Boater Power Tools

By Chris Landers

It can take decades to build a proper tool collection, but the gadgets here, chosen with the help of some of our BoatUS experts, can give you — or someone on your list — a great head start.

Photo of a DeWALT 4.5-Inch Angle Grinder

DeWALT 4.5-Inch Angle Grinder | $59

This is the real workhorse of boat maintenance. Small enough to keep under control, this baby will find a purpose no matter what your boat's built of. Sanding disks for shaping wood or metal, grinding wheels (try not to lose the safety guard, which is usually the first thing to disappear), wire brushes (stop putting those on your drill, please); there's even a chainsaw-blade disk, if you feel you currently have too many fingers.

Makita 18V Cordless Impact Driver | $189

Cordless drills have been a necessary part of the tool kit for decades for just about any drilling or fastening task. The current crop adds the functionality of an impact driver, to take care of any stubborn holdouts you might find in, say, the engine compartment. The Makita is particularly compact, which should help a little in getting to that one fastener that won't come out, usually located as far as possible from any decent access point. Who the heck designs engine compartments, anyway? Seriously, why would you put that there?

Blue Sea Systems' Mini Clamp Multimeter With True RMS | $172.99

You know that instrument light that goes on and off every once in a while, depending on what the waves are doing? Yeah, the one that fixes itself when you hit the bulkhead with the heel of your hand. You should really take care of that. Loose connections can be incredibly annoying to track down, but without a good multimeter, you might as well rip out all that spaghetti and start over. This one from Blue Sea allows you to read current without disconnecting anything, and easily check for potentially deadly shore-power current leaks.

Rigger's Bag | $29.99

Unfortunately,, suppliers of the rigging bag we mentioned in our Holiday Gift Guide, seems to have gone out of business. There is a similar bag available from the Shelter Institute, in Woolrich, Maine. So now you've got all your fancy-shmancy tools, are you really going to just let them sit in a plastic toolbox where they'll collect water and rust? No, what you want is a classic rigger's bag. It has enough side pockets to hold all your smaller tools where you can see them, and the center pocket fits your drill and larger hand tools.

Photo of an Energizer 6-LED Headlight

Energizer 6-LED Headlight | $19.99

Crawling around in the bilge trying to fix something is bad enough ... there's no reason to make it worse by holding a flashlight in your teeth. There are super-expensive, rechargeable, gazillion-lumen headlamps aplenty at the outdoor retailers, but this one gets the job done nicely. Its several settings include a red LED, so you can use it on deck at night without blinding yourself and everyone else.

Photo of a Linder Boat Knife

Linder Boat Knife | $122

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We don't usually get excited about knives, but this one is a thing of traditional beauty. The Linder boat knife is patterned after the sailor knives of yore, with a wide back made for cutting rope by laying the knife across it and striking the back of the blade, and a blunt tip to cut down on grog-fueled knife fights. Comes with a marlinspike that should be big enough for small boat needs, and a sheath, so you can use it with one hand while you hold on with the other in a Cape Horn gale.

Photo of a Ancor Marine Double Crimp Tool

Ancor Marine Double Crimp Tool | $75

If you do your own wiring, this is the way to ensure solid connections. Proper marine terminals are a good bit more expensive than the ones you get at the auto parts store, but that's because they have to put up with a lot more abuse. Spend the money once and use the time you would've wasted tracking down wiring flaws to, oh, maybe go boating.

Photo of a Fein Multimaster Oscillating Tool Start Kit

Fein Multimaster Oscillating Tool Start Kit | $199

As you may have noticed, boats have an endless number of hard-to-reach places, and if you've ever had to sand one of those places, you were probably wishing for a tool to make it easier. Fein is the originator of the oscillating tool, which uses a very fast back-and-forth motion to drive a variety of attachments — like sanders or cutting blades — and while it's a fairly recent innovation, its versatility and precision have made it a popular one. 

— Published: December 2012

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