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How should I organize and store spare parts?

2013 July 17

Dear Boat Doctor,

I am planning to do some extensive cruising in some wilderness areas on the Great Lakes. To be self-reliant I am laying in some fairly major engine spares including injectors and fuel lines as well as other mechanical parts. I like to keep my spare parts clean and organized. Right now I have a plastic tub filled with little Yanmar boxes and bags, but it's not a very user-friendly solution. I worry that my considerable investment in spares isn't very well protected. There must be a better solution. Do you have ideas?

Greg Rismeyer
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Greg,

First off, I'm so happy to hear that you're setting yourself up to be self-reliant. Many people don't bring enough spares, especially for Great Lakes cruising. But the truth is that the lakes are big and many areas are pretty remote, so you'll likely be able to get parts in a couple days to a week but it'll be expensive and inconvenient. I have struggled with boxes of spares myself and forgetting what's what.

I like the idea of a plastic bin, but I bag each part in a heat-sealed vacuum bag meant for storing food. I put a little printed tag inside each bag with the part number and what it is for. If the parts are corrosion prone, I'll wipe them down with a little WD40 before I bag them. Delicate parts get a layer of bubble wrap. I pull the bags down to a reasonable vacuum level and trim them as small as I can. When I use the parts, I save the tag with the part number for the provisioning list.