Chandlery November 2012 Issue

Practical Sailor Editors’ Holiday Wishlist

Tested and approved: Hand-picked gift ideas for every sailor on your list.

The holiday gift-giving season has arrived! And this year, instead of offering our usual rundown of nautical gift ideas, we asked our editors and writers to sort through the hundreds of products we’ve tested and find the sailing goodies they’d most like to unwrap this holiday. Here’s the crew’s holiday wishlist:

Practical Sailor Editor Darrell Nicholson, a long-time cruiser and marine journalist, topped his wishlist with Nigel Calder’s must-have sailing book, the “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual.” Nicholson reiterated PS’s January 2004 review of the book: “You wouldn’t want to own only a single book to help you assess and maintain your boat gear, but if you had to choose just one, this would be it.” The manual covers everything from diesels to rigging, from refrigeration to windvanes, and from through-hulls to winches. It’s available for $35 from PS’s online bookstore,

Nicholson—ever vigilant about protecting his skin from the Florida sun—also wished for the Columbia Optimus Half-zip shirt. The Optimus (PS, October 2010) is made of a quick-dry, moisture-wicking fabric that offers a UPF of 30. Testers said the lightweight, breathable shirt is a good choice for a top or base layer. Nicholson particularly liked that it has a media pocket on the arm that can accommodate his iPod. The Optimus retails for about $25 online. (Columbia Sportswear, 800/622-6953,

If you really want to impress a giftee, Nicholson suggested the $385 Magma Catalina, our Best Choice boat grill (PS, May 2008 and June 2006). The rectangular, propane grill is constructed of mirror-polished stainless steel, and its fractional grill face is easy to clean. The Catalina boasts a warming rack and 315 square inches of grill space. It comes with a one-year warranty and is available online. (Magma, 562/627-0500,

PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo, a widely known marine electronics and safety equipment aficionado, topped his list with the $170 Standard Horizon GX1600 fixed VHF. Naranjo said its appealing features include its compact size, convenient operation, price, and minimum extraneous bells and whistles. Recommended in our June 2012 VHF test, the submersible (IPX8) Explorer GX1600 is Standard Horizon’s basic mid-level VHF radio. Its metal housing extends back just 2.5 inches from the front panel, but it has a large display screen, will display a compass rose when connected to a GPS, and can be mated with a RAM3 mic to create an intercom system. (Standard Horizon, 714/827-7600,

Ryobi’s P712 portable vacuum also made Naranjo’s wishlist. The 18-volt battery-operated vacuum was testers’ pick for an affordable hand vac in our March 2011 test. While it’s not a wet/dry vac, it was one of the test’s top performers and would be a great, affordable choice for cleaning up smaller onboard messes. It retails for $25 online and at Home Depot, and it comes with a three-year warranty. (Ryobi, 800/525-2579,


Rounding out Naranjo’s wishes was a pair of Keen Venice H2 sailing sandals. The Keen Venice H2 was our top pick in our July 2010 test, and editors tapped them as Gear of the Year in the September 2010 issue for their excellent performance in traction testing, comfortable fit—wet or dry—and excellent foot protection, thanks to their large toe bumper and adjustable fit. Their hybrid design make them great for wearing on board, on the trail, or just wandering through town. They retail for $90, but some styles/colors can be found for about $50. (Keen, 866/676-5336,


PS tester Frank Lanier, who steals away aboard his Union 36 at every opportunity, said he’d like his stocking stuffed with a few cruising items: the 4.5-liter Thermos Shuttle Chef thermal cooker (PS, September 2012) and J.R. Liggett’s Old-Fashioned Ultra Balanced Shampoo Bar with the eZ-Pouch (PS, June 2012).

Thermal cookers are great galley tools for single- and short-handed crews who need to be able to cook a meal while underway without having to constantly tend to it and who want to use minimum cooking fuel or power. Contents are heated up to boiling, and then placed in a vacuum flask, where the trapped heat cooks them slowly. You can find the Shuttle Chef for $180-$195 online at Galtak Houseware ( and Forum Appliances ( (Thermos, 847/439-7821,

Liggett’s shampoo bar is made of plant-based oils, sodium hydroxide, and pure spring water. The 3.5-ounce bar is biodegradable and contains no fragrances, phthalates, parabens, animal products, detergents, sodium laurel sulfate, or sodium laureth sulfate, making it a safe, guilt-free choice for onboard use. It can be used as a body soap, for shaving, or washing clothes, but it was designed specifically as a shampoo. Testers deemed it one of the few multi-use shampoo/soaps they’d use on a regular basis; they were particularly keen on the eZ-Pouch and eZ-Strip, handy accessories for traveling and on-board use. (J.R. Liggett,

Lanier, whose Santa must have deeper pockets than ours, also wished for an Iridium 9575 satellite phone. Tester’s top pick in the January 2012 test, the compact Extreme 9575 carries a $1,495 price tag. It is rated for submersion (IPX6) and has a GPS chip to allow sending automatic bursts of data with text location coordinates. (Iridium, 480/752-5155,

PS’s in-house apparel guru, Theresa Nicholson, said she’d like to find a pair of Columbia Outpost Hybrid sailing shoes under her Christmas tree. The Outpost Hybrid, the Best Choice in our September 2010 test, performs like a no-nonsense athletic shoe, but its wide-gauge, breathable mesh body looks stylish and feminine. The shoe also offers excellent support, drainage, and grip, and at an affordable price: $60. While gifting women’s shoes can be dicey, you can bet these are a great choice for a comfortable, versatile boat shoe. (Columbia Sportswear, 800/622-6953,

Theresa Nicholson—who survived 11 years of cruising with PS’s editor, thanks to loads of strong coffee—said she’d also appreciate a deep, high-quality stoneware coffee mug that won’t tip over underway, has a wide bottom, is durable, and keeps the coffee hot on long watches. The folks at Galleyware have just the mug. The 16-ounce Galleyware ceramic travel mug features a nonskid bottom and an anti-splash lid. It’s available in multiple designs that range in price from $12-$18. (Galleyware Co., 302/996-9480,

PS Managing Editor Ann Key, a former boatyard varnish lackey, suggested the Original Nantucket Diddy Bagg (PS, October 2008) as an ideal holiday gift for the DIYer. With 36 pockets, the convertible and reversible canvas bag makes it easy to find and organize paint brushes and tools—no more digging to the depths of a cluttered tool bag. Practical Sailor testers have been (ab)using our test bag for over four years, and it’s still in excellent shape. The $170 bag is pricey but worth it for those who frequently schlepp tools to and fro. (Nantucket Bagg Co., 508/257-0097,

Looking for a gift for your galley queen (or king)? Check out the Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker (PS, December 2010), which Key called a galley essential for cruisers and passagemakers. The 6.3-quart cooker, a PS Editor’s Choice pick in 2011, performed flawlessly in tests. Extremely well made, it has an encapsulated-aluminum base and a spring-valve/indicator system that enables greater cooking accuracy, quieter cooking, and the ability to cook with less water. The efficient and user-friendly Duromatic carries a hefty $200 price tag, but it comes with a 10-year warranty. (Kuhn Rikon, 415/883-1101,

Key, who recently tested cases and bags for smart phones and tablets, included the Lifeproof case for iPhone on her wishlist. The slim-profile case fared well in our tests—you can check out the full report on page 25 of this issue—is easy to use, and had little effect on the phone’s performance while it was in the case. Key said it would make a great gift for those who are around water a lot and those who use an iPhone onboard. You can find Lifeproof cases for iPhone 4/4S online for $80 or less, and the iPhone 5 case is due out this month. (Lifeproof, 619/324-7755,

You’ll find plenty more gift ideas for the sailors on your list at Check out the marine books in our bookstore, all of which are PS editor-recommended and considered favorites. We also offer e-books on man-overboard prevention and recovery, safety at sea, maintenance tips and products, and sails. And of course, no gift could top a subscription to Practical Sailor.


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