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DIY in Real Life

by Alex Blackwell

"Stuff Happens"

A boat is a pretty complicated organism made up of lots of parts that all have to somehow work together or independently, so that you may get from A to B (and back again). Either you have a deep pocket and can keep pouring money into your boat, or you will to some level have to “Do It Yourself”. For that you will need tools; and if you like tools and are very lucky, you will need lots and lots of them.

Take our boat for example. Built in England in the seventies and refitted across the Atlantic in the nineties, she has fasteners and parts that require both imperial (standard or inch) tools, and other parts (like the main engine) that require metric tools. So after a couple of interesting stories, and several gleeful soirees to hardware stores, we have accumulated the beginning of a good tool kit.

Just like a good onboard medical kit, a good toolkit can save you in an emergency, and at worst can save you thousands in towing charges in a lesser situation.  Being on the water is not like calling the plumber for a repair; a leak can be life threatening and the likelihood that it will take some time to locate you, locate the right service provider, and get them to you is pretty high even in relatively local waters.  There are some simple repairs you should be able to do on your own.

  • Clear the raw water intake of the ever intruding jelly fish
  • Tighten belts
  • Clear water or air from a fuel line
  • Replace or tighten a clamp that has come loose
  • Clear a fouled prop
  • Replace an impeller
  • Unclog a toilet - yuck
  • Repair a bilge pump

These are relatively simple things that we’ve had to deal with any number of times.  After a while, you’ll build up the supply of tools you need and the courage to try.  It’s best to take some pre-emptive actions. 

Amassing the tools you need for self sufficiency

A complete tool box should contain the usual variety of types and sizes of screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, vice-grips, as well as a wide assortment of parts, tools, and manuals:

  • Engine service manual (not the usual basic parts and service schedule manual that comes with the boat engine but rather the actual manual the service techs use in the shop.  They cost about $100 or so and are worth every penny. They can get you through diagnosis and repair of many problems you might encounter.)
  • Flourescent lantern and a petzl
  • Wooden bungs for every through hull secured in the area of the through hull
  • 2 drills, one cordless and one more powerful plug-in type
  • jigsaw
  • random orbital sander
  • palm sander
  • dremel (the boater's buddy for cutting, shaping or fabricating custom parts from virtually any material)
  • hack saw
  • bolt cutters
  • wire cutters
  • tap and die set
  • soldering iron
  • socket set
  • wire ties of every size (even gigantic 3-foot-long ones)
  • Velcro
  • large variety of s/s screws, bolts, nuts and washers (Make sure they are not mild stainless – get rid of any that are. Hint: use a magnet to find parts that have iron content as s/s will not be attracted to a magnet)
  • large variety of electrical connectors
  • multi-volt ampmeter
  • inverter for powering 110-volt tools
  • stock s/s tubing
  • aluminum and stainless steel bar stock
  • teak planks
  • hoses, belts, gaskets, filters
  • 316 stainless steel hose clamps in every possible size
  • rebuild kits for pumps
  • impellers in all sizes necessary
  • sail repair tape
  • sewing supplies
  • liquid wrench (this stuff really works)
  • grommet set
  • tape - duct, electrical, masking, etc
  • variety of paint brushes (fine bristle and foam)
  • 5200 epoxy
  • silicone caulking
  • contact rubber cement
  • WD-40
  • lithium grease
  • sandpaper
  • Snorkel gear
  • Knife with marlinspike
  • whipping lines
  • Gorilla glue and Gorilla tape (these are among our new favorite resources)

Further Reading


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