Like everyone, we found deciding what to leave behind and what to bring on our cruise difficult. I put myself in charge of power tool selection and feel like you can get by with 5 power tools for a 1 year cruise. With these tools I’ve milled down rough lumber and built a rear seat, fabricated a new aft chainplate, and cut custom teak pieces for various projects around the boat. You can certainly get by with out these tools, but having them aboard will enable you to pretty much build and fabricate whatever you need aboard out of almost any material, and do it efficiently. Without further ado, the winners are:
Drill – Put me on a desert island and I’ll demand my battery drill – Damn the rum. Easily the most important power tool on the boat. I use it to drill, tap, reame and bevel. The new lithium powered drills are light, powerful, and cheap.
Grinder – I have a love hate relationship with the grinder. They are highly effective at cutting whatever you touch them to and at making a massive mess. The grinder’s versatility earns it a spot on our boat.
Jig Saw – I view it as a portable bandsaw or scroll saw. With the right blades it will cut anything. Cutting tight inside and outside radii are where I most often employ it.
Circular Saw – Again, super powerful and useful tool. If you’re good with one of these, you can rip most materials accurately and quickly.
Belt Sander – An uncommon and perhaps superfluous choice to some. Perhaps my affinity for the belt sander came from the one I had in my land based shop. One thing is for certain, having a belt sander on board lets you rapidly remove material from your piece. Most commonly I turn it upside down and clamp it to the coaming, I now have a table belt sander. I generally use it with 80 grit (or less) and do all my rough shaping.
An assortment of hand tools complement these core power tools and let you complete tasks quickly and accurately. Given the cruising life’s tempo, doing stuff quickly isn’t usually high on the list. I however enjoy working as quickly as I did back on my land based shop. The power tools let me keep that pace.