TIGER LILLY - CRUISING TOOLS
07 June 2016 | Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia
Tom & Lilly (and of course Old Murphy)
We have been reading Facebook posts on the sailing sites regarding what tools cruisers carry. To a large extent, that will be determined by what type of systems your boat has, where you cruise, and how handy you are. TIGER LILLY is nearly 40 years-old, she is our full-time live aboard home, and we often find ourselves well off the beaten path. We have to be pretty much autonomous when it comes to boat repair. When one finds himself deep in the circuitous canos of the Amazon Delta and the engine won't start, or the refrigeration system decides to quit between Cape Town and Saint Helena, or the anchor windlass jams up in a remote atoll of the Tuamotu Archipelago - you better be able to fix it, jury rig it, or make-do without it... That can only happen if you have the correct technical documentation (and understand it), have the correct spare parts, and have the necessary tools and test equipment aboard.
We highly recommend that sailors have a copy of Nigel Calder's "BOATOWNER'S MECHANICAL and ELECTRICAL MANUAL" aboard. Many cruisers are dealing with electricity for the first time when they buy their cruising boat. If AC and DC electrical circuits are new or unfamiliar subjects (or if you just need a brush-up), Nigel Calder does a great job of explaining the basics in his book.
A well organized (and well read) Technical Library is a must-have aboard a cruising sailboat. In the front of each manual we have written the model and serial number of the unit, names and contact information of parts vendors, and notes gathered from craftsmen / technicians / mechanics which pertain to the equipment. If you don't know the usual operating temperatures, pressures, voltages of your equipment, it will be very difficult to troubleshoot the gear when it is inoperable. Those are YOUR manuals, you paid for them, write in them, color code the schematics, and understand the theory of operation. Here is a valuable hint if you need some technical advice on a particular problem: take the time to first familiarize yourself with the subject before you seek help. We have always found craftsmen willing to help; and you are much more likely to understand them, if you will just take the time to read-up on your subject before you approach the expert. It is really a matter of respect...
These canvas tool bags have served us well for the every-day tools we use on TIGER LILLY. The bag on the right carries Imperial tools, and the bag on the left has Metric and light electrical tools. These bags include 1/4 inch drive socket sets (Craftsman brand), and common hand tools. Also, we have a drill bag which contains various drill bits, accessories, and grinder attachments. Lesser used tools are stored in plastic tool boxes: wood working box (planes, chisels, lay-out tools); heavy mechanical box (based on 1/2 inch drive, torque wrench); medium mechanical box (based on 3/8 inch drive, hand tools), refrigeration box (gauges, leak tester, soldering supplies); electrical box (5 drawer fishing tackle box); and a Craftsman Imperial and Metric tap & die set. We have two plastic milk crates for power tools (prefer Makita), and a vacuum pump for refrigeration work. If things get really tough we have a 5 ton hydraulic jack, a hand sledge, and bolt cutters.
We try to buy good quality tools (not the top quality Snap On mechanic grade, but Sears Craftsman tools have served us well), and we just wipe them down with an oily rag. Poor cruisers cannot afford the cheap stuff that Harbor Freight sells - we have to depend on our tools, and we can only afford to buy them once.
Of all the systems aboard a cruising sailboat, we have found that the refrigeration system requires the most maintenance. We are confident that a comprehensive poll of cruisers will verify this - but ask around and find out for yourself. Our current project is replacing the vacuum accumulator and the receiver on our 18 year-old refrigeration system... Our refrigeration system is a high capacity DC holding plate system (Glacier Bay); and since the components are industrial quality and obtainable from general refrigeration and industrial suppliers, we have been able to keep it running all around the globe. If you want to go cruising, and maintain domestic tranquility, be prepared to fix your own refrigeration system!
Remember, NOBODY will do a more conscientious job when working on YOUR boat than YOU. Carry the manuals (and read them BEFORE the system fails), have common spares aboard, buy good tools, and hang around with people who know how to fix things - and learn from these folks. This is what we have found that we need for blue water cruising. Some of these tools are like old friends who have been aboard TIGER LILLY for the last 29 years... It has been said that cruising under sail really amounts to just working on your boat in exotic places; and we have found that to be the case...
LILLY SEZ: OK Hot Shot, enough reminiscing about your flippin tool bag - GET OFF THE INTERNET AND GET TO WORK! This man can certainly make a mess, and I am forever coming behind him and cleaning up. OH MY GOSH - we are so very blessed to be in Mooloolaba behind a gorgeous waterfront home as the guests of Neil and Maricel while Tom-Tom does his major surgery on our refrigeration system. TIGER LILLY is moored outboard of their beautiful aluminum catamaran IN THE MOOD, and we have the use of their boat's refrigerator while ours is taken apart. Their extended family, and their home, has such a gentle and warm spirit about it; and it is our pleasure to be around these lovely people of faith.
The people we meet, and the places we see while cruising under sail aboard TIGER LILLY...
Tom & Lilly
S/V Tiger Lilly
Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia