If you’ve spent enough time on the water you’re probably well aware of the fact that our favorite pastime is not easy on the wallet. Whether it’s a fuel filter, bait pump, bilge or battery, things go wrong as a result of the harsh marine environment. There is only one thing saltwater will not eventually corrode, and that is saltwater. In fact, many believe the word boat is actually an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand, because it seems our spending never ends. While it’s obvious that you won’t be performing an oil change or replacing a wiring harness at sea, there are a number of basic tools and spare parts that every boater must keep onboard. At the very least, a basic tool kit and a few spare parts may assist you in getting home safely while simultaneously avoiding an expensive call to Sea Tow.


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Photo: Steve Dougherty

Before we get started, keep in mind that regardless of which port you call home or where you ply your craft, you must be familiar with your vessel’s capabilities and be able to overcome nearly any obstacle that may unexpectedly arise. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “If I break down in shallow water it won’t be that big of a deal.” You would be seriously wrong.

…a basic tool kit and a few spare parts may assist you in getting home safely while simultaneously avoiding an expensive call to Sea Tow.

Consider this very realistic scenario. You’re floating over skinny water in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in search of tight-lipped permit. You’ve spent a majority of the high tide scouting the shallows and it’s now time to make a move before the water flushes off the flat. You casually climb down from the poling platform and crank the motor when to your surprise you get no response. The next four hours you find yourself resting on the bottom, awaiting Sea Tow and the FWC to potentially write you a hefty fine for damaging the fragile ecosystem. If you only had a wire brush and crescent wrench handy to clean and tighten your corroded battery terminals you could have avoided a whole bunch of headaches – and saved a few hundred dollars.

Before selecting which tools to keep onboard it’s important for every boater to remember that preventative maintenance goes a long way toward ensuring enjoyable days on the water. All thru-hull fittings, hose clamps, pumps, battery terminals and exposed electrical connections should be doused with a proven corrosion resistant no less than once each season. From there, the range of tools you keep onboard should be in direct correlation to the size of your vessel, its mechanical systems, and the activities you plan on engaging in. It’s also imperative that you have any specialized tools that may be required to perform a specific repair at sea. Some bolts need a unique shaped wrench, and without one your spare part may be rendered useless. For larger boats, a windlass-wrench and macerator pump crank are two must-have items never found in off-the-shelf tool sets. Fortunately, engine and equipment manufacturers often provide pre-packaged kits, which include the required tools. Keep them onboard, not in your garage. And finally, we always recommend that you mentally walk through every installation and adjustment you may have to make just to be sure you have the necessary items.

Along with basic tools, spare parts are also essential. When purchasing spare parts for your engine(s) or any other piece of equipment, make sure to copy the exact model number. If possible, compare the spare pump, plug, or hose to the original to make sure it is an exact replica.

Nothing can ruin a day on the water faster than a mechanical failure, but having the proper tools and a few basic spare parts can quickly save the day. Sure, if you’re out for a sunset booze cruise down the ICW there’s no need to bring a spare prop and prop wrench, however if you’re headed to the beautiful Bahamas for the weekend, that same spare prop may be your saving grace.

Essential Spare Parts

  • Oil Filter
  • Fuel Filter
  • Electrical Connectors
  • Fuel Water Separators
  • Spark Plugs & Plug Wrench
  • Fuses
  • Battery
  • Fuel line
  • Hose clamps
  • Propeller, Cotter Pins, Hub Nut & Prop Wrench

Essential Tools

  • Wire Cutters
  • Wire Ties
  • Adjustable Wrenches
  • Assorted Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Assorted Pliers
  • Tape (Duct and Electrical)
  • Engine Pull-Start Rope
  • 5200 Adhesive
  • WD-40
  • Anti-Corrosion Spray
  • LED Flashlight
  • Sockets
  • Wire Brush
  • Allen Wrenches
  • Strap Wrench
  • Snorkel Gear
  • Jumper Cables