Do you have a sailor in your life? Are you planning on buying them a gift for a birthday, to say thank you, or for Christmas but not sure what to get?
Well for goodness sake please do NOT go getting them a puppy or a new lawnmower…
If your friends are living on the boat, or planning on living on a boat, they are probably pretty stretched for space, or in super downsizing mode. You might want to buy them something nice, but practical too. If your sailor friend is a racer, then there are lots of things on this list that they will like (and use) too.
Before making any purchase – consider these things:
- Does it look good? Number one rule of sailing.
- Is it practical? We sailors don’t have much room on board for stuff that doesn’t have a practical purpose, unless – refer to rule #1.
- Is it small? Or can it pack down to be small – bonus points for that. Weight and size is a big consideration for what can be stored on the boat.
- Is it multi-purpose. Can it be used for a variety of different things?
- Is it waterproof and or non-breakable?
- Is it useful, have a purpose, isn’t going to break in five minutes and end up in landfill with lots of other crap? Interesting article on that here.
Here are some of my ideas. I would love to hear your suggestions too.
And if you are a sailor who is about to get married, has a birthday or Christmas coming up or simply preparing to head away on an extended cruise, and want to help people buy you useful gifts, why not set up your own online Amazon gift register?
Gift Cards for a favourite marine store are always useful.
An Experience – buy them tickets to a show, a voucher for a dinner somewhere special, a tour, dive trip or entry tickets to an attraction where they are cruising, a night in a hotel with a bath and fluffy towels (and guest laundry!) ahhhh bliss.
A cool Nautical pen – like this one from Oceanus Brass. This gorgeous pen comes with a bow shackle, its refillable, waterproof ink and extremely stylish.
Donate to a Charity – In New Zealand you can donate to the Rescue Helicopter, or Coastguard, both handy volunteer organisations for sailors. There are thousands of worthwhile projects out there. Pick one that your sailors would love too.
Sailors multi-tool. I always carry mine in my pocket, except for the time I didn’t, and I got a rope wrapped around the dinghy propellor… the rope was attached to a heavy weight… in winter… and I was pregnant… Andrew has since knitted me up a little lanyard so I can even attach it to my jacket.
Dry bags – super handy for carrying things that you don’t want to get wet – keys, phones, wallets etc. They come in all shapes sizes and colours. Speaking of keys – a floating key ring is handy for boat keys.
Packing Cells – brilliant for travellers and for organising small cupboards and awkward spaces. I pack my tops in one, my skirts and shorts in another, underwear in another one, etc. No longer do my bags and cupboards look like they have vomited clothes everywhere. Packing cells have revolutionised the way I organise my bags when moving on and off the boat. A great gift for anyone on the move.
A Muff – actually I think they are really called Buff’s – but they are like a tube that you can wear as a scarf, hat, bandanna or head-band. They meet the ‘look good’ criteria, and also the multi purpose criteria. They keep your face, neck and head toasty warm when you are sailing at night, and they sure beat wearing a pair of leggings around your neck, which is what I had to resort to when I didn’t bring my trusty muff along on a coastal passage recently. Just don’t wear it around town in the dark as people might mistake you for a burglar.
A pair of polarised sunglasses (which really help you to be able to see through the water).
Tatonka Bags – sailors don’t want suitcases. There just isn’t anywhere big enough to store them on most boats. Our family each has a different coloured Tatonka barrel bag for our adventures. They have stowable shoulder straps so they can become a backpack temporarily. They are made from waterproof fabric, so will survive a splashing in the dinghy without drenching the contents inside. The bright colours make them easy to identify on luggage carousels, and because they are soft you can stuff them in to small spaces or at the bottom of your bunk. The ones with wheels are even better if you are going to be walking any distance with them.
An embroidered cap or T Shirt – use their boat name/logo and get a cap, or T Shirt printed with their boat name on there.
Beeswax Food Wraps – everyone is looking at new ways of cutting back on their use of single use plastics. You can either buy or make your own food wraps to use instead of clingfilm for wrapping sandwiches, cheese, covering over bowls etc.
Portable Waterproof Speaker – the UE Boom is the best on the market and puts out a great sound. It hooks up to your phone via bluetooth and it is water resistant, charges up via USB and shock proof as well. All you need for a portable party – on the deck, on the beach, in the mountains. Andrew just bought me a UE Blast for my birthday. These can connect to the wifi and play internet radio stations, and has got Alexa incorporated as well so you can ask it questions!
Dubarry Boots or Keen Sandals – OMG, these two items are just totally life changing for sailors. My lovely Mumma bought me some Keen sandals for my birthday and they are awesome. Go straight from the boat, in to the dinghy, in to the water, and then hike up a hill. No need to change your footwear at any stage throughout that process, no laces or socks going on to wet sandy feet. The soles don’t absorb water like sneakers do. They are just so damn GOOD! My Dubarry boots are about the most expensive piece of footwear I own, but I tell you – life is so much better on a boat when you have warm dry feet!
Life Proof Cases – can come in very handy of you have a phone or an iPad you don’t want to drown.
A Portable Depth Sounder – a very handy tool for scoping out a potential anchorage, or tight passage in the dinghy.
A Barometer – every yacht needs a nice barometer, they look good, don’t take up any space, and can be a fantastic way of predicting upcoming bad weather.
A folding trolley – these pack down really small for storing away in a lazarette, but when opened they can carry heavy loads like fuel, water or beer. Brilliant.
An InReach Explorer – these very cool gadgets can send and receive text messages via satellite. It can also track your location and send it back to folks back home, give you weather updates, maps, and is a Personal Locator Beacon. Very cool and they have competitive monthly data plans.
A folding bike – Andrew got me one for Christmas! They pack down really small which is great for stowage, and then you can use it to cruise around the places you visit. Brilliant. Buy them a helmet, bike pump and bike lock while you are at it.
A Coastguard Boating Education Course – NZ Coastguard have a great selection of home or class study courses including Day Skipper, Boatmaster, Coastal Skipper, Ocean Yachtmaster, GPS operator, Radar, Diesel Engine Maintenance and much more. A great present for someone new to boating or someone wanting to upskill on their boating knowledge. RYA also have similar options.
A Kindle – Books are heavy and take up lots of space, so a Kindle is a perfect solution. Buy some great E-Books or get them an Amazon gift voucher while you are there. If sailors can’t be out on the water, then the next best thing is to be reading about sailing. Here is a link to some of my favourite books that I am sure other sailors would enjoy too.
Books for Children Jon Tucker writes some fantastic sailing adventure books for children. Those Snake Island Kids, Those Eco-Pirate Kids, Those Shipwreck Kids are all brilliant books that children will love, with lots of boating tips subtly included throughout the text.
A Magazine Subscription – Here in New Zealand we have Boating New Zealand Magazine and also Cruising Helmsman which is an Australian Magazine. Cruising Outpost is an American magazine, as is Blue Water Cruising. One of my favourites is an online magazine called Sistership. A magazine with a focus on sailing women. There are magazines for racers, cruisers, classic boats, dinghies, powerboats etc. If they are water based and don’t have a postal address, you can usually get an electronic copy subscription.
Cruising Guides – or charts for future cruising destinations. Always handy!
A drone fantastic for taking great aerial shots of your boat, but also handy for taking up to see whats going on at the top of your mast, or for searching for the channel in a reef. Lots of applications. DJI are really the experts in all things drone and this Spark is compact but still produces incredibly clear video footage.
Distant Shores – Sailing DVD’s. Paul & Sheryl Shard have been sailing around the world for years and make brilliant videos of their adventures, destinations and sailing tips. You can order a whole set here.
A Ukelele – the perfect musical instrument for a boat. Easy to learn, they don’t take up too much space and it can be used as a paddle if absolutely necessary! Buy them an instruction book on how to play, a carrier bag to protect it and a tuner as well. Maraccas and a drum are also great additions to your instrument collection.
A new first aid kit – These ones from Oceania Medical come with literally everything you will need to deal with medical issues on board and are certified for Cat 1 – which is the standard boats have to meet when sailing offshore from New Zealand.
Turkish Towels – They are big, colourful, super absorbent, but quite thin, so they can dry really quickly when hung on the lifelines and fit easily in to a backpack for a beach adventure.
Fishing Gear – Andrew and I make a perfect couple – he likes to catch fish and I like to eat them. You can’t go wrong buying any keen water person a new filleting knife, some squishy bait, flashers, a new fishing rod & reel, a new net, a gaff, the list goes on and on and on…
(PS. who knew their were two very different things called gaff’s? Crikey, you had better get the right one or there could be some raised eyebrows at present opening time…?!?! Google it…)
A distance finder – or range finder, another handy gadget to aid in navigation, figure out if other boats are coming towards you, if you anchor is dragging etc.
Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard – these are all the rage here in New Zealand. They pack down to be reasonably small to stow which is perfect on a boat. We love cruising around on our boards. It is great fitness, and if you get good at it you can even take them in the surf. They are lots of fun until you fall off it in the middle of winter in front of everyone, (and then it isn’t so fun). Dolphins think they are really cool too.
Personal Locater Beacon – these little EPIRBS are really reasonably priced now and easily fit into a pocket. Also great to take along if you are going hiking in the bush. Be sure to tell them to register it with their home country and include all their contact details before they head away with it.
Headlamp Torch– Get one with a red light as well as a white light – the red light doesn’t ruin your night vision. Make sure you also get a re-chargable and water resistant one. These things are gold when you are fumbling around on deck in the middle of your night in your pyjamas. We have got the LED Lenser brand. They have got a new model out now with over 2000 lumens. That is super bright!
Cork Shaped lights. These are super cool small lights that can be charged with a USB cord. You put them in the top of a wine bottle like a cork and it lights up the bottle creating a really nice mood lighting. And it keeps the bugs out of the wine. I’ve got two now!
Binoculars – you have to spend a bit of money on decent binoculars as the cheap ones are just really crappy. I have got Steiner binoculars with an inbuilt compass like the ones on the link. They are super clear and stable to look through and you can also use them as a hand bearing compass. Don’t bother buying cheap ones. They are useless…
Luci Lights – I got a couple of these super cool Luci Lights. They are inflatable LED lights which are waterproof and solar powered. You can get them in white clear, frosted, a flickering candle glow or a coloured one which has about 8 different colours and also rotates through the colours. They are awesome and would also make great emergency navigation lights. Good for camping and hiking too.
Sailing Clothing – sailing can be hard on gear, so you can never go wrong buying a sailor a pair of sailing gloves. Life is so much nicer when its raining and you have got a decent wet weather jacket and pants, or if they are in more tropical latitudes you could buy more summery stuff – rash shirts, a cap to protect them from the sun, shorts or skorts (a skirt with shorts underneath) for the girls.
A sexy inflatable life jacket – do they exist? Yes they do! Andrew bought himself a Spinlock life jacket at the Sydney Boatshow. Very smart and totally meets the number one rule – “looking good”. You can also get lights to illuminate the lifejacket if you fall in. Check this out. A really good tether is essential too.
Silicone stuff for the kitchen – you can now get collapsible kettles, baking things, collapsible buckets, pots, bowls etc all made from cool brightly coloured silicone. It meets all the sailing criteria, won’t rust or clunk around in the cupboard – looks good, folds down small etc. Make sure you get sturdy stuff as the cheap silicone just flops around and can spill and burn people.
A Game – There are heaps of new cool games to be had out there. When we are all rafted up the kids all enjoy playing Connect 4 and Poker – (not sure if that is such a good thing, but hey it keeps them all quiet and entertained although its a real pain when they gamble and then lose your boat) Check out this cool sailing board game. Looks really good quality. I think I might have to buy one of these. Cards against Humanity and Articulate are some of our other favourites. Magnetic Board games are also handy so your pieces don’t go flying every time you go over a wave. Just don’t play them near the compass if you are sailing…
A Photo book or a calendar – Snapfish is a great website where you can make personalised photo albums, calendars, cards, photo boards and even things like printed mugs etc. I make a personalised album every year for Andrew, me and the kids. Great memories.
A Skin Check – sailors are out on the sunshine a lot and susceptible to getting skin cancer. A quick trip to a dermatologist or a mole mapping place is a good investment in your health.
Strahl glasses. These are plastic but actually look and almost feel like real glasses. Much nicer for drinking your wine out of. They make tumblers, wine glasses and champagne flutes.
If you are on a tight budget, here are some other great suggestions from the people on the Women Who Sail Facebook page – thanks ladies!:
- Have a book/games swap with other cruisers
- Bake a cake or some cookies
- Write a poem
- Paint a picture
- Make a coupon book for things the other person likes: Time out, a back massage, go to a movie, candle lit dinner on the beach etc
- Make Christmas decorations from wine bottle corks
- Make A drift wood Christmas tree decorated with shells
- A knotted/woven floor mat made out of old line
If none of these ideas sound good to you, or if you are buying for the sailor who has everything, then you can always buy rum, wine or beer. Just about every sailor I have ever met likes a good party and you can guarantee these gifts will definitely get used!
Any more suggestions? Feel free to shamelessly self promote your sailing related products or ideas in the comments below so I can add them to my wish list too!