Even if we never had to work on the boat, life is not just about watching sunsets and hanging out at a bar for happy hour, and we are prepared for most repair jobs that come our way at any given time.
If you've been reading this blog, you know I'm not the most mechanically inclined person, but I can so some things, and I do like to think I'm creative when it comes to fixing things that break. Some things are just not in the manual. But you have to have tools to do it.
Mainly because subject matter is hard to come by these days, given the fact that most of our boating currently is done via buzzing around in the dinghy, but I've talked to a few folks around here at the marina and it's interesting how some folks prepare for life aboard their boats, and others just go where the wind takes them. I thought I'd list some of the items and tools that we do have onboard Swing Set to help us through the rough spots.
Let's start in our toolroom/parts room/office that I'm very proud of.
I'm giving you a look into our "behind the scenes" spaces. While we keep our exposed areas as free from clutter as possible, anything behind a cabinet door or drawer is less organized, but there is a bit of a method to my way of storing things. In the photo, we are looking into what is probably the biggest "cubby hole" on the boat, at the stern end of our office where the space goes the width of the room (about six feet) and is about two feet deep. The access is through a door about two feet square.
The big red toolbox is chock full of most of my important hand tools, like wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, etc. I have some Craftsman tools in this box that I got in my first set when I was twelve years old. Good tools last forever. I have both metric and standard open and closed end wrenches, and metric and standard sockets in 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" drives. I have Torx sockets, and six and twelve point sockets.
In the top section is a "fish tape", a steel wire coiled around a handle that allows me to fish wire through spaces I can't crawl through or get an arm in. This tool has helped me keep my sanity. Somewhat.
I have a staple gun, and a varied supply of stainless steel staples. Throw away any regular steel staples. They don't belong on a boat. This is a Swingline manual stapler. The power is astounding. I pitched an old electric stapler away years ago when it quit on me.
Another invaluable tool in this area is my pop rivet tool. I cannot say enough about having a pop rivet tool around, complete with a variety of rivet sizes (aluminum and stainless only).
I have a small carpenters square in there, my bigger one is hidden behind the toolbox itself. Carpenter squares aren't something everyone needs, but I had 'em, so I made room for them. They get used too.
The wrenches are all in the first drawer. This includes Allen wrenches in both standard and metric. The second drawer has all my sockets. It's not too organized, but I have my "daily use" sets in the plastic carry around toolbox below the red one.
In the big drawer on the bottom is all kinds of tools. I have vice grips in there of three sizes, two pipe wrenches, a canvas snap installer (this is just a vice grip with a special jaw), extra screw drivers, stainless steel paint scrapers of various sizes, various type of pliers and cutters are included, plus my wonderful tin snips I got last Christmas. That last drawer is FULL, and I have to rotate tools out of there when I get new ones.
As I mentioned, the plastic toolbox is my carry around box. I have a complete set of standard sockets and wrenches in there. Flat and Phillips screwdrivers, more Allen wrenches, two sets of pliers, and room to place more tools in there from the big red box, depending on the job I'm doing. Yes, when the job is complete, the tools that normally don't go in the plastic box get put back where they belong. Once in a while I take some time to glean through the carry around box to rid it of junk that just seems to grow in there.
Out of view in the picture is my huge bolt cutters with two foot handles. There isn't many locks that these bolts cutters can't handle, and what they can't handle, my Dremel tool will.
My hacksaw hangs next to the bolt cutters. If Tony Curtis or Sidney Poitier show up in irons, I'll be able to help them out. (Don't dwell on this reference if you don't get it right away.)
I have an oil changer in here too. It's of the suction variety. I bought it to suck the fuel from the bottom of our Racor fuel filters. It prevents having to disassemble the whole bowl to clean sediment from the bottom of the filter. I can also use it for its intended use if our electric oil changer in the engine room ever quits on me at the worst moment.
I have some oil absorbent pads, and some spare plastic sheeting, spare tubing, and a variety of aluminum angle to make simple brackets if I need one.
I like those little plastic parts drawers. Most come with three drawers stacked, and I label the front of each drawer with what is contained in each. In this compartment is a set of stacked drawers that have small electrical parts, parts for our Air-X wind generator, and a separate drawer for latches, catches, and various cabinet hardware.
I have a two Tupperware containers in here too. One has a set of jumper cables in it, and one has a variety of tie-down straps and bungee cords.
Tucked way in the back is spare oil containers to use when I change oil. The empty ones get cleaned and are ready to hold the old oil as I pull it out, then I can easily carry them to the recycle station.
There are more things in this cabinet than I care to list, but the last ones I'll mention is my claw hammer and small crowbar. Life is not complete without these two items. I can get anything, or anybody, to co-operate with a good claw hammer and crowbar.
Two good sized cabinets in the parts room line the center wall to the left as you come into the room. You can see two of my plastic drawer sets in the photo. We have one set full of screws, bolts, pop rivets, snap assemblies, nuts, etc.
One other drawer set has electrical connectors with two sets of crimping tools. A whole bunch of cable ties of various sizes, and a whole drawer full of "cutting" devices, meaning drill bits, razor blades, and Skill saw blades.
I have a solder kit in here, some spray paint, tape, glues, spare zincs, batteries, fuel filter elements, Scotch pads, gun cleaning kit, plumbing supplies, and a small plastic tub full of stuff I buy that I know I'll use but not sure when.
The other cabinet has a three drawer set of more electrical items like switches, wire, light bulbs, and more electrical connectors and plugs. These things accumulate, or multiply, I'm not sure. I need to watch them closer at night.
I have some spare oil and engine coolant in here, more fuel and water filter elements, generator and engine pump impellers, toilet pump seals and valves, and more engine zincs and plugs.
The little cabinet above has solvents, paint, and lubricants. Believe it or not, I can find anything in a short period of time if not immediately. I'm making this list from memory.
I wish everything could fit into our little parts room/office, but it just can't. I needed a place to house some important tools, along with an electrical outlet, so I used one of our three cabinets in our salon for the tools in the picture above.
I have my orbital sander, flare kit (yes, this should be more accessible), my Skill saw, Dremel Tool, drill driver with charger, trouble light with charger, and last but not least, several sets of playing cards so I can whup up on Rosie playing gin rummy.
The photo above shows a simple repair that is an example of how important it is to have such a variety of tools at ones disposal. What I had here is a bracket on one end of a gas strut that was screwed into the fiberglass with plain "wood screws". Over the years, the wood screws had worn out the holes and although I had repaired this several years ago, I was in need of something better.
A perfect repair would have been the use of bolts, with nuts applied behind them, but the area has no access from behind. I took a small piece of Starboard, first cutting it with my hacksaw. My cut was crooked, at least to me, so I got out my Skill saw and made another cut. I used my Dremel tool to round off the Starboard and sand the edges. I used my drill driver to drill holes to attach the Starboard to the fiberglass, avoiding the original holes. I pop riveted the Starboard to the boat, and then pop riveted the strut bracket to the Starboard, running the rivets again through fresh fiberglass. This bracket ain't coming off this time.
Seems like a simple repair, but in the course of the repair I couldn't decide on whether to use aluminum for backing, so I was fashioning a piece of aluminum angle to use, but decided I didn't like how it was going and opted for the Starboard.
I had tools strung out everywhere in the salon and in the cockpit, but as I completed each portion of the job, I put each particular tool away as I went. Still, I bet I spent an hour on this little repair, but at least I had all the stuff onboard that I needed.
I guess my advice here is to try to keep as many closely related tools and parts together as you can. My system isn't perfect, but there is some order to it. I don't spend time rooting through boxes of junk to find what I need. We have some wire shelving, or baskets, just inside the door of our "parts room" where newly purchased items are placed. I don't let these baskets get too full or out of hand before I either install whatever it is that I bought, or put it away in a more permanent place.
We like to brag that if anyone walks onto Swing Set at any given time, it would be hard for them to realize that we actually live onboard.
We don't have to spend much time getting ready to take a boat ride when we want.