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.
Before I continue, a bit of legal housekeeping. This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links. Those commissions help to pay the costs associated with running this site so that it stays free for everyone to enjoy. For a complete explanation of why I’m telling you this and how you can support this blog without paying more, please read my full disclosure.
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?
- 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:
- Compact adjustable wrench or combination wrenches to fit every nut and bolt (metric and imperial sizes) and spark plug
- Screwdrivers for each size and style head
- Rigging knife or multi-tool
- Pliers or multi-tool
- Continuity tester
- Electrical tape
- Sail repair tape
- Rigging tape
- Duct tape (alternative for other kinds of tape)
- Hand sewing awl with whipping twine, needles
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Butyl tape
- Mini hacksaw
- Small file
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
- Toggle bolts
- Shackles (hard and soft)
- 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:
- Fire extinguisher
- Man overboard rescue gear
- Visible signal
- Audible signal
- First aid supplies
- Prescription medications
- Manual compass
- Manual bilge pump & bucket
- Drinking water
- Fire starting material and waterproof matches
Have anything to add to the list? Share it in the comments below.
Would you like to be notified when I publish more posts like this? Enter your email address below to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. You will also receive occasional newsletters with exclusive info and deals only for subscribers and the password to the Downloads page. It’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time but almost nobody does!