Holiday Gift Ideas for Sailors
Sailors are a practical lot. Sure, we’d all enjoy a Fruit of the Month membership, but if you really want to make a sailor’s holiday bright, then gift them with something more useful. We’ve rounded up some practical (and fun) gift ideas that any sailor would appreciate, whether they’ll be decking the halls or the main saloon this season.
Spinlock Essentials Packs: Spinlock has launched a handy line of accessories for its Deckvest inflatable PFDs. The Essentials Packs—a chest pack, side pack, and belt pack—are perfect for keeping personal items like a flashlight, phone, snacks, or wet notes at hand, and can also be used to stow emergency gear like a personal locator beacon (PLB) or strobe. The lightweight, self-draining bags feature two-way, plastic zippers and a clear top panel. Designed to be used with Deckvests, the convenient bags come fitted with Velcro loops so they can be attached to other inflatable PFDs’ waistbelts or a regular belt as well. The packs range from $24 to $35 (www.spinlock.co.uk) and would make great gifts for the racer or offshore sailor; cruisers will like that they can double as a shoreside bag.
Mustang bags: Mustang Survival’s EP Ocean Racing Series (www.mustangsurvival.com) includes some impressive options for on-deck gear stowage and on-the-go gear-hauling. Testers’ favorites were the waterproof Greenwater deck bags and the Bluewater Gear Hauler backpacks. The bags are all very well made and thoughtfully designed—right down to their urethane-coated zippers. The Hypalon-shell Greenwater deck bags (35 liter/$260 and 65-liter/$290) are totally waterproof and feature reinforced, rubberized handles and full-perimeter tiedowns. The travel-ready Bluewater backpacks (30 liters/$180 and 55 liters/$230), made of rugged urethane-coated ripstop nylon, feature coated-webbing grab handles and clip points, adjustable compression straps, and stowable shoulder straps and waistbelts, which make it easier to check the bags on airplanes. The 55-liter model has a full-access opening as well as a seam-sealed, expandable wet pocket to keep your wet stuff separate; the smaller model also has exterior wet storage plus a waterproof, roll-top compartment that would be a good place for safeguarding a tablet or laptop on those dinghy rides.
RBG Saluting Cannon: For the sailor who has everything, we recommend an RBG saluting cannon (www.rbgcannons.com). These well-made classics don’t come cheap, so our pick would be the least expensive offering, the Sunset Saluting Cannon. The 9.5-inch cannon is solid brass and fires 10-gauge blanks. The 5-pound Sunset features a breakaway barrel, which separates for easy loading. The cannon can be left on its wood base or mounted on deck, a pulpit rail, or atop a winch. Prices range from $500 to $1,425. RBG’s cannons are ideal for signaling race starts or kicking off sundowners.
SailorBags: In November 2007, we reviewed totes from the New York-based SailorBags. (And, we’re still using those bags; they last.) SailorBags (www.sailorbags.com) offers a slew of products, but two that we think would make useful gifts are the Silver Spinnaker Utility Case ($45) and the Hanging Toiletry Bag ($44). Both are made of tough, water- and stain-resistant fabric, and come with a lifetime guarantee. The utility case (10 x 13 x 3 inches) features 17 pockets and eight elastic loops that are ideal for storing and organizing small items like first-aid supplies, small tools, or electronics accessories and charge cords. Made of ripstop nylon, the case has coated YKK zippers. The toiletry kit, made of sail cloth, is great for traveling and for those who make regular trips to shore-shower facilities. The bag (9.5 x 10.25 x 4 inches) has a hide-away hanging hook; two zippered, plastic pockets; and a zippered, mesh pouch.
Hot Logic Mini Portable Oven: With the Hot Logic Mini electric cooker, small-boaters can enjoy a hot meal onboard without a galley range. The Hot Logic portable oven is basically a zippered case (6.8 x 8.8 x 2.5 inches) with an electric hot pad that can cook meals from scratch or frozen meals, or reheat leftovers, keeping the food hot for hours. It uses low-slow conduction heat to bring foods to temperature (up to 212 degrees) and can hold it there without overcooking or drying out the food. Users simply put the food they want to cook—meat and veggies can be cooked together—in a 6-cup container (glass, metal, or Tupperware) with a sealed lid, then put the container in the zippered bag, and plug it into an AC outlet or inverter; it takes less than an hour to heat cold food and two hours for frozen. The Hot Logic Mini ($40, www.hotlogicmini.com) draws about 45 watts, less than most microwaves, so it’s a good choice for boaters who don’t need the speed-cooking of a microwave and don’t have space for a galley oven.
esa Watch: This Android-based smartwatch designed for sailors and made by Italy’s Astra Yachts (www.astrayacht.com) is just cool. The esa Watch ($400) allows wearers a handsfree tool for displaying boat data and maximizing boat performance—plus it has full function as an Android-based smartphone, with a SIM card for calls, text, and email, as well as a camera and Internet access. Serious racing sailors will appreciate having a real-time data display that goes wherever they go on board—even if that display is only 1.5 inches. The innovative esa uses Wi-Fi to connect to onboard instruments (via an onboard router or Astra’s separate multiplexer), and its pre-installed software allows it to show performance data like velocity made good, boat speed, and heading. Without Wi-Fi, it uses a built-in GPS and tactical compass for basic features like race-start countdown and distance to the line. The watch is shockproof and waterproof (IP65), but not submersible. With esa’s Dinghy app, users can even save performance and navigation data for later analysis.
Garmin quatix watch: Garmin’s quatix 3 (www.garmin.com) is another very cool smartwatch designed for boaters (cruising, fishing, and sailing); however, it uses a separate NMEA 2000 transceiver (Garmin GNT10, $150) to receive boat data rather than Wi-Fi, and its bonus features include a man-overboard alert function that will send an MOB alert to a chartplotter when the wearer goes in the drink. The quatix 3 ($600) can wirelessly stream NMEA 2000 boat data (speed, depth, temperature, wind data, etc.) from compatible Garmin electronics. It has an internal antenna and GPS, and is equipped with navigational tools, tide data, an anchor alarm, and racing functions like tack assist, countdown timer, distance to line, and time to burn. While you can’t text or call from the quatix, you can get notifications from a paired smartphone on the watch. The quatix 3 also features multi-sport functions, making it a good fit for the racing sailor who’s also an outdoor enthusiast. PS reviewed its predecessor, the original Quatix, in the August 2013 Chandlery section.
Columbia jacket and pants: It’s no secret that we like double-duty gear, and Columbia Sportswear’s Bugaboo 1986 Interchange jackets and Titan Peak Convertible Pants (www.columbia.com) each offer two products in one. The stretchy, nylon and elastane Titan Peak pants ($90, men’s and women’s) are rugged and lightweight fabric—ideal for cool-weather sailing—and with the pant legs zipped off, they can be worn in warm weather, making them a great option for the year-round sailor or traveller who packs light. They also boast UPF 40 sun protection, articulated knees, zippered hand pockets, and water repellency. The Bugaboo 1986 multi-function jacket ($200, men’s and women’s) is a waterproof-breathable, nylon shell and soft-fleece liner combo. The zip-in interchange system allows the wearer to combine the shell and fleece for wet or windy, cold-weather protection, or to wear just the fleece when conditions are milder. Winter sailors will appreciate the adjustable cuffs and zippered hand pockets on the shell and fleece.
Gill Thermogrid vest: Selecting expensive foulies for a giftee can be challenging, but investing in quality mid-layer options is a safe bet. One new Gill (www.gillna.com) product that we like is the stretchy, polyester and elastane Thermogrid vest ($115). The lightweight, thermal fabric offers added warmth for the core but is breathable and wicks away moisture. The side panels have added stretch for unrestricted movement.