A rabbit from the hat
  |  First Published: March 2007

I’ve been boating for over 45 years and much to my embarrassment I have been towed home twice!

The first time, when I blew a gearbox, there wasn’t much I could do about it, but the second time made me start carrying basic back-ups that could get me home. Since starting this system and updating it as ideas come to hand I have managed to pull quite a few rabbits from the hat.


The occasion that really got under my skin was when I blew an impeller. Had I been carrying a spare one I could have got myself home instead of having to dial a friend. The next time I had my impeller changed during a regular service I simply asked the mechanic to keep the old one for me and I carry it in my tool box. Basic mechanical skills are needed, and you do have to get to land, but it’s not that hard to change an impeller if you have one. The other thing to hang onto is a set of old spark plugs. I carry about six in my tool box and have used them on a number of occasions, especially when plugs have oiled up after a lot of trolling. It always seems to be my bottom plug that goes and it’s easy to change one at sea and be back on the hunt in no time.

A spare prop is another must in my boat. It stays under the floor, along with its lock washers and nuts, held together with an electrical tie. Spare engine oil is another must. I carry a 1L bottle up the front and it has saved the day on a number of occasions.

Carrying at least 50% more fuel than you think you will need gives you the leeway to extend a trip or get home in really rough conditions that can chew through the juice.

One back-up that only came to light on last year’s annual Hinchinbrook houseboat trip was a super product called Evercoat Aluminox Epoxy Stick. I ended up with a corrosion hole in my thermostat housing and this product meant we could continue to use my boat for the remaining couple of days before having it welded up once I return home.


A spare drain plug is a definite must. I drove nearly two hours to go fishing in Innisfail on one occasion only to find a drain plug missing. If it wasn’t for the spare I carried it would have been a very frustrating drive home, as it was the middle of the night, with no chance of buying one.

It must be something about Innisfail, as it was this destination where I saved the day on another occasion when I blew a tyre on the boat trailer. My guest expected it to be the end of the trip but a recently purchased spare wheel saw us on the way again in minutes. Now that shouldn’t have even been a possibility but my boat didn’t come with a spare on purchase and it took me 18 months to get around to buying one. The other significant trailer spare is a set of axle bearings. Carry them packed in grease and wrapped in a rag inside a plastic bag in your boat, rather than in the car, as a bearing could go when a mate is towing your boat.


I carry a forward and rear anchor set-up as I prefer to fish side on, especially when baitfishing. There have been a number of occasions when I have lost an anchor to a wreck or rock bar and if it wasn’t for the second anchor system it would have been the end of the trip. If you don’t carry two set-ups at least carry a spare rope, chain and anchor stowed away.


Many boating knick-knacks like hand held GPS’s, torches, head lamps and digital cameras run on AA batteries so carrying a few spares at all times has proven invaluable on many occasions. A few other easy to carry back-ups found in my boat are a spare hat, sunscreen, Bushman insect repellent, CRC, spare raincoats, a back-up waterproof torch, 2L of fresh water, D shackles, electrical ties and joining crimps, fuses for electronics, an assortment of stainless steel screws, nuts and bolts, gloves and bulbs for nav lights and internal lighting. All of the things mentioned have been called upon at some time but putting them to use wouldn’t be possible without a good tool kit.


I carry a fairly comprehensive tool kit, which I originally bought for home and car use. I found the metal toolbox didn’t like saltwater, so I now carry my tools in an old Plano tackle box, which is much more compact and water resistant. Whenever I need to spray any of my tools with CRC or Lanox I do it over the top of my opened toolbox and I have found this has kept my tools rust free for over 20 years. That pretty well covers by boat back-up system but there is another one for fishing gear, which will have to wait for another edition.

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