Must-Have Spare Parts for Travel

Expecting the unexpected

June 3, 2019
man loading sport fishing boat
Stocking the boat for extensive travel is a daunting task which should be methodically thought out, checked and double-checked. ©️Scott Kerrigan/

Prepping the boat for an excursion outside the United States is one of the most difficult jobs a captain can have. Yes, it’s impossible to have a spare for everything, but items you can’t run the operation without, or parts that are nearly impossible to find while traveling abroad, are the key elements to consider when preparing for your next adventure.

You can’t possibly know what you need until you complete a full inventory of what you already have. Pull out all your bins, clean out the bilges, and dig under the couches and beds to see exactly what you have on board. Then tackle your storage room. Be sure to determine the age of spare parts, supplies and filters to see if they’re still usable. When you reach for something in a pinch or an emergency, it has to work, so when in doubt, throw it out.Once you have a handle on what you do have, go through each of the ship’s systems to determine which spares you need. Taking a picture with your phone—noting part and serial numbers—is a great way to inventory everything on the boat, and it’s much easier to flip through photos than trying to make a list.

Engine Room

Spare engine and generator filters, belts, zincs, oil, coolant and sensors are obvious. Plenty of fuel filters—primary and secondary—are a must when traveling. You cycle through lots of fuel while traveling, and there’s a high possibility of getting subpar or waterlogged fuel any time you take it on.


Think about how many oil changes you will need to do while you’re away, and include enough extra oil to fill at least one of the engines in case something major happens and all the oil is drained. Always be prepared for cleanups and take as many oil-absorbent pads and buckets as you can.

The best captains, I’ve learned, always include an entire pump assembly, along with spare impellers. Extra lengths of fuel hose, plugs and fittings are important if you need to bypass transfer pumps, pump fuel from one tank to another, or replace a broken fuel line. Having a section of hose that matches every size in the engine room, as well as brass union fittings and clamps, is handy in case you need to mend or replace a section.

Electrical Systems

Electricity is something you cannot do without. Sketchy power runs rampant in many marinas, and can present a real fire hazard. Shore-cord ends are No. 1 on our list of spares. Taking an extra shore cord is essential, especially if your power pedestal at a transient stop exceeds your day cord’s length, not to mention you’ll have a new friend if someone else is in need. Spare bulbs are a must, especially for navigation, salon, bilge and engine-room lights.


Make sure you have backups for the fuses on your pumps, appliances and electronics. Extra wire, spare Deutsch plug assemblies and various butt connectors are important, as are batteries, and a jumper wire for testing wire runs with a test light. There should not be a boat on the water that does not have a working voltage meter.

Plumbing and Water Systems

In a perfect world, you would have a spare for every pump on the boat. But not only is that expensive, there just isn’t enough storage space to accommodate them all. So determine which are the most important, such as bilge, fuel transfer, air conditioning and refrigeration pumps, and start there.

Water filters are important for the watermaker, Spot Zero and house system. Whenever you’re traveling, you can go through lots of filters and they aren’t always easy to find. Spare caps and baskets for sea strainers, quick-connect freshwater fittings, spare dock hoses and hose nozzles are also safe bets.

man with tote bins
To avoid unnecessary purchases, be sure to take a complete inventory by removing all totes and bins before you start restocking. Courtesy Sportfish Outfitters

Steering Systems

Your steering is something to take seriously when traveling, so keep plenty of extra fluid on board. A steering hose that reaches from the helm to the lazarette or engine room can be used to completely bypass a steering line that has failed somewhere in the boat. This is to get you home or on to the next destination until you can properly troubleshoot the real problem.

Learn about waxes and protective coatings here.

Docking and Ground Tackle

Consider the conditions of the docks or seawalls you might encounter and what the weather, tide and surge are in the places you’ll be traveling. An extra set of heavier-than-normal dock lines can double as storm lines if needed, and in addition to your standard polyball fenders, welded-seam fenders blow up in just a few minutes with a shop vac. They are lightweight, easy to stow, and provide extra peace of mind when the wind starts to pick up.


Tools and Repair Supplies

You should have every tool you need to do almost any job while underway. Small epoxy kits and both small and large tubes of fast-cure sealants are helpful.

Emergency plugs—wood and foam ones—come in all shapes and sizes to fit a wider range of holes for emergency leaks. An emergency crash pump is nice to have with a section of hose that flattens out and rolls up into a compact space. Be sure you have a long extension cord to run to a boat that’s rafted off to you to keep you afloat if you’re taking on water.

Think Ahead

Having tackle prepped is important, but getting the boat prepared for travel is equally, if not more, important. Anything that is crucial to your ship’s systems—including regular maintenance or wear items—should be considered for your spare-parts inventory. Lending parts is also a great way to make new friends.

If and when you break down or need a spare—or someone needs one from you—it only contributes to the camaraderie that is sport fishing.


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