December 2011 Issue
Last-minute Gift Ideas
Long-time subscribers may have noticed that calendars are a perennial favorite among our gift-giving suggestions. One reason is that they are great to have on hand for those last-minute gift-giving needs that pop up. The main reason, though, is that they are always chock full of amazing photographs that bring alive the passion of sailboat racing, the sting of salt spray, the warmth of Caribbean sunshine, the grace of classic boats, and the beauty of sailing. Two of the most enduring sailing calendars are those produced by acclaimed marine photographers Onne van der Wal and Sharon Green.
A former professional sailor, van der Wal combines his artist’s eye with his love of sailing and the ocean to capture crisp, colorful, and evocative photos. His 2012 wall calendar ($25) is perhaps better classified as nautical art rather than a practical record of days, but we like to consider it functional art. You can view it on his website, where he also sells other products featuring his photography, including note cards ($16)—another great stocking stuffer.
Green’s wall calendar, “The Ultimate Sailing Calendar,” spotlights sailboat racing, and her photographs capture the raw energy that permeates race courses and race crews. “The Ultimate Sailing Calendar” retails for $22; you can view the year of photos on Green’s website.
Her thrilling photos also are featured on recycled, reusable market bags. The “Making a Splash Not Trash” bags, which are printed with a collage of Green’s race photos, are not only handy for toting groceries down the dock, but they’d also make great reusable holiday gift bags. A portion of the sales of the $13 bags benefits the Sailors for the Sea ocean-conservation foundation (www.sailorsforthesea.org).
Made of marine-grade stainless steel (420) with a titanium coating, the Gill Marine Tool (MT003) includes a folding marlin spike, sturdy shackle key, and a 2.5-inch, serrated blade. The titanium coating gives the Gill a leg up on some other personal tools we’ve seen as it offers boosted corrosion resistance. We’ve also found the serrated edge helps cut through rope with less effort.
Weighing in at 5.7 ounces, it carries considerable heft compared to ceramic or plastic-handled mariners knives, but it folds down to 3.75 inches and can be stored in the included belt pouch or hung from a lanyard.
Testers found the tool somewhat stiff to use at first, but after working it some, it loosened up. It is not designed for one-handed use—a feature we prefer in sailing knives. The Gill tool is a good-looking, useful device with a competitive price ($26), and it would fit easily into a Christmas stocking.
The Reese SoloHitch isn’t a new product, but it is a practical gift for anyone who likes to sail solo or avoid testy exchanges with their sailing partner. The hitch-trailer alignment system comprises two telescoping antenna rods (13.5 inches stowed, 43 inches extended), each with a yellow foam ball attached at the top and a magnet at the base. With one expanded rod placed on the trailer coupler and the other on the hitch shaft, the driver backs up until the balls are touching, and voila! You’re ready to hook up, sans the repeated backing-up attempts and back-breaking tongue shifting or the indecipherable hand signals and the back-and-forth yelling from a “helper.”
The chrome-plated steel rods are not made of high-quality metal, so chances are that they’ll need replacement down the road, but for $16 you can’t expect titanium.
Users should be careful not pull off the balls or bend the rods when extending them. The Reese hitch magnet is a simple solution at an affordable price that can help take the frustration out of launching a daysailer.