As you get ready for the boating season, here are important things to not just think about, but prepare for Safety First!  This article first appeared in the Northern California/Lake Tahoe Chapter magazine in the Summer 2014 Issue.

Safety First!  By Captain Don Leutz  (Safety editor for Northern California/Lake Tahoe Chapter)

Boating season is fully underway and there is nothing more satisfying than enjoying a day out on the lake.  It’s even better when there are no problems that come up, but just in case it’s always good to try to be prepared.

One way to help you be prepared is to be sure to carry a basic tool kit on board which might help in the event there is an incident, mechanical or otherwise, on the water.

At the very least, your tool kit should include both a medium sized regular flat blade screwdriver and a Phillips head screwdriver which is very useful should anything come loose on the boat, such as a hose, piece of chrome, etc.  It is even more advisable to carry three sizes (small, medium, and large) of each type of screwdriver to cover all screw sizes.

It is also prudent to carry an adjustable “Crescent” type of wrench.  A set of three adjustable wrenches (small, medium and large) is even better.  You could also carry a set of combination wrenches, both open end and box end, which will allow for many repairs should they become necessary.  Along with a set or wrenches, two large Channel Lock Pliers is a great idea in case packing nuts need to be adjusted.  A socket wrench set could also come in handy.

A long nose (needle nose) pliers and diagonal (wire) cutters are also a must and can help resolve many issues that may come up while boating.

I would recommend that every boater carry a roll of Duct Tape and Plastic Electrical Tape.  Both types of tape become extremely handy and can solve many issues, at least on a temporary basis, that will allow you to get to shore.  Duct Tape can be used for almost anything as a temporary measure.

I would also suggest that you carry a hammer in your kit and some tapered wooden plugs in a variety of sizes.  The tapered wooden plugs could be used to fill small holes and plug leaks should you accidentally strike something or you begin leaking while underway from a broken thru-hull fitting.

It is always a must to carry a good flashlight on board so that you can see into the bilge or under the dashboard or other dark places.  And, don’t forget to check the batteries often to be sure they are still in good condition.

A small assortment of stainless steel screws, nuts and bolts, along with electrical crimp connectors and crimping tool in a plastic box is always good to have on board in case you need them.

Whatever you purchase for your onboard Tool Kit, I recommend purchasing the best quality tools that you can afford.  It is easy to get hurt with cheap tools that may break under usage, causing injury to you or your passengers.  Screw drivers should have large handles so they can be easily grasped and adjustable wrenches need parallel jaws or they might slip off the bolt causing injury.

Try to keep your tools together in a tool box or tool bag and have them stored in a handy location which is easy to get to when you need them.

I would also like to suggest that you purchase a manually operated (hand) Bilge Pump and a manual bailing device, such as a small bucket, that could be used should your classic wooden boat begin to leak and the automatic bilge pump fails.

Other important safety gear to carry on board is a Marine Radio and/or cell phone, First Aid Kit, Flares, and a loud horn to hail someone nearby for help should you need it.

Most boaters probably will not use their onboard tool kit very often, but it is invaluable to have the proper tools to be able to make minor repairs that will allow you to get back to shore where permanent repairs can be made safely on shore.

Have a safe Boating Season and be prepared for the unexpected!  See you on the Lake!



  1. This is great and timely advice! Thank you! Maybe this doesn’t fit the description of “tool box” but it certainly pertains to safety. We never leave the dock without paddles and extra long and strong lines to take or give a tow.

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