Buying gifts for a sailor for the holidays is easier than you might think, because they’re always in need of gadgets to make life onboard a little easier or more comfortable. Recently I’ve discovered several low-priced products that have made our life as liveaboards easier. Now it’s hard to imagine we went so long without these things!
Yet, as aspiring minimalists we don’t want to acquire too much stuff – storage is always an issue on a boat. So we try to ensure anything we get has a useful purpose.
Here are a few ideas of items we’ve found useful:
- Neoprene Gloves – $25
The quest for the perfect sailing gloves is never-ending – everyone has an opinion on what works, and there’s little agreement. The best solution is probably to have two pairs. I never recommend gloves marketed as sailing gloves because in my experience they’re overpriced (the “marine tax” or designer name-brand tax) and don’t keep my hands warm.
I’ve always been a fan of GoreTex gloves, but I’m going to try these neoprene gloves too. Neoprene is the material wet suits are made out of. Its advantage is it can get wet and still provide some warmth. Its disadvantage is it wears easily, so you might not want to wear these when you’re doing a lot of line handling. But they’re a lot less expensive than good GoreTex gloves.
- GoreTex Gloves – $55
When I say gloves, I really mean mittens – fingerless GoreTex mitts will keep your fingers a lot warmer. You’ll need to take them off for line handling, but if your gift recipient is a cruiser, they probably only tack every 30 minutes or so.
The GoreTex shell helps keep them waterproof. I’ve found ski / snowboard gloves to be the warmest, with much better selection than the marine product line.
If you really don’t like mittens, there are good GoreTex gloves too.
- Battery-powered motion-activated stick-on LED light – $9
These LED lights are super versatile and can be placed anywhere you need light for just a brief amount of time – in a hanging locker, cabinets, cockpit locker or even the bilge. My favorite use for them is in the ice box / fridge.
- Electric hot water boiler – $30
If your sailor is ever at dock (on shore power) and wants a coffee or tea, an electric water heater is a convenience essential – it heats a cup of water to boiling in under 60 seconds, and there’s no need to turn on the propane stove.
- ThermPro TP50 Temperature / Humidity monitor – $9.50
Another inexpensive, yet very useful gadget, is our temperature / humidity monitor which helps us keep tabs on how our dehumidifier is doing and make sure humidity doesn’t go high enough for mold to start growing. The temperature also helps settle disputes over whether it’s too cold or too hot inside the boat, and the high / low record lets you see whether your boat got close to freezing while away (not a good thing if you haven’t winterized water lines).
If you like you can also buy fancier ones that include barometric pressure.
- Foxelli 165 Lumen Headlamp with red light mode – $13
Most sailors probably already have one, but from time to time they break, and they’re available quite cheaply these days. I like this one because it has a red light mode too – useful for preserving night vision if you ever do night sails or anchor/dock near dusk.
- PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) – $244
If you’re looking for a bit pricier gift, but one that will let your mind rest at ease knowing your loved one has a chance of rescue in case of tragedy, a PLB is a good option. PLBs, or personal locator beacons, are capable of sending an emergency signal for at least 24 hours if your boat is sinking and you’re not in VHF range (or the VHF is broken). You may have heard of EPIRBs, which are basically a more robust (and more expensive) option – they last for 48+ hours and are water submersible.
I think PLBs are appealing though because they’re smaller (can easily fit in a ditch bag) and if you’re sailing far enough that rescue would take more than 24 hours, you can often buy two PLBs for the same price as one EPIRB.