This category is a bit of a challenge. I was thinking that it would be easy to select a set of tools that I thought would be valuable to every boat owner. That is tough to make into a list of a top four. For example, every boat needs a good set of screwdrivers, but certainly me telling you so wouldn’t add much value! So I have focused on the odd and unusual. Things you might have never heard of, or didn’t know existed. Some expensive, some really cheap, but all are things I have found very valuable and well worth not only the space they occupy on board Harmonie, but also worth the hole they created in the cruising kitty.
Beyond a doubt, this falls into the category of tools where an initial reaction is “That’s all there is to it??” But seriously, this is worth it. There are hoses all over most of our boats. We push and pull fresh water, salt water, sewage, fuel, oil, and other liquids through hoses. Every one of those hoses attaches to some type of plastic or metal fitting.
At some point in the life of the boat every hose will need to be removed from its fitting for some kind of maintenance or repair project. That can be a real challenge to do without damaging the hose, and/or the fitting it is attached to. This really simple hook helps break the bond that the hose has with its fitting, and gives you the leverage you need to pull the hose off. The next time you need to remove a hose that has been stuck to its fitting for years, you will think this was the best $10 you ever spent.
Balmar Smartguage Battery Monitor 12/24 V This product does one thing very well: One very important thing. Monitoring the amount of power stored in a cruising sailboat’s batteries is vital to keeping the boat’s electrical system healthy and reliable. There are several different ways of doing it, each has it’s own advantages.
The technology used by this device is unique. It is very simple to install, and gives consistently accurate results. This is one of those things that belongs on every cruising boat. It was developed by a company in the UK and is marketed by Balmar, the company best known to boaters for heavy duty alternators. The inventing company’s website has a LOT of great detailed information on batteries and battery charging. Their technical files are well worth a read through.
How does it work? Well… they are a bit cagey about that. I THINK they are measuring the battery’s impedance, and using a sophisticated computer model with adjustable parameters to correlate that measurement to state of charge. I am normally very suspicious of products that say, “Trust us. It works like magic.” This one really does work “like magic”.
Triplett Fox & Hound Wire and Cable Tracing Kit with Tone Generator and Probe If there is one thing any modern boat has more of than hoses, it’s wires! Boat manufacturers, boat technicians, and boat owners are all notoriously bad about labeling wires. When 10 wires disappear into a conduit in the front of the boat, and reappear half way back, how do you figure out which one is the one you need to work on or replace? Sometimes, you can pull on the wire, and a helper can tell which is which, but sometimes that just doesn’t work.
This tool can be a lifesaver in tracking down the “mystery wires” that seem to breed on sailboats as they age. Connect the “tone generator” to the wire, and the Probe picks up the tone that is broadcast from the wire letting you pick the right one out of a tangled bunch, or figure out where it goes when it disappears behind the bulkhead. This makes tackling a lot of wiring projects a lot less of a chore.
Wireless Endoscope, WiFi Borescope Inspection Camera 2.0 Megapixels
Not so long ago, a borescope was an exotic tool with a very exotic price tag. These days very useful cameras for looking into the invisible dark corners of the boat are very affordable. Using a smartphone or tablet as the display screen and computer power keeps the cost of the whole unit really low.
We used ours to figure out what was happening inside the mast while we were running the cable for the new radar unit. Really, really handy. Be sure you get one with a light. Generally speaking the places you are using these are not well lit!
That’s it for the first “10 Best Lists” from Harmonie. I am sure we will have more if people find them informative, or just enjoy them.
We are wrapping up the last of the projects that we have been working on here in Annapolis. Some disappointments… it doesn’t look like the batteries are going to be delivered in to for installation here. Not a disaster–the company will ship them free when they arrive to our next port of call. We found a few more repairs that need doing, but nothing disastrous. In a few days, weather permitting as always, we will be casting off lines from Annapolis and heading south. Next stop, sunny Florida!