Sailboat Spares & Equipment for Long Distance Cruising

It's said that the only way to be sure of having sufficient sailboat spares and equipment to hand is to tow an identical yacht astern. Not a very practical solution, but Murphy's Law dictates that you'll otherwise have a spare part for everything but for the thing that's broke. 

Mid-Ocean SunriseThere are no chandlers out here...

Modern cruising boats are much more complex machines than they were a generation ago - it's impossible to have a spare part aboard for everything, irrespective of the size of your boat and the depth of your pocket.

But conversely, the increasing popularity of recreational sailing has led to the spread of chandlers and specialised service centres along most of the popular world cruising routes, and if your required bit isn't in stock it won't take long to get it brought in.

Reassuring to a degree, but Murphy is more inclined to amuse himself when you're far offshore rather than conveniently close to a well equipped chandlers.

So starting with the premise that you can't have a spare part for everything, how do you decide exactly what sailboat spares to take aboard?

That of course would be easy, if you knew what was going to break. The best you can do though is to form an opinion as to what parts of your boat are most vulnerable to loss or damage through accident or general wear and tear, and what the consequences of such failure would be.

Only then will you be able to objectively address the issue of what spares to have aboard. Could you live with the problem until you reach shoreside facilities, or would it need fixing at sea?

Here's the list of sailboat spares and equipment that I came up with for Alacazam's Atlantic crossing...

Electrical Spares

  • Bulbs and fuses for all electric appliances;
  • Cable ties;
  • Circuit breakers;
  • Crimp connectors;
  • De-ionised water;
  • Electrical wiring of various sizes;
  • Heat shrink tape and tubing;
  • Insulating tape;
  • Petroleum jelly or silicone grease;
  • Self-amalgamating tape;
  • Voltage regulator for solar panels;
  • Voltage regulator for wind generator;

Engine spares

  • Air cleaner element;
  • Alternator diode;
  • Engine and gearbox oil;
  • Gasket material and sealants;
  • Penetrating oil in aerosol can;
  • PTFE tape;
  • Spare alternator; 
  • Spare cooling water impellers and impeller replacement kits;
  • Spare engine oil filters and primary and secondary fuel filters;
  • Spare fuel pump; 
  • Spare injectors; 
  • Spare raw water pump; 
  • Spare V belts; 
  • Thermostat;
  • Various oils and greases for pumps, stern glands and general use;

Sails and rigging

  • Assorted blocks including a couple of snatch blocks;
  • Assorted clevis pins and split pins;
  • Assorted ropes and cordage;
  • Norseman fitting for each wire diameter;
  • Replacement blocks and jammers for the mainsheet tackle and kicker;
  • Riggers knife;
  • Sail repair kit including sail cloth;
  • Sail slides and jib hanks;
  • Sailmaker's palm and assorted needles;
  • Sewing machine (reeds sailmaker or similar);
  • Shackles of various types and sizes;
  • Spare bottle screws for each shroud diameter;
  • Spare sail battens;
  • Spare sheets and halyards;
  • Splicing fids and tools;
  • Turnbuckles and toggles;

Miscellaneous spares

  • 12v inverter;
  • Assorted stainless steel self-tapping screws;
  • Dinghy repair kit;
  • Emergency tiller;
  • Emergency vhf antenna;
  • Handheld compass with bulkhead clip (as backup to main steering compass);
  • Handheld gps (as backup to fixed unit);
  • Handheld vhf (as backup to fixed unit);
  • Hose clamps and lengths of hose;
  • Pressure regulator for gas bottle;
  • Sheer pins for outboard motor propellor;
  • Spare air cylinders for foghorn;
  • Spare batteries for torches and electronic devices;
  • Spare blades for wind generator;
  • Spare electric bilge pump;
  • Spare servo pendulum blade for self-steering;
  • Spare winch handles;
  • Spare windex;
  • Spare plywood windvane for self-steering gear;
  • Spark plugs for outboard motor;
  • Stainless steel nuts, bolts and washers of various lengths and diameters;
  • Various connectors for shoreside power supplies;

Mechanical and electrical tools

  • The problem with tools is knowing where to stop...
  • Marlin spike;
  • 12v cordless drill with assorted bits;
  • A spirit level??? Yes, for levelling up the boat when on the hard;
  • Ball peen hammer;
  • Butane filled or 12v soldering iron;
  • Claw hammer;
  • Club hammer;
  • Craft knife and spare blades;
  • Crimping tool;
  • Digital multimeter;
  • Engine workshop manual;
  • Gas torch with soldering attachment;
  • Grease gun and oil can;
  • Hacksaw and spare blades;
  • Heat gun;
  • Large and small adjustable spanner;
  • Large magnet;
  • Metal files;
  • Needle nose pliers;
  • Oil and fuel filter wrenches;
  • Oil change pump;
  • Pliers of various types and sizes;
  • Polarity tester;
  • Rubber or plastic mallet;
  • Screwdrivers of various types and sizes;
  • Set of allen keys;
  • Set of feeler gauges;
  • Small plane;
  • Small screwdrivers;
  • Socket set;
  • Spanner set;
  • Tape measure;
  • Vice grips;
  • Whetstone;
  • Wire cutters and strippers;
  • Wood chisels;

Service kits

  • Fibreglass repair kit, including mat, cloth resin and underwater epoxy;
  • Service kit for all manual pumps;
  • Service kit for sea toilet;
  • Service kit for sheet and halyard winches;
  • Service kit for the watermaker and plenty of spare filters;
  • Spare seals for each deck hatch;

Medical equipment

  • Now I'm no medic, but this is what I've ended up with in my first aid kit:~
  • Adhesive tape;
  • Alcohol free moist wipes;
  • Analgesics (pain killers);
  • Antibiotics;
  • Antifungal cream;
  • Antihistamine (for allergies);
  • Antiseptic creams;
  • Assorted plasters;
  • Clinical thermometer;
  • Cotton buds;
  • Disposable gloves;
  • Eye drops;
  • Eyepad with bandage;
  • Finger stalls;
  • Gauze swabs;
  • Lip moisturiser;
  • Plastic eye bath;
  • Safety pins;
  • Scissors;
  • Seasickness tablets;
  • Silver foil blanket;
  • Splinter forceps;
  • Sterile cotton;
  • Sunscreen;
  • Various sized bandages;
  • Various sized dressings;

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