November 2011 Issue
Holiday Gift Ideas
Sailing gear for your gift list and wishlist.
November and its cooler temperatures herald several things for sailors—the end of sailing season for those in the north and the start of race season for us in the south—but it also marks the beginning of the holiday season. To celebrate, Practical Sailor editors have put together a roundup of gift-giving—or gift-getting—ideas. Here are a few of our perennial PS wishlist favorites and some new products that most sailors would be happy to find among their holiday booty.
Keeping Time and Tradition
Peter Spectre’s “The Mariner’s Book of Days 2012” desk calendar is a great gift for maritime history buffs and nautical-trivia hounds. With 2012 being its 21st year in publication, the 112-page calendar offers new nautical facts, fiction, and folklore in each edition. Spectre—the former editor of WoodenBoat magazine and current editor of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors—does a great job of presenting maritime history in a usable and enjoyable format. The spiral-bound book, published by Sheridan House, features a weekly calendar on the right-hand pages and a smorgasbord of information on the left, including ship diagrams, quotes, sea chanties, glossaries, and “this day in sailing history” facts. You can pick up a copy for $16 online at www.woodenboatstore.com.
Two wall calendars make our wishlist nearly every year, and both feature enticing photos of our favorite daydreaming fodder: wooden boats. Gumbo Publishing’s 2012 Wooden Boat Festival calendar chronicles the “most talked about wooden boat festival in the world,” the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival in Washington state. The calendar is filled with photos of the colorful boats and people that turn out for the annual festival—sometimes called the “Woodstock of wooden boats.” Along with the work of photographer Mitchel Osborne, the calendar also offers facts about Port Townsend and its surrounding waters. You can find the calendars for $15 online at www.woodboat.calendar.com. A portion of proceeds go to support sailing programs for youth and adults in the Port Townsend region.
The Calendar of Wooden Boats, by Noah Publications, is one of our favorite wall calendars. Photographer Benjamin Mendlowitz captures the allure, tradition, and beauty of wooden boats with crisp, colorful images. The captions for each photo in the 2012 calendar are written by marine historian Maynard Bray and include facts and insights about the featured boat and its background. These make ideal gifts for wooden-boat enthusiasts. They can be purchased for $16 at www.noahpublications.com.
While our library is filled with how-to books and cruising guides, we also enjoy books that capture the spirit of sailing—be it in words or photos—and marine writer and photographer Ivor Wilkins’ latest work is one such book.
“Classic, The Revival of Classic Boating in New Zealand” is a beautifully produced coffee-table book that celebrates the historic yachts of New Zealand—Waitangi, Rainbow, Ariki, Little Jim, etc.—and the people responsible for their survival. The 400-plus-page book features hundreds of historic and contemporary illustrations and photographs chronicling slices of New Zealand’s maritime history and the passion that spawned the recent classic yacht revival movement. Readers can follow the journeys of classic sailing yachts and dinghies, powerboats, and launches from birth to re-birth, and can enjoy the bits of New Zealand culture interwoven with the stories.
The limited-print book costs $75, but it’s truly an amazing book that would make a meaningful gift for those interested in classic boats, craftsmanship, design, and maritime heritage. (For views, visit www.
If the sailor on your gift list is more likely to appreciate a DIY-er guide to boat repairs or a bluewater-cruising handbook, then browse the PS bookstore at www.practical-sailor.com. With titles including “This Old Boat” by Don Casey, “Advanced Marine Electrics and Electronics Troubleshooting” by Ed Sherman, and “Offshore Sailing, 200 Essential Passagemaking Tips” by Bill Seifert and Dan Spurr, the bookstore features many of PS editors’ go-to resources and the books we reference regularly in articles. New this season are Practical Sailor e-books on safety, maintenance, and other topics. The e-books, which can be bought as a complete series or as individual books, would make particularly good gifts for those sailors in far-flung places (Santa can deliver via email, saving you shipping costs!) or those with limited shelf space.
What better way to while away a lazy afternoon onboard than swinging in the breeze in a comfy hammock? While there are many different styles on the market that can be rigged for deck hanging, the Coolnet Hammock was designed to better accommodate the motion, rigging, and space restrictions of a sailboat. With an overall length of 8 feet, the Coolnet is 44 inches wide at the head, 22 inches at the foot and has an advertised capacity of 350 pounds. Our 6-foot, 1-inch tester was able to stretch out comfortably, but there wasn’t much room to spare.
The Coolnet is well constructed, with white-oak stretcher bars and 316 stainless-steel attachment rings. The white, loosely woven polyester rope is comfortable and provides plenty of air flow; it’s also advertised as UV, mildew, and rot resistant.
The Coolnet’s most unique feature is its three-point connection system, which was designed to offer greater stability and more mounting options than a traditional hammock. The Coolnet not only can be set up on the foredeck between the mast and forestay (a typical hammock location) but also outboard of the boom by securing the head and foot to the boom and securing the outboard support to a shroud. This setup also converts the hammock into a “porch swing” of sorts. Buyers have to provide their own lines for the supports, but the unit does come with a storage bag.
We found the Coolnet easy to set up and more stable than standard mesh hammocks. We also liked the versatility of being able to set it up on either side of the boom, which means we can easily hang more than one hammock at a time.
At $130, the Coolnet costs more than typical bag hammocks, but the price is competitive with other high-end products.
Practical Stocking Stuffers
Shopping for a tool junkie or a consummate do-it-yourselfer? Then you can’t go wrong with one of these handy little products: a ratcheting marine-wire crimper or self-loading screwdriver from Sailor’s Solutions Inc. Of course there are infinitesimal choices when it comes to buying tools that are valuable on a boat, but these three caught our eye this season, and they are affordable enough to classify as stocking stuffers.
We consider any electrical work to be among the more daunting tasks aboard a boat. Having the right tools for these jobs can make a world of difference, both during installation and over the long haul as watertight, properly crimped connections will far outlast poorly executed ones. The Sailor’s Solutions Ratcheting Wire Crimper (WP042) helps ensure shrink terminals are properly crimped every time thanks to its controlled-cycle action; it won’t release until the full cycle is complete. Another unique feature of the tool is that it will work in left-handed and right-handed situations; being ambidextrous is a must when you’re trying to squeeze in the tight confines of engine compartments and electrical control panels! Designed for use with waterproof shrink terminals (sizes 22-10 AWG) and splices, the crimper’s precision dies are color-coded to industry standards, making it easy to get the right fit when you’re crimping. Sailor’s Solutions retails the crimper for $40 online.
Another Sailor’s Solution tool that would make for a practical but cool gift is the Classic AutoLoader, an easy-to-use, multi-bit, self-loading screwdriver. Rather than having to keep up with a half-dozen different sizes of Phillips- and flat-head screwdrivers, or replacing lost interchangeable bits, AutoLoader users have them all in one tool, kind of like six screwdrivers in one for just $20.
Switching bits is easy: Pull back the handle, twist it until it’s in line with the desired bit, push handle forward, then get to work. It literally takes a few seconds to change bits. The AutoLoader comes pre-loaded with six commonly used screwdriver sizes—three Phillips (1, 2, 3) and three flat-head (1/8, 3/16, 1/4)—but the bits are run-of-the-mill hardware hex-base bits, so you can load in whatever sizes you use the most often.
The AutoLoader creators obviously had sailors in mind when they designed the tool: It even has an anti-roll handle. And while the bits and driver shaft could fall victim to corrosion—what tool doesn’t on a boat?—the AutoLoader’s budget-friendly price ensures users would get their (or your) money’s worth.
If you’re on the hunt for gifts for a small-boat or trailer-sailer owner, the DrainPlug Wrench may be worth considering. We’ve known several daysailer skippers (and numerous powerboaters) that have nearly sunk their boats before realizing they’d forgotten to put the drain plug in before launching. These same skippers, occasionally, have a heck of a time locating said drain plug once the boat is safely back on the trailer. Well, the guys at Braid Products have come up with an uber-simple solution: the DrainPlug Wrench, a floating keychain with a compartment for storing a drain plug plus a spare and a molded end that can be used to remove stuck plugs. While its main function is to wrench out stubborn drain plugs, we like the idea of using it as a keychain for boat keys or car keys, which would take advantage of its much more valuable function, in our opinion. Attached to keys, it’s as a subtle reminder to put the plug in, and it serves as a designated place to store the plug and a backup. It’s well worth the $12, even if it’s just used for some friendly ribbing of a plug-forgetting giftee.
For the same price as a tacky tie, you can get the sailors on your list accessories they’ll actually like—and use. Marine hardware manufacturer Harken has come out with a line of stylish purses (2518), wallets (2517), and mini-duffel bags (2589) made of sail material. The purses come in several designs and colors, and the sail fabric is water-resistant, so purse contents stay dry even during those dinghy rides to shore. Testers did note that the sail material is a bit noisier than typical purse materials, so just be sure not to go digging for the chapstick at the bottom of the bag during a meeting. Also, we noticed some of the sail-cloth purse designs are semi-transparent, which makes it easier to find items but not may not appeal to all purse-toters.
The Harken wallets are tri-fold with a Velcro closure and come in white, yellow, or black sail-cloth material. They feature five slots for credit cards and one clear pocket for an ID, but there is no zippered pocket for loose change. The durable sail-cloth material did not make the wallets hot or bulky when carried in the pocket, testers noted.
Unlike some sail-cloth accessories we’ve come across, the Harken line is affordable, with prices ranging from $20 to $30.
We trialed two watches that would make appropriate gifts for racing sailors: the Gill Regatta Master II Watch for the serious racer and the Ronstan ClearStart Sailing Watch for the casual racer who takes starts seriously. Both are rated as waterproof to 150 feet, and both have a calendar and alarm function, clearly identifiable red start/stop buttons, and shock-resistant construction, among other features. What will appeal most to racers is that both have a stop-watch function (count up or down); are pre-programmed with an ISAF start sequence alarm setting with alarms sounding at 5, 4, 1, and 0 minutes; and can easily sync to the nearest minute at any time during your sequence with a single button press.
The Gill watch is beefier, with a 2-inch face, and offers some bonus features that the Ronstan does not, but it also comes with a heftier price tag: $175 versus $65 for the Ronstan. The Gill’s buttons can be locked to prevent accidental setting changes mid-race, and its countdown feature gives a sound signal every minute, and, in the last minute, the seconds count down in a large full-screen display. What really set the two apart was the Gill watch’s digital compass, which enables users to take sightings from any where on deck, and the fact users can change the battery themselves without compromising the watch’s waterproofness.
The Regatta Master is a notch above the Ronstan, but the ClearStart is a budget-friendly race watch that will suit more casual racers fine, and some will prefer its petite size (1.5-inch face), basic functions, and easier-to-read numbers.
For the sailor who has it all, consider making a donation in their name to a local sailing charity. Some nonprofits—and even some businesses—sell clothing or other items, with proceeds benefitting local sailing. For example, we loaded up on Hippowear gear from Go Kinship! (www.gokinship.com), a company that markets sailing clothes and accessories—shirts, technical clothing, hats, sail bags, dog collars, etc.—and the proceeds help fund youth sailing programs in Massachusetts. (Hippowear is named for the company’s mascot: Clyde the Hippo.) Buying holiday gifts from companies like Go Kinship! means you get to give cool gifts and help a good cause all at the same time.