Practical Gifts

Sailing gear for your holiday gift list and your own wishlist.

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Shurhold Rope Brush

Some photos courtesy of manufacturers

Practical Sailoreditors have put together some gift-giving-or gift-getting-ideas for the sailorly crowd. Here are some perennialfavorites and new products weve evaluated that most sailors would be happy to find among their holiday loot.

Shurhold Rope Brush

Shurhold, a Florida-based marine and auto detailing products company, recently introduced a unique tool that would be a great stocking stuffer for the boat owner who has everything: the Flexible Rope Brush. The small, black, flexible brush makes it quick and easy to wash dirty lines, without having to take them off the boat. It fits in the users palm and conforms to the line or power cord that its cleaning.

After wrapping the bendable brush around the rope or cord, with the bristles facing in, and holding the brush firmly to secure contact with the rope, testers brushed the length of a fouled line to remove dirt and dried algae. We cleaned more than 1,000 feet of braided and three-strand line, and the Flexible Rope Brush cleaned it well, although the anchor line took multiple passes.

The only downside was that after continued use, testers hands were tired and cramped-but the plastic brush held up well. It cleans half-inch to 1-inch line and is designed for rope, twisted and braided lines, along with hoses and shore-power cords. It sells for $13 from Shurhold (772/287-1313, www.shurhold.com) and has a one-year limited warranty, making it a great gift for any boat owner. The bonus? The Rope Brush floats, so theres no worry about losing it overboard. Its a good alternative for those who don’t want to launder their lines in their washing machine, as testers suggested in our rope-washing report (See Practical Sailor April 2014 online).

Columbia Big Katuna Shorts

Some photos courtesy of manufacturers

Columbia Big Katuna Shorts

A recent release from Columbia Sportswear, the PFG Big Katuna II mens shorts were a big hit with testers and would make an ideal gift for any boater. The Katunas are made of a lightweight but rugged polyester that is quick-drying, repels water, and blocks UV rays.The fabric uses Columbias patented Omni-Shade (UPF 50 protection) and Omni-Shield (water and stain repellency) technologies.

Although the shorts are not reinforced across the seat, they held up well to a season of sitting and scooting across nonskid and teak surfaces. This durability, combined with their unique features, made the Katunas a warm-weather favorite of testers. The shorts feature a reinforced pocket, and most notably, a sewn-in patch of cloth designed to clean sunglasses-something weve never seen before. Incorporated into a side pocket, the soft patch can’t get lost and is always at hand when you need to clean spray or smudges from your glasses. Testers at first thought this was a bit gimmicky, but found themselves using the sunglasses patch every time they wore the shorts.

The Big Katuna IIs come in a range of colors and sizes from 30 to 44 (U.S.). They retail for $55 on the Columbia website (www.columbia.com).

Scrubba Bag

Scrubba Bag

A portable washing machine may seem like an odd holiday gift, but if your giftees include a small-boat cruiser, backwoods hiker, or a Spartan voyager, the Scrubba Wash Bag is a practical present.

Weve tested a few onboard laundry solutions before-a countertop clothes dryer (see PS March 2007 online) and a hand-crank washer-but because of our insistence that everything on board do at least two jobs, weve generally been happy with the old sailors standby, a three-gallon bucket and a toilet plunger. The Scrubba intrigued us, however, because it is compact and can be used for adventures ashore as well as afloat, and because it doubles as a dry-bag, it passed the double-duty test.

The Scrubba is simply a vinyl dry bag with a purge valve (like those used on blow-up beach toys) and a clear inspection window. Fill the bag with water and eco-friendly laundry soap (PS November 2011), purge the air, start sloshing, and watch the water turn grey. Raised bumps on the inside of the bag act as a washboard, although were not sure how much difference they really make. The bag holds about 1.5 gallons of water plus clothes, so you are limited to just a few items per wash (a couple T-shirts, a couple shorts, two pairs of socks, and a couple pairs of underwear). Each load takes about five minutes to wash and rinse. The best part? The machine tucks away in a drawer when you are done. Youll find the Scrubba for $55 at www.thescrubba.com.

Kula Hoodie

Some photos courtesy of manufacturers

Kula Hoodie

Have a racing sailor or cold-weather boater on your gift list? Or just looking for the ultimate lightweight jacket for spring and fall sailing? Then check out the Kula hoodie made by Hawaii-based Bluesmiths Crafted Waterwear (www.bluesmiths.com). Made of tightly woven, water-shedding, wind-proof Polartec Wind Pro fabric, the well-crafted Kula ranks high on our list of outstanding, do-everything outerwear.

We put the made-in-Canada Kula through rigorous tests in 40-degree weather with 20-knot winds on Lake Superior, Mich., and on the waters of Isle Royale National Park. The Kula shed spray like a hooded merganser, and with only a base-layer beneath and a wool cap on top, it kept our tester toasty when an unwelcome polar vortex descended over the summer.

The hoodie is tailored to fit, so don’t up-size. Testers only complaints were the lack of bright, high-visibility colors and reflective material. Currently, it is available in only navy blue and brown. While the $235 price tag may seem a bit steep for some, our market scan showed it to be within the same price range as similar quality windproof, hydrophobic jackets, and wed expect the Kula to last for years.

Ronstan Quick-Lock Winch Handle

Ronstan Quick-Lock Winch Handle

The familiar sailing hardware maker Ronstan International (www.ronstan.us) has introduced a new winch handle, the Quick-Lock, that would make a handy gift for racing and short-handed sailors. The manual handle can be locked into place and or unlocked and removed with a single hand thanks to the large, easy-to-locate release button that runs the length of the handle.

The winchs drive head can be placed directly into a boats winch socket without rotating or depressing any knobs on the handle, then the stainless-steel, quick-locking lever holds the winch securely in place. Testers found the user-friendly winch handle quick and easy to use, especially handy during fast tacks and gybes.

The lightweight Quick-Lock comes in two sizes: 8-inch models for winches with restricted clearance and 10-inch handles for greater mechanical advantage. Both sizes are available with standard grip and palm grip, which has a bulb at the handle end, and are suggested for serious two-handed cranking. Prices range from $90 to $117 for the standard grip and $100 to $118 for the palm grip. The handles can be bought from Ronstan or West Marine.

Calendar of Wooden Boats

Some photos courtesy of manufacturers

Calendar of Wooden Boats

Noah Publications Calendar of Wooden Boats is one of our favorite wall calendars. Photographer Benjamin Mendlowitz captures the allure, tradition, and beauty of wooden boats with crisp, colorful images. The 2015 wall calendar, which measures 12 by 24 inches, offers 12 never seen before photos of classic wooden boats (sail and power) in a variety of settings.

Wooden boat expert and marine historian Maynard Bray penned the captions, which include facts and insights about the featured boat. The calendar would make a great gift for wooden boat enthusiasts. Price is $17 from www.noahpublications.com.

‘The Story of america’s Cup’

Some photos courtesy of manufacturers

The Story of americas Cup

Another option for the giftee who likes to admire pictures of beautiful boats during the off-season is The Story of Americas Cup 1851-2013 (Antique Collectors Club, May 2014). Written by Ranulf Rayner, with a foreword by Ted Turner and illustrations by marine artist Tim Thompson, this coffee-table book tells the 150-year history of the Americas Cup. It features full-page color illustrations and detailed descriptions that give readers an insiders view of the construction of the various Cup boats, the routes sailed, the crews, and the highs and lows of the competition.

The book captures the essence, the spirit of the race, and its place in sailing history. It would be a welcome gift for the maritime history buff or the Americas Cup enthusiast. You can buy it online for $45.

If youre looking for more practical resource books, be sure to browse Practical Sailors online bookstore at www.practical-sailor.com, where we offer a library of marine books hand-picked by PS editors.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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