Preparing For Failure

Things will break, and you can’t afford to be unprepared. Mawgan Grace takes us through his essential tools for blue water sailing.

The evolution of my tool bag is a story of tragedy, luck and great generosity. 

When I purchased my yacht, Adela, seven years ago I was a confident shore-based sailor and had previously owned a CT-41 until it was destroyed in an unforecasted typhoon. All my spares, tools, dreams and aspirations were either lost or stolen that day.

After purchasing Adela, along with a safe berth in a typhoon shelter, I had to organise the logistical challenge of bringing her from her berth in Tolaga Harbor to her new home in Hong Kong. 

With no offshore experience, I decided to employ the skills of a local couple that deliver yachts for a living. Out of pure luck my friend Morgan, a  second engineer on a 65m Codecassa who worked with my brother was about to relocate to the USA. He was after some offshore experience and asked if he could join us. Morgan and I flew to Langkawi. When I helped him with his bag it was unusually heavy and clunky – he’d brought his mobile tool bag contained in a simple open holdall. 

During preparation for our journey I was impressed that his bag was not only easy to move around the boat but contained everything needed for pretty much every job, it included:

  • Set of metric ratchet spanners from size 6-24mm
  • Two different size adjustable spanners
  • Normal and rubber hammer
  • Electrical screwdriver, wire strippers and crimping tool
  • Box of various electrical wire connectors.
  • Ratchet screwdriver with varying bits
  • A large flat head and Philips screwdriver with insulated handles
  • Pack of micro screwdrivers
  • Metric socket set
  • Junior hacksaw plus handheld larger metal saw
  • Needle pliers, normal pliers, mole grip pliers
  • 7 inch plier wrench
  • Strong scissors
  • Work gloves
  • Large and toothbrush size wire brush
  • Folding utility knife with replaceable blades.
  • Packet of various size zip ties
  • PTFE thread seal tape and two rolls of electrical tape
  • Electrical insulation sleeving and a gaslighter
  • Leatherman multitool
  • Small pot Vaseline (for rubber seals / impeller)
  • Allan keys
  • Small tube copper grease
  • Hose clip driver
  • Electrical Multimeter
  • Measuring tape
  • Small knife sharpener
  • Small WD-40 spray
  • Headtorch

This list may appear to be enough to start a garage, but today’s compact tool bags have so many storage compartments everything is stored away neatly. During the voyage the holdall tool bag was essential and it was easy to store under the companionway steps. When we arrived in Hong Kong one month later Morgan generously donated his tool bag to the yacht as he wouldn’t have the weight allowance when repatriating to the USA. An important point to remember if you are making crew changes.

This list is not definitive though. The yacht had sailed around the world for 10 years previously so had collected various extra tools to deal with almost every maintenance job. These are the tools required annually or less often: 

  • Oil suction pump with different size attachments
  • Belt type oil and fuel filter remover
  • Very large adjustable spanner
  • Quality socket set
  • Set of metric and imperial spanners
  • Makita cordless drill & angle grinder – drill bits/ blades etc.
  • Wood saw
  • Gear puller tool

Every boat is different and there might be some other specialised tools required. I haven’t listed splicing tools or sail repairing tools for example. 

Start off with a set similar to my mobile tool bag which can be moved around the boat to every job. Then build a collection of more specific tools which may be required. Next month we can discuss what spares should be carried. Remember to keep all the tools oiled and lubricated and if they come into contact with saltwater, wash them thoroughly and re-lubricate.

Note From Dick Beaumont

I recommend that every ocean-bound sailor start at the bow inside and on deck and check that you have every type of tool required to fit every piece of equipment you have on board.

If you haven’t got a star key or a metric hexagon key you can be sure you’ll need it!

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