A Right Proper Tool Box
Whether at the dock or underway, being ready for a fix requires having the right tools,
and then some, at the ready.
By Ken Kreisler
During my formative years, that being specifically my time as a junior and senior in high school, I was a yard snipe at the now long-gone Schatz Brothers yard in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York (USA for those of your reading this in the international sectors). If you can’t figure out what a yard snipe is, well think of how the non-mammalian use of one of Nature’s most noble animals, the gopher, is often employed. As in, “Hey kid, go and find me a left-handed Phillips screw driver, will ya?” Now you get it.
In those seemingly endless halcyon days of summer work, and when not engaged in cleaning up the yard, I often found myself in the company of some veteran, expert, and habitually very salty workers; craftsmen who not only knew the intricate art of their work, but were as adept with plane and chisel as a skilled surgeon was with scalpel and hemostat. And repeatedly, when referring to such implements of the nautical trade, many a whatsis, thingamabob—and its red-headed stepchild, the thingamajig—doohickey, thingy, and whatchamacallit, among many other descriptive terms were used to identify and request a certain tool. I have to say, that even after all these years, I take pride in knowing a thingamabob is a thingamajig one need not have to point to.
During the learning curve, I also realized that a properly outfitted tool box was not only a respected sign of a good mechanic, but a clear indication of how thorough one was prepared, as ready as ready could be, to handle the job and what might possibly show up. As one old hand said to me: “Ya can’t pull over an’ change a flat tire out there kid.”
There are some basic necessities to putting together a proper tool box. Firstly, and for obvious reasons, get yourself a good one made of heavy-duty plastic or other non-corrosive material. If you have connections in high places, Space Shuttle tile stuff will suffice.
Levity aside, and as with whatever tools you are going to put in, go with the top brands; Stanley, Plano, Grainger, Craftsman, Pelican, and DeWalt come to mind. Make sure it’s the appropriate size for your boats’ needs, is preferably as airtight and waterproof as possible, and can be stowed for easy retrieval. An 18 foot bow rider does not need a rolling, 11 drawer, master mechanics work station.
To know what you require, eyeball all the places, spaces, compartments, and work areas around your boat both inside and out including the engine room, heads, helm, and living and entertainment quarters. Basically anywhere these tools would be needed. Above and beyond Archimedes’ idea of the ultimate tool, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world,” and based on the size and complexity of your boat, you need to have an assortment of flat head and Phillips screw drivers; adjustable, needle nose, channel locks, and vice-grip pliers in several sizes; nut drivers, wire cutters, spanner, crescent, and open end wrenches; a fairly inclusive socket set; a utility knife with extra blades; a tape measure; cordless drill and bits; wire stripper; and a set of hammers—rubber, claw, and ballpeen. (All hand tools should be rubber-gripped to protect against possible electric shock and check if you need any metric tools as well.) Other essentials include electrical tape, duct tape, a can of WD40, ScotchBrite pads, safety glasses, multi-meter, plastic tie-wraps, hex key set, the right size batteries, a top-of-the-line Swiss Army Knife and a suitable Leatherman tool, telescoping inspection mirror, a package of disposable gloves, filter wrench, rechargeable LED flashlight.
If you are away from the dock for an extended time, carry enough filters and lube and transmission oil for two complete changes. You should stock spare impellers, hose clamps, and belts and have a roll or two of self-bonding, air and watertight Atomic Tape aboard as it can provide temporary fuel and hose line repair.
I am sure there are many other useful tools you can find to help you out of a jam but this should get you started. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the many years I’ve spent in on-the-fly repairs is to get friendly with the biggest boat in the marina; that hands-on owner or skipper usually has the best equipped engine room and the knowledge and tools to go along with it; ones that you will want in your tool box as well.
To put a dog latch on this conversation, my advice is to always be thinking on your feet and be ready to improvise and be ingenious with your tools and perhaps, anything else you can get your hands on to solve the problem and make the fix. Kind of a nautical MacGyver if you catch my drift.
A quick P.S.: I was once working on replacing a head gasket on a six cylinder Ford Lehman diesel with a friend of mine when I dropped a valve tappet down into the crankcase. After several expletives on the condition of the human experience, I then tried to figure out how to squeeze and extend my hand through the tight-fitting labyrinth of machine parts so I could get down there and retrieve the critical piece. In a eureka moment, he looked at me and said, “Hey, how about trying that thingamabob we use when we need to get a grab on a hook that’s way down in a blue fish’s gut.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about.
If you have a maintenance story of your own, or have done a unique quick fix while on the fly, send it on over by using the Leave A Comment key just below the text here on the right hand side of this page. If it passes muster, we’ll put it up.