Shopping for a sailor? Getting ready to go cruising, and don’t want to spend on things you won’t use in your life afloat? Here is a list of suggested gifts we love (or wish we had!) that you can take with you…and some distractions to help you keep the cruising dream present while you wait.
If cruising is in your future, here are some great reads to keep the dream alive, with tales directly from cruisers about their experiences afloat.
Blown Away, Herb Payson. One of the true classic cruising memoirs, this new edition includes the author’s hindsight on the aftermath of cruising. Herb is everyman, who took a lean budget and his family to find grand adventures. It is timeless, insightful, honest, and will leave you laughing as you wish you were following in his wake.
Love with a Chance of Drowning,Torre DeRoche and The Motion of the Ocean, Janna Cawrse Esarey. These two cruising memoirs women have very little in common except that one rather important criteria: they’re well written page-turners that take you on their voyages.
9 Years on the 7 Seas, Anne Brevig. This book is ALL about the pictures: images from Anne’s circumnavigation and the accompanying journal of her travels were my frequent companions on nights when our cold Pacific Northwest winters felt dark, and the South Pacific felt very far away. You can buy digital editions directly from Anne on her website; I favor the large format paperback.
Sailing Alone Around the World,Joshua Slocum. The original cruiser and his in dominatable voyage around the world: this is the book that made me fall in love with the dream of cruising.
An ereader. You should at least partially convert to ereaders if you haven’t already! We love to read, and it’s simply hard to keep up with quality reading from outside the US. Unless you’re satisfied with the Patterson, Cussler, and Steel on the honor library shelves you’re going to have to bring it with you- and there’s only so much bookshelf space on a boat. We’ve used several different types over the years: I’d get another Kindle Paperwhiteif I had to buy one tomorrow. The gentle side lighting makes for unobtrusive and easy nighttime reading. We specifically like the e-ink over tablet readers as dedicated reading devices – we have a couple of iPads on board too, but it’s a less pleasant reading experience and too hard to use in bright daylight. Oh, and don’t even think you will be able to share one!
A rugged headlamp. We use our headlamps all the time. They get us from cabin to head without disaster at night. They keep us hands free to light a beach fire. They act as dinghy lights on the way back to the boat at night. Yet somehow, a really dependable headlamp has been elusive! We’re trying this set now, and are pretty optimistic. They are waterproof, rugged, extra bright when we need them, dim when we don’t. The only thing ours doesn’t have are night-vision friendly red lights, but we have red cabin lighting that fills this need on night watches.
A good DSLR. I’ve had some nice compliments on photos here and I’m pleased with the gear we use on board. A Nikon 5100 DSLRas my primary camera. The newer generation of this is the Nikon D5300 (see this comparison); for a great deal, I trust Adorama for second hand gear. For lenses, I love this 50mm lens – it’s kind of famous for clarity: it takes gorgeous shots! I’ve usually got this 18-135, though, as a walkaround. If I had my druthers, though, and a new budget for gear- I’d swap it for a nice wide angle like this one, with a better zoom for distance. I’ve written about our current gear it more extensively in this post.
An underwater camera. If it’s going to be a wet dinghy ride or I just need something small and rugged, we use a Canon Powershot D20. We use it for all our underwater photos as well, and it’s been great for us (check out the current model, the Canon PowerShot D30– our D20 is already two years old). But if we were buying a new compact underwater today, I’d take a long hard look at the newer Olympus Tough– I believe it edges out the Canon.
Fun in the water
Snorkel (or dive) gear. I wasn’t really into swimming before cruising. Wow, THAT changed! With such gorgeous clear water, and so much to see, we spent a lot (a LOT) of time in the water. Good gear is worth the investment. You’re best off trying on masks at a dive shop to get the best fit. Make sure the there’s an actual hinge (not just soft silicon) between the frame and the strap. We have a hodgepodge on board, but the better Cressi snorkeling gearhas all held up well.
Speargun. Won’t THAT make an impression under the tree! These have been worth endless hours of fun on the reef, pushed us to improve our freediving capabilities, helped us better understand the marine environment, and provided some extremely delicious dinners. Jamie bought a Pelaj in Australia; this Rob Allen railgunstyle is similar, and 100cm is a good length for versatility.
General cruising aids
A good rangefinderis just the kind of gadget that is super helpful, but a bit of a splurge for something so specific. I wish we had purchased one back when we still had a good income! A range finder can save sleepless nights at anchor wondering exactly how close you’re getting to that cliff, or if the charter boat in front of you is dragging as much as you suspect.
Infrared thermometer. This is another one of those discretionary gadgets that makes a fun pre-cruising gift you will actually use. OK, so sometimes we use it for kicks just to see how hot the deck gets in the tropical sun (it’s measuring Celcius, by the way- that’s HOT)… but it’s also been very useful for troubleshooting when we had engine overheating problems. Professional grade can run to a couple hundred dollars, but you can get a “good enough” cheapie like this onefor around $20.
Pressure cookers are praised by many cruisers. Count me in: I bought one ONLY because we were going cruising, and used it for a year before I left. Honestly? It was a revelation how it eased dinners for our busy family life, with homemade meals in less time. Aboard, of course, that means less fuel used and less heat in a tropical galley. Mine is a Kuhn-Rikonwith short handles (easier to stow) and 6 liter capacity (a whole chicken roast, or 4 pint jars for canning). Don’t wait until you go!
Good coffee. I remember looking longingly at our espresso machine at home and wondering how I’d break my addiction to good coffee afloat. Turns out: no habit change required, just different methods! Our everyday coffee is made in a stovetop Bialetti Moka Express– just know that when it says “six cup” size it’s referring to espresso portions: that 6 cup model is just enough for Jamie and I to have our morning joe. You’ll need spare gaskets (we go through about one a year). We also use this gorgeous Bodum stainless steel french pressto make delicious coffee; but what you need to know is how ridiculously sturdy and overbuilt this pot is. That pretty glass french press one won’t get you far offshore! It’s also insulated, and keeps a pot warm for hours.
The right cookbook. I love to cook and didn’t think I needed another cookbook, but you will: The Boat Galley Cookbookis awesome, and Carolyn and Jan have thought through pretty much every question you will have about provisioning, adapting for other countries, and recipes with a cruising filter.
I wrote about our favorite guides for fish, shells, other marine life, birds and more about a year ago. With the natural world so big in our lives, these add tremendous enjoyment to our everyday existence. They’re great memory keepers, too, with notations in the books about when and where we’ve seen a given critter.
Going to Mexico?
The Log from the Sea of Cortez, and The Pearl,John Steinbeck. It’s simply required reading, both the nonfiction story of his exploration in the Gulf of California in the 1950s and the piognant tale of a Baja boy who finds the pearl of his dreams.
Gathering the Desert,Gary Paul Nabhan. Fascinating look in depth at a few key items you can forage for in the Baja deserts. A great read for anyone spending hurricane season in the Sea of Cortez, very interesting if you’re into that kind of thing. I loved this book.
The People’s Guide to Mexico,Karl Franz. Occasionally dated (it is in the 14th edition), this is still both entertaining and helpful for orientation if you’re totally unfamiliar with Mexican culture.
Going to the South Pacific?
It’s too easy to be in Mexico and realize you don’t have quality books for the South Pacific. It happened to us! We lucked into books from someone who changed plans – don’t make our mistake. I listed useful guide books in this post.
Typee,Herman Melville. When you get to the Marquesas, you will probably anchor in the same bay where Melville jumped ship with another sailor. It is a tremendous true story that was believed to be made-up tale for years, and a great way to find new appreciation for your exotic surroundings.
An Island to Oneself,Tom Neale. This is the book that has inspired many cruisers, and a must-read if you’ll be sailing to Suwarrow, one of our favorite stops in all of the Pacific.
For the cruiser with everything
There’s always a carbon fiber head…
Ideas from other cruisers
I asked around for other lists of gift ideas for cruisers: here are some recommendations from others:
- Mother Jones: a few of their favorite things for the people crew and the canine crew (this is an awesome list)
- Sailing Chance: best cruising items under $20 (more winners. and, see Kelley’s list of losers– we disagree on a few, but she makes excellent points!)
- Sailaway Girl: not cruising yet, but a clear sense of key items plus her own stuff (I espeially love that logo on the coffee).
- Sailboat Interiors shared her ideas, too- and that gift card is probably more useful than a carbon fiber head.
- We Float Through Life: great ideas from Mik, with the critical filter applied: WILL IT FIT?
None of the links here are “sponsored” – they are my opinions. And, links in this post which lead to Amazon listings include a referral from the Totem crew. If your click through a link and purchase from Amazon, it throws a little change in our cruising kitty. It doesn’t cost you a penny, but it’s a nice help for us. Thank you for supporting our family!