Essential tools for the boating do-it-yourselfer.

The tools listed here are what I consider to be essential tools, and often carry them to the boat for those many projects. I have not listed some of the more common tools, such as screwdrivers and pliers, as everyone has their own idea of those, but rather, the unusual tools you may not be aware of, or at least didn't think of.

So this is not a complete list of tools, but rather uncommon tools you should consider including. The tools are not necessarily tools you will have on board for everyday needs; just those tools that aid in boat projects.

They are not always the most expensive, but over the years, have been essential. For instance, the fish wire tools are cheap made-in-China tools from Harbor Freight, but I have not found anything more useful. Other tools, such as crimpers work better when they are higher quality. I have chosen the set of tools that balance economy, quality, and the ability to withstand the marine environment.

Push-Pull Wire running kitKit of 10" 3/16" dia fiberglass rods for fishing wire through bulkheads.
Nylon fish tapeVery flexible 1/8" dia, very useful for fishing wire through radar arch.
Molex .063/.093 Crimp ToolEssential if your boat has Molex connectors.
Chicago Case Softsider CD48Easily transport your precision tools from home to boat.
Terminal Crimper An inexpensive acceptable alternative to the Ancor crimp tool.
Hoover Press-N-SnapIf you have any canvas work to do, this tool can't be beat.
Common Sense PunchFor Common Sense canvas fasteners.
Hammer crimp tool for 6 to 4/0AWGOr better yet, order your battery cables pre-terminated.
Plastic pipe cutterUseful for cutting PVC pipe, fuel hose, and water hoses around the boat.
Seasense Dry Box 50074125I use two of these for my on-board tool boxes.
Rhino 101 LabellerEssential for marking those wires
Wolfcraft Nylon Rotary WheelNon-metallic wheel useful for cleaning your zinc anodes
Greenlee Drill TapUnique drill/tap bit set.
Radio Shack Molex Pin ExtractorSometimes you have to extract a pin in a Molex connector.
Micro Screwdriver SetScrewdrivers for precision use.
Heavy duty cable cutterUseful for cutting cut large battery cables.
Heat GunA better alternative than a lighter for applying heat shrink tubing.
Xenon HeadlampDon't laugh, if you need one, it is an essential item.
General Inch Reading CaliperIt only has a .01 accuracy, but sufficient for most projects as it is easy to read.
Split loom toolIf you use split-looms (corrugated plastic tubes) for wiring, this tool is for you.
Tapered Hand ReamerOne of many stiles of hand reamers.

Don't discount non-traditional sources for tools, such as eBay. Sure, its hit or miss here, and you may have to be patient, but I picked up a new high quality Panduit GS4 cable tie gun, which retails for as much as $700, for a mere $40.

Another unusual source is While this website is more associated with computers and accessories, they often have hand tools that are associated with computers; needle-nose pliers, tool kits, and so on.

Keep an eye out for stores closing, especially in this economy. I wish no one ill will, but its undeniable that some businesses are in trouble. Our local Ace Hardware went out of business recently, and had a 50% off sale. I picked up some fairly nice tools for a great price.

General Tools ( will sometimes put tools on clearance, and even have an eBay store.

Also don't forget a small digital camera. In a boat, there are many areas where you just cannot peek your head into - and a camera does wonders for finding out what is behind that panel.

And how can one do a boat project without a McGuyver tool?

OK, so the spelling is different than the TV show, and it might not help you do that project, but it's sure to impress your boating buddies.

This tool was sold in Eddie Bauer stores about 10 years ago. Not sure if you can still get one or not.

To summarize, the tools shown here are not tools you might leave on the boat, but rather they are tools to aid in performing your boat projects. For instance, the nylon fish tape shown above is not something to keep in your on-board tool kit, but it is very handy for the one time you need to run wire through your radar arch.