tip you might not have heard about before; save those little desiccant packs that come in over the counter medications and put a couple in any sealed containers onboard that hold items that need to stay dry like tools, matches, and electronics.

You should also carry spares for critical items:

  • Cotter pins or rings
  • Clevis pins
  • Bolts, nuts, screws, gooseneck fastener
  • Hose clamps
  • Tie wraps
  • Accessory cord
  • Electrical wire & connectors
  • Main & accessory fuses
  • Navigation light bulbs
  • Turning blocks
  • Turnbuckles
  • Toggle bolts
  • Shackles (hard and soft)
  • Batteries
  • Winch handle
  • Outboard motor spark plugs, starter rope, fuel filter, fuel line

All those items are in addition to, but separate from, your emergency kit:

Have anything to add to the list? Share it in the comments below.


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. add in toilet wax ring to plug any holes
    and epoxy kit for on the fly repairs

  2. m4n4ger says:

    Hi $tingy – that’s a really useful checklist! I would add bungee cords with and without hook ends in various lengths and wet wipes!

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