“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.
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.
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 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?