Boatworks

Bosun’s Box, from A to Z

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The chances are that if something can go wrong, it will. With this in mind, carrying a few spares with which to effect running repairs is a good idea. A bosun’s box or ditty bag will keep all these items clean dry and in the same place so that if you need a spare shackle at 0400 you know just where to find it.

A. Notebook and pen
Use these for all sorts of things, from making lists of jobs to be done to sketching a disassembled component.

B. Spare cable
A few lengths of cables of different gauges can be used to make temporary repairs to wiring and electronics.
 
C. Cotter pins
Always carry a good selection of these in various sizes to lock off rigging. Cotter pins should never be used more than once.
 
D. Clean rags
You’ll need plenty of rags every time you check the engine oil or clean out a paint brush. Paper towels can be used as an alternative.
 
E. Tape
You can make fast, effective repairs with the correct type of tape. Carry duct, electrical, and masking tape as a minimum.
 
F. Crimp terminals
A simple way to make proper connections to the end of electrical cables. Available in a variety of sizes.
 
G. Container
Many of the items shown here need to be kept dry; a plastic screw-down flare container makes an ideal bosun’s box.
 
H. Spectra cord
Immensely strong and lightweight, Spectra cord is perfect for repairing your standing rigging.
 
I. Cleats
These were left over from another boat, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy one day.
 
J. Nuts, bolts and screws
Carry at least a couple of every size used on the boat. They should be bronze or stainless; brass corrodes in seawater and has little strength.
 
K. Blocks
Can be used for everything from rigging a spare halyard to fixing up a laundry line.
 
L. Shackles
Countless uses, so carry a good selection in a variety of sizes. 
 
M. Pipe clamps
Use stainless-steel clamps only. Great for everything from mending broken boat-hook handles to clamping pipes.
 
N. Batteries
Carry spare batteries for onboard flashlights and radios. Don’t forget the AA batteries for electronics.
 
O. Fuses
Keeping spare fuses in a handy display package makes finding the correct size easy when the lights go out.
 
P. Coaxial connector
A good safety item to have if you lose your main VHF antenna and need to connect up a spare.
 
Q. Knife
A yachtsman-style knife is strong enough to cut the heaviest rope; its attached shackle key can be useful.
 
R. Heat-shrink
Seals electrical-cable joints against water ingress and can also be used as a fast method of whipping the ends of a rope.
 
S. Gas lighter
Great for use with the heat-shrink or for lighting the boat’s barbecue.
 
T. Varnish
Carrying spare varnish to touch up damaged areas as they happen could save hours of work come haulout time.
 
U. Whipping twine
Perfect for whipping ropes and great for use as a lightweight laundry line.
 
V. Pusher and fids
The only tools you need for making proper splices in braided ropes.
 
W. Spare line
You can never have enough spare pieces of line.
 
X. Latex gloves
Wearing these when working on the engine or doing any messy jobs makes cleanup easy.
 
Y. Brush
Cheap disposable touch-up brushes are a perfect companion to the varnish can. Great for small jobs.
 
Z. Flashlight
Can be used as a signaling lantern, a light for deep lockers, and as a safety aid in the dinghy at night.

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