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Date: 13 February 2015. Power Tools Required.


Often folks preparing to live aboard wonder about repairs needed while underway. Fellows with complete workshops in particular are genuinely concerned. How will breakdowns be handled? Can they afford it? What tools are necessary? Soon the questions become a roadblock to life afloat, but it does not have to be that way.

Gents used to going out to their garage and fixing whatever is broken have the most concerns. These men are competent and have all the tools known to man. They have spent years gathering gear and find comfort in their welders, lathes, grinders and chisels, drills and hammers, jigsaws and more. And the tools run on electric, air and multiple battery voltages. If one is good, two is better and three is closing in on perfection. Argh!

The tools are a testament to the gathering capabilities of testosterone laden fix-it fellows.
Unless you own the Queen Mary, there is not going to be room aboard for all those tools.


Ladies have the same thing too: either craft supplies and/or galley gear. As for self, if there is a craft known to man or womankind, I have done it, and probably have the supplies to do it again. I will admit to you how bad it is for me:

A decade or so ago I decided I wasn't going to do any more beading. So I listed all my beads on eBay in a nice big lot. And while I was auctioning off that not inconsiderably sized collection, I ended up buying more beads. Different ones -- better ones perhaps. I tell you, it might be a sickness.


And yes, I will confess: I still have a few glass beads aboard Seaweed for my cross-stitching. Because I do thread crochet too, I could add some of the larger beads to those projects at some point. It's a sickness, and one I'm enjoying immensely.

After all, if life afloat is not fun, it will not be a success.
For me, a life of decadence equals happiness.

We will not discuss galley gear either. If only I cooked as well as I gather supplies to cook with, life would truly be very fulfilling. Fortunately I do not, and my waistline is grateful!

But we were discussing tools. Aboard Seaweed I have a limited supply of power tools. I have switched over to all electric from battery powered units. The batts always required charging whenever I needed them. It is more efficient to run my electric tools off the inverter. That is a simpler solution, and the tools cost less too.

Still, should I require a tool I don't have aboard Seaweed there is a good chance a local box store will have the very item, in like-new condition for rent. A short term rental (a day or two) will mean that job will be finished rather quickly too.

In areas with a VHF radio net, I have asked for some specific item and have almost always managed to borrow one for a day or a few hours. The last thing I needed was a hole saw and Dave on S/V Oremae not only had one, he drilled the hole for me.

Meet Cap'n Dave onboard his Morgan named Oremae:

Trust me when I say teak over thirty years old is not easy to drill through. But he did it for me and now I have a place to plug in my DVD player when I have guests aboard for movie time.

Thanks to Dave I can make popcorn while the movie is on, without worrying about the cord for the player getting in the way. Movies require popcorn, even when anchored in the middle of nowhere, in case you wondered.

And a tool I find necessary twice? Well, I buy it. Ken on Sparrow advocates that, and he's right.

As for the powered tools aboard Seaweed, this is my list:

  1. Drill from Harbor Freight
  2. Jigsaw (old, from our boat)
  3. Sander (1/4 sheet size) (Gifted to me)

That is it. 100% total. A skilsaw would have been handy at times, but the jigsaw with braces (C-clamps and straight pieces of wood to form an edge) does suffice for those long cuts.

Honestly though, eventually I would like a better Dremel. Mine is a toy version (Harbor Freight/Northern Tools variety) and it works perfectly for my crafting. A sturdier one for boat work would be nice to have some day. I eventually would like a bigger one someday.

This is my Dream Dremel
Affiliate link

Dremel 4300-5/40 High Performance Rotary Tool Kit with LED Light - perfect for grinding, cutting, wood carving sanding and engraving

Other than that, though I might admire those with specialty use tools, for the most part what I have can be adapted and used for whatever job is at hand. Remember however, my Seaweed is small, simple and not steel. Were she steel I would definitely have a welder and the means to power it aboard.


A sewing machine that sews canvas is not on that list. I do not own a sailboat and canvas work does not interest me. It is far more difficult than one would think at first. And there is always someone in the anchorage or at the dock who has a heavy-duty machine and is willing to fix whatever needs fixing.

This is my sewing machine. She is a 1937 Singer 221 aka Featherweight.

Moonlight Sue's captain brought out his heavy duty (Sailrite?) sewing machine at C-Quarters Marina. Before dusk fell, in addition to making a cover for his dinghy (or was it chaps?) Keith had lots of requests for little jobs that folks thought up. If I had been smarter I would have added a project to his list.

The last I heard he and Carol were down in Boot Key
harbor. If y'all see them, say "hello" from Seaweed.

This Boot Key Harbor before the mooring balls went in, circa 2001:

Take care and as you're considering the equipment required for life afloat, think what each tool is capable of doing. Do you need a router? What about a skilsaw? A reciprocating saw is a cool tool however what else can you use that would serve the same purpose? Plus are you really going to require such heavy duty tools on a boat?

Most projects aboard Seaweed require minimal tools.

I spend quite a bit of time creating access and adding 12v outlets when I am not tracking down drips!

Of course none of that matters if you have the storage capacity for it all. And bear in mind that if you are wrong the retail world still exists and you can buy (or borrow) whatever is necessary for the current project.

I do believe those of us out here who work on our vessels have at one time or another wished for a bench vise. That is something that is not only handy but having that extra "hand" can be quite useful. Ditto a grinder (one of those gizmos with a wire brush at one end and a polishing stone at the other -- what are they called? I've looked at the smaller ones however without a place to put it...

I have rambled. I tend to do that. Y'all have a great day and have fun picking your tools for life afloat. The final piece of advice is:

I would suggest you select electric tools. As wonderful as the battery powered
ones are, all too often I found the battery dead when I needed to use the item. 

So what's the name of the electric tool with the wire at one end and stone at the other?
What tool(s) do you consider essential that are not on my list?

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