A tool not often written about but that has multiple uses is the heat gun. A word of warning though: If you struggle with a screwdriver, pliers, duct tape, and spray lubricant, stop reading. The heat gun is a great tool, but can totally ruin your day if not handled with care. Should you choose to add it to your boat toolbox, take the time to learn how to use it.
The many uses of a heat gun include applying heat-shrink tubing on wiring connections, removing paint and varnish with the aid of a scraper, softening the vinyl tubing to remove or install on a hose barb for air conditioning pumps, sanitation, water intakes and bilge pumps. Most heat guns have at least two heat settings, and the lower setting is capable of working on any of the mentioned projects. The higher setting will work faster, but extreme care must be taken not to overheat. For example, you can destroy the insulating shield on a wiring project, collapse a vinyl hose to an unusable state or literally burn your boat to the waterline!
So why bother using a “weapon” on board your boat? The answer is time. On numerous occasions I have struggled installing new vinyl hoses on hose barbs, and then with just a touch of heat, the hose will slide right on. In a recent project the toe rails and cabin teak trim on a Grand Banks Eastbay 49 were stripped of varnish, sanded, and prepped for new varnish, all in 14 man-hours. Other perks include securing the end of a fraying dock line without the use of an open flame, and heat-shrinking and shrink-wrapping small projects. Just remember, extreme care must be taken when using a heat gun and just like the name implies, keep all guns out of reach of children.