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The Resourceful Sailor: What’s Your Favorite Tool, and Why?

“What is your favorite tool?” the Resourceful Sailor asked Olivier Huin, captain and builder of Breskell, a 50-ft cold-molded sloop, as they prepared for their 2019 transit of the Northwest Passage. Without hesitation, “My Leatherman,” was his reply. I can confirm he used it often, on a par with his use of epoxy. Personally, I fear the Leatherman as much as I fear Vise-Grips. While they often can do the job, they disfigure anything they touch. When they fail to work, they REALLY disfigure it. But for Olivier, it was a clutch performer because it was always at his side. To each their own.

Resourceful Sailor_Olivier Huin_leatherman user
Olivier Huin repairs Breskell‘s Tillerpilot with his two special friends, epoxy (on his fingers) and Leatherman (on the chart table).
© 2023 Joshua Wheeler

After some thought, the Resourceful Sailor decided his clutch performer was a simple vanity mirror. No jokes, please. The kind you buy at the local pharmacy or department store. This mirror has been used plenty for shaving and other hygiene purposes best left unspecified, but who cares about that? Its Resourceful Sailor value comes from viewing the nooks and crannies of Sampaguita, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, where the eyes cannot directly see, and its companion, the flashlight, because those nooks are also typically not well lit.

Resourceful Sailor's mirror
The mirror of many jobs.
© 2023 Joshua Wheeler

Wiring the Tillerpilot? Get the mirror. Removing chainplates? Get the mirror. Installing the windvane to the transom? Pull out the mirror. All three jobs were accessed through the cockpit locker, too small for the Resourceful Sailor to fit much more than his hands into. The image shows a broken handle. That happened when the cockpit locker inadvertently slammed down on it.

In the projects mentioned above, I used the mirror and the light to study the blind work area, where any fasteners were, and anything in the way. But when doing the work, the hands often blocked the view, so it was by feel. I translated what I’d previously viewed through the mirror into what my hands were feeling, remembering (or trying to) that visions in the mirror were opposite from reality.

The mirror and the flashlight work well together.
© 2023 Joshua Wheeler

The mirror is used in other places too. The forepeak, the bilge, the transom, under the galley, and in the quarter berth come to mind. Important enough to have a spare. Luckily, they were sold in pairs. This interdisciplinary tool is kept in the hygiene bin instead of the toolbox to avoid breakage. The next time a repair requires boat-yoga, ask if a mirror might substitute for Houdini-like feats. Remember, keep your solutions safe and prudent, and have a blast.

But never mind about me. What is your favorite tool, and why?


  1. Kelvin D. Meeks 8 months ago

    My “Gerber Gear 30-000469N 12-in-1 Dime Multitool Mini, Needle Nose Pliers Pocket Knife Keychain, Bottle Opener, EDC Gear, Black ” ($20 on Amazon) – that I keep on my key chain.

  2. Jay 8 months ago

    Along with an extendable inspection mirror, I’d say a Dremel tool (and attachments); both are great for tight spaces.

    • Joshua Wheeler 8 months ago

      I do like the Dremel. I use it most as a small and delicate grinding tool. Thanks for reading and playing along.

  3. Joe 8 months ago

    I so agree with the mirror. On my boat, Swan Fun, I call it the magic mirror because if there is a problem this is usually what is needed to solve it.

  4. Joshua Wheeler 8 months ago

    Nice Kelvin. Thanks for reading and participating. I’ll look into that!

  5. milly Biller 8 months ago

    My Leatherman- no question ! It is always in mt hand.

    • Joshua Wheeler 8 months ago

      Thanks for reading. Olivier will enjoy the confirmation!

  6. Chuck Hawley 8 months ago

    I like a well-made hollow gif for 3-strand splicing. Brion Toss made the best one but the West Marine version will do. Ideally you’d have a pair for different size line.

    • Joshua Wheeler 8 months ago

      Thanks for reading. My marlinespike bucket lacks that one!

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