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Date: 6 October 2013. Organizing Your Tools.


Aboard Seaweed, like all other homes afloat having tools available is important. Having said items convenient to access makes life ever so much simpler. Originally when I moved on board I had a fool-proof storage system ready to go. Then, because that was not working well for me in practice, I changed it. Being will to adapt is a skill boaters need.

Much of my life when I first moved aboard was spent moving things. If you are not expecting that, well, every little thing can begin to seem overwhelming. Life afloat is not always like that. It does get better, however you will need patience at first for certain. A large helping of humor always helps when stuff is not quite as you'd imagined.

This screw kit became a repository of smaller screws. I did not need jars of screws so tucked away the excess.

People throw out a lot of broken items with perfectly good screws. I remove those screws and keep them for Seaweed.


Finding the right spot for your gear changes over time. Expect to move things until you discover what works best for you aboard your home. For instance, at first I was using my drill frequently, so it was front and center of a locker. Screws were too. Now, my stash of screws is hidden away while I have a small container of readily available screws in a variety of sizes.

My first advice to all boaters is to put everything away.

As I tucked my tools away I was sure my stowage system was perfect. Alas my system had some blips and was not nearly as practical as I had originally thought. Frankly it was not even close to workable. And this is with 50+ years of family boat ownership so I thought I had this figured out. Argh.

 The family home was a 40' steel sedan cruiser. Daddy built her.

When you come aboard give yourself time and latitude to get things right. Know that eventually all be fine. As for self, smugness does not become me 'cause sure as shooting I do get my lessons in humility. That helps with my sense of humor too!

At the beginning of this journey (5.5 years into it now) I used far more nuts and bolts and my screw driver/drill use was a constant plus the jig saw was very handy. Unless you are fortunate enough to purchase a boat that has been a home you will run into similar difficulties. You will find storage spots that seem obvious though access to said locker space is either difficult or impractical for daily use.

That is where my boat buddies aboard Freebird helped. Marsha and Kenny (aka Muscles) became friends as we endeavored to make our homes more comfortable. Theirs is a beamy Freedom30. In any event Muscles helped me and above is one of the most useful cut-outs he created. It is in the end of the bench seat that faces the companionway in the galley. That is the forward bench and behind that locker door is my easily accessed tool locker.

This is my dear friend Marsha.

Like most (all?) boats with dinette seating, there is a large lift out cover from the top into the space. Nobody I know wants to shift cushions and pillows each time they need access to that space. The locker access created is dedicated to tools, my
Calder's Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual along with paperwork. It is perfection indeed. Thank you again Muscles.

From bottom to top, this is what I have loaded in a tiny 24" wide locker space:

At the bottom in an old shoe box are my leftover and spare plumbing supplies. At one time there were more but as the boat has come together they have shrunk in size to the smallest box. As you can see in front are a few ends of rolls of sand paper, some
Copper Coat Gasket Compound, Rust-Oleum flat black paint (for the window trims and stove*) along with Chapman's on the left and Calder's on the right. Note too the brass spray nozzle -- that kind lasts longest and stows easily in a small space.

*Aside re the stove and Rustoleum paint:  The stovetop on Seaweed was corroded and not too great looking. Flat black Rustoleum was on hand so I painted it. No, it is not perfect however the stove does look a darn sight better. At some point perhaps I will run across another stove and replace mine. In the meantime it works and that is most important to me.

Two more things about propane stoves: The ones for boats have two burners in front and one in the back (generally) however the ones made for RVs have the reverse: two burners in back and one in the front. Seaweed came with the latter and frankly I like it better. Of course mine is not gimbaled. Just something to think about if you have to buy a stove -- and as a cook rather than a chef, I find two burners are quite sufficient! The third in the front does fit nicely my Coleman stove-top oven though so...!

This container, an old sweater box, has all the hand tools that are used on occasion. Because I do not use them so often they are lower in the stack. There is a lid so it nicely supports the next box, which doesn't have a top but was free so obviously works well and is within my budget. Yes, the safety goggles (those yellow things you can't see through) are history.

One thing that I always have aboard is Rescue Tape -- sitting right in front in the left corner. When you need it you had better have some. Add Rescue Tape to your list of NECESSARY ship's stores. Rescue Tape comes in a variety of colors. I prefer clear. Also, do not go cheap and purchase a knock-off. They are truly awful.

This level features many of tools when working with power. The
Wire Strippers are great -- one of my favorites and definitely a recommendation if you do not have a decent pair. I have used mine for three years and though the cutter part is getting nicked, they work very well. I don't loan these out so buy your own pair. Ditto Daddy's vise grips. I love my vise grips.

The drill bits  (mine at least) have had a hard life and need replacement. I have not yet picked up a new set. For me having a small group that will work is better than having a huge kit that can create the perfect size hole. Seaweed is a boat, not a yacht! Still, it is the 1/4" bits that are used most frequently and break fastest. I wish I'd been smart enough to pick up more of that size.

The most used tools are at the top of the stack. Note that the Philips head screw driver is on the left and the Standard is on the right. That's because P is before S in the alphabet and in the dark when reaching in I know which is which. This simple formula is also followed in the drawer with my next size smaller Philips and standard screw drivers. Their handles match too so placement is important. I have seen some who have only blue for Phillips and red handles for standard -- another system that works well.

Black & Decker 15557 10-Piece Drill Bit Set

Having the right tool is important. On some tools it is perfectly okay to utilize less expensive versions. I would not do so for the two shown on the right.

Affiliate links

Gardner Bender GST-70M Circuit Alert, Volt Sensing Wire Stripper, 8-20 AWG

Irwin Vise-Grip Original Locking Pliers with Wire Cutter, Curve Jaw, 10-inch (502L3)

Next to the tape measure is a
Crow Foot Wrench -- a new-to-me tool that proved its worth when the keyway (square 5/16" bronze, replaced with stainless) that holds my shaft to the transmission sheared. There are two square-ended bolts that go into the coupling and hold the shaft in place.

SAE 3/8" drive Crow Foot Wrench set

or, Metric crow foot wrench set

The 5/16" Crows foot fit on my 3/8" drive ratchet and made it possible for me to tighten them down securely. I paid $10 for one at ACE Hardware. I needed it and paid the price. Of course now I see sets available for not much more.

Please note: the sets do not have the size I needed. ACE Hardware was the better choice.

Affiliate links

Stanley Universal Joint Kit

One last handy-to-have item is a universal socket joint. I did not own one when I started my life aboard Seaweed. What it does is allow multiple twists in between your ratchet and socket. On my boat that flexibility was crucial in tightening the bolts that hold on the valve cover. Please ask about how I know that. The storey is ugly, and oily. This Universal Joint Kit is what I should have bought instead of the $10 I paid for the 1/4" drive, and I'd would now have a 3/8" drive. 20/20 hindsight strikes again.


As you can see, everything fits nice and tidy into one small 24" wide locker space. Of course every girl needs a digital multi-meter. Mine's not the best, but it is inexpensive and works!

Affiliate Link

Multimeter DT830B LCD Digital Voltmeter Ammeter Ohm multimeter

With everything put away I can sit back and enjoy the day. Keeping tools tidy means they are always available at a moments notice. Thanks to Kenny on Freebird I have a great location for my tools that is easy to access. Perhaps this has given you an idea for your own boat. Happy Cruising!

Are there any hand tools you wouldn't be without?
What nifty access points have you created to make storage easier?

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2013, 2023

Categories: Boats, Books, Characters, Gear, In the Bilges, Organizing,

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