Gifts for Sailing Parents


With Mothers Day and Fathers Day looming, we dug through our Chandlery items to find things that would make good gifts for sailing moms and dads. Landlubbers got it easy: Dad gets a new shirt and tie; Mom gets flowers (no carnations!). But thats not fitting for our nautical moms and dads. Unless their gift has some practical onboard use, it will shortly find its way to the senior-center flea market. Most of these gifts would be well received by either Mom or Dad, but if you end up missing the mark, you can always reclaim the gift and use it for your own offshore adventures.

Garmin GPS 78SC

Garmin GPS 78SC

Garmins GPS 78SC has been around for a while now, giving us plenty of time to try to break it. Its been dunked, dropped, dragged, and even stepped on, but it hasn’t missed a beat. The familiar Garmin interface is more streamlined than ever, so even that mom or dad who struggles with other handheld gadgets can get the hang of it pretty quickly. With built-in BlueChart G2 coverage for the U.S. and Bahamas, a three-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass, and a built-in barometric altimeter, the 78SC puts all the information Mom or Dad needs right at their fingertips. Whether or not the rents want to fiddle with the wireless-sharing feature, they will surely appreciate your thoughtfulness in giving them an easy way to crosscheck their tattered (and likely outdated) paper charts. ($350,

FLIR One  for iOS & Android

Flir One Thermal Camera

No Fathers Day gift-guide would be complete without some gadget that Dad can’t figure out without your help. The wannabe technophile will surely appreciate the chance to fiddle around with the Flir One thermal-imaging camera for smart phones (iOS and Android). Downloading the Flir One app is easy enough; then just plug the camera in, and Dad is ready to go.

The thermal-imaging camera uses technology similar to what Flir builds into its military-spec night-vision monoculars, but it shouldnt be confused with those navigational tools. Marketed for home use, the camera can be handy finding places where heat seeps into an air-conditioned boat, or where it leaks from a heated one in winter. It can also be used to check for hotspots on the engine or friction in mechanical equipment. At $250, the Flir One is about three times more expensive than the simple infrared thermometers weve tested (see PS, October 2004 online) that perform similar functions, but those bulky tools display temperatures only and can’t deliver the satisfaction that Dad would get, knowing that hes keeping up with the times. ($250,

Ronstan Fid Kit

Ronstan Fid Kit

Less-than-stellar knots and splices are one of the skippers pet peeves. Marlinspike seamanship is sadly becoming a lost art, and the ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) fibers used in todays high-strength, low-stretch ropes arent helping matters. The slippery fibers behave very differently from the three-strand nylon that Mom and Dad splice so effortlessly. Even more frustrating is splicing the new, small-diameter 12-strand lines-a popular alternative to wire-rope rigging on small boats-that he would love to shape into everything from soft-shackles to keychain lanyards. Enter the Ronstan D-splicer Kit.

While splicing small-diameter Spectra requires a whole new skillset, the D-splicer (product RFSplice-6) eliminates the need for the old man to learn new tricks. A glorified knitting needle designed specifically for splicing small lines (less than 4 millimeters), the D-splicer is not what wed call a must-have for anyone but the most the serious splicer. However, for the skipper who insists on keeping up with the art of marlinspike well into the next decade, some facility with small, high-tech lines will surely yield rewards.

The D-splicer easily slips down the center of 12-strand line and captures the ropes end for a long, burying splice. The companys website features a short video tutorial that it explains the process much better than we can in this space.

The aluminum D-splicer will be prone to corrosion, but if rinsed and stored dry after use, it should provide many years of happy splicing. Yes, a yarn hook will do the same job with practice, but we can’t imagine Mom or Dad showing their buddies their new yarn hook. ($56,

Bellroy Elements Wallet

Bellroy Elements Pocket Wallet

Many sailors owe their early seafaring to a father unafraid to open his wallet, so gifting him with one seems like a fitting nod to the old mans generosity. And if your fathers has continued to leak money into a sailing habit, all the more reason he would appreciate a water-resistant wallet.

The Bellroy Elements Pocket Wallet is a splurge at $90, but it is a serious upgrade from the bursting, ratty, Ziplocked thing Dad hauls onto the boat now. The Pocket version of the wallet also encourages the minimalist lifestyle to which many sailors aspire. The slimmest of all the options from the Australian company, the leather Pocket has only three thin inner pockets and small nooks for a single key and a SIM card. Since the wallet can accommodate only about 15 cards, Dad might need to downsize his collection of Advance Auto Parts, Harbor Freight, and Long John Silver punchcards.

The Bellroy is the only soft-sided wallet with a watertight zipper weve seen, and we like its sleek design (and three-year warranty). While the wallet isn’t truly waterproof without some leather treatment, it will keep its contents dry if Dad gets drenched in a squall or has to once again valiantly wade ashore from the dinghy so that the crews feet remain dry. ($90,

EcoVessel Boss

EcoVessel Beverage Keeper

We know. A water bottle doesn’t seem like an exciting gift, but trust us on this one. Testers tried out the 64-ounce Eco-Vessel Boss Growler (perfect for craft-beer-loving sailors) for several weeks and found that it not only kept our drinks cold, it kept them very cold … for days. In a temperature-controlled 77-degree room, drinks in the EcoVessel stayed fridge-cold for over 36 hours. In one test, the 42.5-degree water measured 50.4 degrees after six hours, and 61.4 degrees (well below room temp) after 35 hours-a showing that truly impressed testers.

The maker claims it will keep drinks hot for eight hours; we didnt test this claim (who wants hot beer?), but we have no doubt its accurate. The triple-insulation technology uses inner and outer stainless layers that sandwich an inner copper layer and a vacuum-insulated center.

Motorola Talkabout  MS350R

Based in Colorado, EcoVessel has a large line of different stainless drink bottles that range in price from $17 for a kids bottle to $55 for the behemoth we tested; all are BPA and phthalate free. While the prices seem a bit steep for a water bottle, the smaller capacity options (17-ounce bottle with flip straw is $27) are comparable to the prices of the brands carried in big-box stores, and these would save you the trouble of packing a cooler and expense of buying ice for a daytrip.

Also, unique details add to the bottles value, in our opinion. The products either have a flip straw or a dual-use, leakproof lid that makes pouring easy (important for a beer cask) and a nifty, removable basket that can be used as a tea strainer or for infusing water (or beer). Testers also noted that the bottle never sweat, a major problem with other stainless bottles weve used. It doesn’t matter if Mom or Dad could use an EcoVessel for infused water, plain-old H2O, beer, hot tea, or a hot toddy, they would not be disappointed. (price varies,

Eagle Creek  tote bags

Eagle Creek  tote bags

Motorola Talkabout MS350R

Mom and Dad may not agree on much these days, but they will no doubt agree that anything in the ships inventory should serve at least two purposes. Recommended by a PS reader and rigorously field tested by our staff, the waterproof Motorola MS350R walkie-talkie radios can be paired with headsets to communicate onboard (serving as proverbial marriage savers), or they can be carried ashore to stay in touch when Dad forgets what he was supposed to get on his shopping errand. The touted 35-mile range is misleading. In a dense urban setting, the upper limit for clear communication was about 1.5 miles. ($100,

Eagle Creek Gear Totes

Sailing-whether youre a liveaboard, daysailor, or weekend warrior-involves a lot of moving gear on and off the boat, and one can never have too many tote bags to help in the schlepping. Eagle Creek recently released a new line of water-resistant, packable tote bags, the No Matter What series, that really stand out from others weve used.

The sizes are generous (we fit fours days worth of winter laundry in the large, 71-liter bag); the Bi-Tech exterior is water-repellent (no more wet goodies during dinghy transport); the stitching is bartacked for added durability; and the side handles and top shoulder straps make the bags easy to load and unload from the boat. Our favorite feature is the sleeve that wraps around the bag when it isn’t being used. For compact storage, empty totes can be folded up and wrapped in this sleeve, which doubles as a pocketed, interior gear organizer for small items; a hook connects it to the bags interior.

The medium-size bag is comparable in size to the classic canvas totes synonymous with sailing, but the water resistance, zippered top, and small storage footprint put these a notch or three above the rest. The No Matter What gear totes hit West Marine shelves and online retailers websites on April 1; at presstime, retail pricing was planned to be $60 (small, 23 liters) to $80 (large, 71 liters). (

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at