Struggling to find a great gift for a sailor or cruiser? Don’t despair – we’ve put together the ultimate list of gift ideas to help you find the perfect present for a sailor.
I’ve been living full-time on a sailboat with my husband for almost three years now, and I can tell you: we always have a wishlist on the go! And everyone we meet has their own.
There are many little things that can improve life on board a sailboat or that us liveaboards put off buying because boat maintenance takes priority. So it’s easy to make a cruiser happy.
Here are 15 gift ideas for sailors to inspire you this holiday season. From water toys to cooking utensils and sailing gear – there’s something for every sailor in the list.
1) Waterproof backpack ($30-$150)
Owning a waterproof backpack is a must when a dinghy is your car and you need to take your expensive electronics to shore, be it your camera or laptop.
Ours takes a lot of abuse being splashed by saltwater, put down on sand or rocks, and opened and closed a hundred times a week. The zips on waterproof backpacks seize easily and fast, too. So every sailor could do with one more onboard stored away on their sailboat.
There’s a wide range of backpacks for all budgets. If you want to make sure it’ll last, go for one without zips all together. Organizer pockets inside are always a plus, especially if they can fit a laptop.
Sailing gloves keep your hands from falling apart after a tough day of sailing and prevent you from getting line burns. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way (ouch!) and don’t sail without gloves on, even on the hottest day of summer.
Because of all that rubbing on sheets and halyards, sailing gloves start to thin after a season or two, so it’s always good to have a spare pair on board.
You can even buy matching pairs for him and her, if you’re gifting to a couple – it’ll save you having to think of two gifts.
3) Charts make a great gift for sailors ($24-$40)
Cruisers are always in need of new waterproof charts, as they move from country to country with the seasons. Paper charts are an essential backup to electronic charts – your chartplotter can break or you could lose electricity on board for a variety of reasons. My husband and I always make sure to buy a couple of paper charts before venturing into a new area and stow them away in waterproof folders.
Paper charts are now one of our standard Christmas presents we receive from our families every year. Ask your sailor friends where they’re headed next and offer to buy them a chart or two – they won’t object, I promise. They’re not expensive, but if you think of the amount we need each year, it all adds up.
4) Sextant ($59-$699)
A sextant is a great gift for those sailors fascinated with celestial navigation. Even if they don’t plan to cross an ocean anytime soon, taking a sight (a measurement of the angle between the sun, a star or a planet and the horizon) is a fun way to spend time on a day sail or longer passage.
A sextant gives a sailor the chance to learn a new, captivating skill. We love sitting on the side deck of our 37ft sailboat on a calm day or night and play ancient navigators. The feeling of accomplishment you get when you do your measurements right is almost addictive.
Top tip: make sure you choose a working sextant from a reputable chandler’s website or shop, like Westmarine, and not an ornamental piece. This is a common mistake.
5) LUCI Solar String Lights ($34-$45)
Ever heard of LUCI lights? They’re a hype among cruisers. They’re small, portable and inflatable solar lights. You can hang them in the cockpit in the evening while enjoying sundowners, use them to read a book on deck or take them to a beach party. We often put ours on in the cockpit when leaving the boat to go to shore in the evening, so we can recognize her from afar.
This year LUCI has released new solar string lights that are great for creating a cozy atmosphere. They’re like solar-powered fairy lights. These are one of those optional decorative things we never get ‘round to ordering or picking up from a shop, so they make for a perfect gift. They’ll look great in any cockpit.
6) Inflatable paddleboard ($499-$2,500)
This is every cruiser’s dream gift, no doubt. I have highly accurate statistics to back it up – everyone we meet either has one or wants one. Jokes aside, most cruisers enjoy a ride on a SUP. It’s a great toy for exploring a bay or anchorage and adding some exercise to the non-existent liveaboard routine – every day is different on a sailboat, so it’s hard to stick to an exercise routine.
It’s best to go for inflatable paddle boards rather than solid ones because they can deflate, so they can be stowed away during long passages or the off-season.
Why don’t we all just buy one? The price tag.
With a starting price of about $500 and the most popular models coming at around $800, a lot of sailors cannot justify the expense – there’s always some boat maintenance to do that is more important than a toy.
If your budget can stretch to these hefty sums, you’ll make a cruiser extremely happy.
7) Inflatable kayak ($399-$999)
An inflatable kayak can double up as a second dinghy, giving more freedom to sailing couples who may want to or need to do different things at the same time. For example, some of our friends used the dinghy and kayak separately when he had to go work onshore or she fancied a night out with her girlfriends.
And shall I mention that it’s a great way to take a time-out after an argument, without leaving your partner stranded on the boat? We all have a row every now and then and we usually can’t take a break from each other because we’re stuck on a sailboat together.
A kayak is also ideal for those trips to shore where you don’t need to take a lot of gear with you – you can easily pull it up on any beach, no lifeguard will argue with you. It’s a great platform from which to explore the coast or go snorkeling, too.
Kayaks are a little cheaper than SUPs, but take up more space, especially when inflated, so make sure to give your sailor friends a hint before buying.
8) Cobb Barbecue ($179.99-$250)
If the sailor in your life enjoys a good BBQ, they will wow at the Cobb barbecue. This is a portable barbecue that you can use anywhere – in the cockpit, on the beach, in a meadow,… as long as you can keep it level.
You can cook nearly anything on it – from fish to curry and pizza. It’s easy to set up and warms up in about 15 minutes.
The Cobb is great on a sailboat because it means that you can pack it up and put it away after every use, rather than leaving it mounted on a rail collecting rust. That’s why we went for it – it was our chosen Christmas present from my family.
Cobb even make a gas version, which is a little bigger but saves space overall, as you don’t need to store any charcoal.
If your sailor friends love it, you can always buy them some Cobb accessories next year, like the Cobb pizza stone, so you don’t have to think of a new gift next Christmas.
9) Ceramic Kitchen Knives ($15-50)
No matter how expensive a chef knife is, if it’s steel, there’s a good chance that it’ll rust on a boat over time. This happens especially to liveaboards who wash their dishes in salt water and rinse them in fresh, like us. We do it to save water – it’s super precious on a boat, as it’s hard to get.
A good ceramic knife set is a great addition to any galley. Ever since I had the idea to try them out, I never looked back. I can be sure not to find rust on my blades when I get them out of their drawers. Yes, they get blunt and need sharpening every now and then, but that’s true of any kitchen knife.
Top tip: opt for a set with different blades and a sharpening stone, if you can. The sailor in your life will appreciate it, no doubt.
10) Unbreakable wine glasses ($10-30)
These will forever be on my shopping list, I swear. Somehow, I never get around to buying them.
Unbreakable wine glasses are perfect for any monohull owner – they can sail without worrying about being able to have a glass of wine once they’re safely on the hook.
Things can get a little rough during a sailing passage if there’s big waves or the wind is strong. Sometimes even a safe anchorage with big ferries storming past your boat can endanger plates and glasses. Just last week a motorboat displaced a dish I had left on the table and broke it into a million pieces.
Some nice unbreakable wine glasses make for a great gift. These Marc Newson flutes have a non-slip colourful base, which offers a great grip and a cool design. I’ll add them to my wish list now!
11) Fishing lures ($3-$20)
Unless your sailor friends are vegetarian or vegan, a fishing lure is a thoughtful budget gift. Almost all liveaboards try to catch some fresh fish while underway, usually by trolling – it’s sustainable and fun.
My husband loves the Williamson tuna catchers – they have hooked us both tuna and mahi mahis.
12) Double hammock ($19.99-$89.99)
Ever seen a double hammock? It’s an extra-large hammock that can take the weight of two people.
We got one as a bit of a joke, but we love it. It’s a cozy place to relax, chat and read books to each other. We rig it up on the bow on a hot summer evening, so we can enjoy the nice breeze coming onto the boat.
This is a great gift for a cuddly couple.
13) Ukulele ($39.95-$79.99)
Do your cruiser friends complain that they often get bored? Gift them a new hobby! A ukulele is a small enough instrument for any size boat and can be hung easily on a bulkhead. It’s easy to learn and has a lovely sound to it.
Learning the chords and singing along to a song will fill any sailor’s summer nights with delight.
14) Mini movie projector ($47-$150)
Full-time liveaboards will love this. We all indulge in a movie night every now and then, but we usually watch our movies on a small laptop screen.
A mini-movie projector can increase our screen size by at least eight times! Imagine that. We can use our bimini, bulkheads or headlining to watch, depending on where we want to get cozy.
This is definitely a thoughtful present for a liveaboard and can be bought for under $50.
15) Kindle and Audible Books ($1.99-$20)
Does your sailor already own everything on this list? Then why not opt for a Kindle or Audible book, or even a Kindle or Audible subscription?
We liveaboards are picky about what we keep on board due to the limited space we have, so paperless books are our preferred choice. Audiobooks are great on a long passage, where we need to keep watch but our minds can wander.
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