#1 tool: Top model Leatherman, on a lanyard in pocket of sailing shorts... these are very high quality stainless... I get a hard time for the number of times I get discovered in the bowels of other peoples' yachts after taking a stroll along a wharf, performing "engine rebuilds", adjusting compass
dip and such, armed only with my trusty Leatherman. ;-)
I once suggested to my skipper
that we could convert one sort of plastic pipe fitting into the sort we'd run out of on board, by using his battery drill as a lathe headstock and the file on a Leatherman as a lathe tool. It worked perfectly - we were offshore
in the South Tasman sea at the time... (he had his pair of Mitutoyo premium quality digital calipers onboard... they don't work anymore :-(
I have the clip-on adapter which takes multiple 1/4" hex-shank screwdriver bits. For voyaging, stick to a premium brand of tips, such as Snap-On - there really is a big difference.
Make sure you get torx bits with the axial hole in them, for dismantling "no user serviceable parts
. Sailors are automatically exempted from this advice, by Papal decree (must have been that Pope who was a fisherman)(Hence fish meals
on Friday ...
but I digress)
A pair of vernier calipers (and I mean, literally, vernier - an oft misused term!) IS a good idea, even if only so you can order the right fasteners when you next make port : either cheap
plastic, or carbon fibre, or stainless (but be careful how you clean and stow the latter: it's NOT marine grade stainless)
Dial calipers are borderline and digital calipers in particular generally fairly shortlived at sea, especially if you use
them at sea. You can work out the TPI or pitch
of the fastener by measuring off an inch (for imperial threads) and counting the threads (starting from zero, not one!) or by measuring across ten or twenty threads (same proviso!) and dividing by 10 or 20 to give the metric pitch
. Threads always measure slightly undersize on crest diameter; compare with a thread of known size if in doubt. (Also a good way to confirm pitch: mesh together and hold up to a strong light)
It's hard to tell 8mm from 5/16"; you'll be relying on careful pitch measurement.
Some Weller butane soldering torches have a hot knife alternative tip - great for sealing cordage ends. Mine (Portasol P1-K) also has a hot-air heat tip, for shrinking heatshrink without burning it. Very handy onboard.
Tiny screwdrivers and isopropyl alcohol for dismantling digital cameras and such when you fall in the sea wearing them.... also needed for tightening hinge screws on eyeglasses.
Some high-spec stainless tools (eg allen wrenches by Wera) are now available on the general market. Allen wrenches are arguably a good thing to have in stainless as they do not transfer ferritic particles to the fastener, possibly causing contamination corrosion
, but this is probably only of concern to those of us who answer to "Captain Anal".
I'm a fan of them, as rusty allen keys offend me (not just because I generally answer as above.... and that's only because I'm "analytical", to be sure!)
It's worth taking a centerpunch, ground with a four-facet pyramidal point. This does a much better job of starting a drill on marine stainless: the profile of the divot is produced with a lot less strain-hardening than the usual conical centre-pop.
Consequently the metal is a lot less likely to blunt the tip of your pilot drill, which is the first in a cascade of undesirable consequences resulting in a lot of swearing when forced to drill stainless with a hand-held drill motor
Another useful item for long-distance voyagers is a Portalign drill guide.
Precision Drill Guide Portalign | eBay
This turns a drill motor
(provided the spindle thread is 3/8" x 24tpi) into a (very) rudimentary drill press, but much lighter and more compact and useful than the usual crappy adapter.
For boatbuilding I have two: one where I've cut the baseplate from an O to a C so I can get closer to sidewalls. Particularly good for drilling and tapping holes in aluminium or steel
boats. (Using spiral flute premium machine taps for the latter)
It's also VERY handy for cross drilling shafts, with the built in V rests, aligned with the spindle.
The base can be clamped to the work for drilling stainless: if you do this, and put a piece of masking tape on the place to be drilled, even shiny stainless can be drilled WITHOUT a centrepop, which is a big help (to avoid the above syndrome)
One or more Unibits or similar (high spec) stepped drill bits are virtually indispensable if you expect to drill thin metal. The good brands cope with stainless if you run them slow with cutting fluid: dish detergent will do if you've nothing better.
And a Z-VISE (formerly Zyliss Vice) - search on this string for a video demo - is the mutt's nuts for onboard wood or metal bashing - admittedly that's something probably only long-distance cruisers aspire to do...
Because they demo so ridiculously well, they get sold by the gross at state fairs then never used ....
so although they're ridiculously high-priced new (Swiss pricing), you can usually pick them up on eBay or TradeMe or suchlike for a quarter of new price
, in perfect nick. Even cheaper if you file a search for mispelled versions of the name, like Zyless, so there's less competition ... but you might be waiting a while !)